PSYCHOLOGY BY DR. FINCH
I have read with interest John Finch's article, "The Need for a New Approach in Psychology," (JASA, Dec., 1964), and a reply to it by Michael Micherikoff and 6. E. Walker, "The Need for a Better Understanding of Current Psychology . . ." (JASA, June, 1965).
If psychology is defined a priori as a "natural science" whose methodological presuppositions are logically restricted to physical phenomena, it would appear either that there should arise some discipline genuinely devoted to the investigation of the mind, or that current psychology (as a "natural science") should at least enlarge its boundaries to, include investigations of man's mental life. And it is the latter alternative which Finch wants to suggest: "only a psychology which accepts Weltanschauung as germane to its concern can be considered valid for understanding man." This is not an unreasonable suggestion.
For many decades it has been very difficult to find in psychology or philosophy journals research bearing on the ontological status of ideas, or a non-materialistic investigation of the meaning of "meaning." This fact becomes paradoxical when viewed in terms of its implications.
For example, when investigating the nature of "emotion," unless a given emotion is defined a priori as some physicalistic phenomenon, its investigation is psychologically irrelevant in the absence of methodological procedures entailing those entities which one becomes "emotional" about, namely, ideas. For, clearly, a person does not become emotional about some physical fact. Such physical phenomena simply do not exist in our minds. (Even Russell points out in regard to Berkeley: "To argue that the tree itself must be in our minds is like arguing that a person whom we bear in mind is himself in our mind," Problems of Philosophy, Oxford, p. 40). The point is that methodological procedures which are logically restricted to physicalistic interpretations of emotions can only yield physicalistic explanations as to their nature. Such arguments stand as non sequiturs from a psychological point of view, if psychology is understood as a discipline concerned with investigating the mind.
In the British Journal of Statistical Psychology, 17, 1, 1964, Cyril Burt makes a "plea for resuming the systematic study of consciousness as part of the task of psychology . . . Why assume that the only form of existence is material?" And whereas I do not regard Existentialism or Phenomenalism as significant contributions to the Logos of being (the object proper of philosophical inquiry), Finch's paper can be regarded as making a similar plea.Dr. Daniel K. Stewart