PS390 Study Guide - Final Guide: Socratic Method, Middle Ages, Sophist

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14 Aug 2019
1. Describe key figures, key concepts, and key contributions of ancient philosophers on modern
day psychology.
The presocratics were the first to explain nature and the cosmos independent of divine
intervention using reason and argument rather than poetry, mythology, or opinions. They argued that
human nature, as well as the natural world, is orderly and predictable. This early viewpoint perhaps
shaped a system of beliefs that evolved to inform modern day psychology, which is highly secular and
emphasizes empirical investigation and rejects subjectivity or opinion. Additionally, Hippocrates, often
associated with the presocratics, originated the Hippocratic Oath, which effects modern day psychology
in that it is an ethical responsibility of a psychologist to not do any harm to their clients or research
participants. Additionally, Hippocrates believed all illness had natural causes, and while his exact
beliefs do not inform modern day psychology, he helped instigate a shift away from spiritual causes of
Socrates originated the Socratic Method, which made the establishment of modern science
possible and still informs modern psychotherapy. Socrate's student, Plato, continued to narrow the
understanding of the soul as cognitive and intellectual and emphasized the importance of universal
concepts and mathematical reasoning. Additionally, Plato's beliefs became the basis for rationalism as
he argued knowledge is innate and can be attained through introspection. Empiricists disagreed with his
idea the knowledge is innate; they argued all knowledge comes from experience, which is more in line
with Aristotle. The Sophists emphasized that truth is relative, a viewpoint adopted by postmodern
psychologists. However they also argued that sensory information is the only reliable source of
knowledge, which was similar to the empiricist stance that natural-science psychologists took.
Aristotle viewed women as incomplete and deficient in rationality and his views, defended by
Aquinas, persisted through the middle ages and can even be seen Psychology's exclusion of women
well into the twenthieth century. Aristotle also argued that everything consists of a combination of what
is potential (matter) and actual (form), and in humans, the body is the matter of the soul, while the soul
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