Chapter 3

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Published on 24 Jun 2011
School
UTSC
Department
Psychology
Course
PSYC85H3
Chapter 3: Touchstones: From Descartes to Darwin
Renaissance meansrebirth- renewal of interest in classical antiquity that originated in Italy in 14th
century and spread throughout Europe in 15th and 16th centuries
Rene Descartes (1596-1650)
Beliefs are result of long process of developments that lacks clear plan
oLike the way cities grow
Begins with clear and distinct ideas that cannot be doubted
Rationalism- provided our premises are correct, our ability to use reason is sufficient to provide us with
truth
He could not doubt fact of his own thought, therefore must be thinker who was thinking those thoughts
I am thinking, there I exist Cogito, ergo sum
oCartesian doubt
Innate ideas- things people know without having to learn them
Mind separate from body
oEach of us is a conscious being that is capable of mental acts such as doubt and imagination
Dualism- mind and body fundamentally different
oMind comes from God and immortal
oBody is mechanical and operates in same way as clock or other machine
Interaction between mind and body via pineal gland, a singular structure centrally located in brain
Model of mind-body relation, often called interactionism
One 21st century philosopher observed, Descartes’ view is that mind is in body as if it were a ghost in a
machine
Cartesian Model
Mind and body separate
Human body subject to same mechanical laws as any other physical body, mind operates according to
own rules, which come from God
We know our own mind directly, through introspection
oCannot know other peoples minds directly, since we cannot observe them
oAll we observe about other people is state of their bodies
Introspection- act of looking inward, examination of ones mental experience
oCartesian model suggests introspection is proper psychological method
The Body as a Machine
Descartes himself did not believe that attempt to mimic human behaviour by means of a machine could
succeed
People differ from animals and machines in that they are much more adaptable to changing
circumstances
oHuman posses minds that enables them to adjust so smoothly to changing situations
Study of visual perception
Study of laws of visual perception was an area of intense activity during Renaissance
Issac Newton (1642-1727)
Calledthe greatest scientific genius the English-speaking peoples have produced
Principia- forms the formation for classical physics
Laws of Motion
First law of motion- everybody continues in state of rest, unless compelled to change that state by forces
impressed upon it
Second law- acceleration is resultant of all external forces exerted
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Can Newtons Laws Be Generalized to Psychology?
Can attempt to take physics and apply to mental life
Consequence of taking physics as model for psychology is that subject matter of psychology seen as
essentially same as physics
oNewtonian physics the basic subject matter is motion of objects
Physics- how much force required to move object
oKimble argues that motion is also subject matter of psychology, but it is motion of organisms-
behaviour
Object will remain at rest unless some force applied to it
Psychology- organism will not move unless some force applied to it, however, organism will not move it
just any force is applied
Newtons second law- forces acting on organism must be above certain level before organism will act
The Nature of Colour
Newtons best known experimental procedure- passing white light through prism and discovered it was
decomposed into colours of spectrum
Did not believed that light rays themselves were coloured
Stimulus for colour and subjective experience of colour
oLight of different wavelengths constitutes stimulus for colour
oThese stimulus produce visual perception of different colours
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe- after-images (page 56)
The British Empiricists: John Locke (1632-1704), George Berkeley (1685-1753)),
David Hume (1711-1776)
No group has influenced development of Western psychology as much as British empiricists
Empiricism- rather than rely on reason to provide us with truth, empiricist trusts only evidence provided
by our senses
John Locke
Argument is that even if there were ideas that everyone believed in, that would not show them to be
innate, since people could have arrived at this unanimity in some other way
Get ideas from 2 sources:
1.Sensory experience- sensible qualities
2.Reflection- perception of operations of our own mind within us
Self-observation most important source of information about psychological concepts
Simple and Complex Ideas
Simple ideas cannot be reduced to anything more elementary
Complex ideas compounded out of simple ones- abstract ideas
Beliefs and attitudes we express are result of the way in which our ideas have become associated
Primary and Secondary Qualities
Objects have qualities- the power to produce any idea in our mind
Primary quality: in the object itself
oMotion, size, number
Secondary quality: have power to produce experiences in use that are not same as any property of object
George Berkeley
No unambiguous visual cues to spatial location of objects
Sense of touch, provided observer with important source of information that supplemented visual
information available
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