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PSYC85H3 (138)
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Chapter 2

Chapter 2 Notes from Benjafield

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University of Toronto Scarborough
G Cupchik

Chapter 2 TOUCHSTONES: THE ORIGINS OF PSYCHOLOGICAL THOUGHT Touchstone -came to mean any criterion by which the value of something is measured Pythagoras 570-495 BCE -it is the myth of Pythagoras that has had such an influence on the way many people in Western culture think about the world -one of the central feature of the Pythagorean myth is that he founded a semi-secret society in Italy -the concept of harmony is central in Pythagorean thought -reality has a mathematical order; found by relations between math and music -virtue of unity vs chaos; opposing tendencies in experiences ie. dark vs light, good vs evil -a problem felt by every person is how to reconcile the discordant state of affairs we normally experience with the one that we value Pythagorean Cosmology -a conception of the process of creation: the universe is initially a unity that becomes differentiated into pairs of opposites; from unity to differentiation to integration -most important features of the Pythagorean world view are their ideas concerning the nature of opposites and the importance of number in regulating phenomena The Pythagorean Opposites -believed some pairs of opposites are useful for describing our experience -most important is limit vs unlimited; crucial to the process of creation -opposites arise out of an original unity -the integration of opposites produces the limited -we do not experience things that are unlimited -everything we do experience has a limit -when the mixture of opposite tendencies is just right = harmony -concept of proportion is important; when opposites are mixed in the right proportion, there is a union of opposites that achieves the unity and integrity we value -the psyche (soul) seeks this harmony -“our perception of the world has withered away (because we are so used to it); what remains is mere recognition” -so, it is important in psychology to remind ourselves of things that are significant but so commonplace that we may fail to see their significance; we fail to see the harmonies coming out of the interplay of opposites -there is always a positive and a negative aspect; limited= positive; unlimited= negative -unlimited is regarded as being out of balance, lacking proportion -only by having limits can something attain proper balance Pythagorean Mathematics -concept of gnomon: figuratively, means the addition or subtraction of one figure from another figure of the same shape -the Pythagorean opposites were intended to refer to specific occurrences -viewed numbers as underlying all phenomena -numbers are responsible for uniting the opposites in a harmonious manner; ie. odd and even numbers; called a union of opposites, brought together through the number itself -theorem of Pythagoras: demonstration of invariant proportion; the square on the hypotenuse of a right- angled triangle always equals the sum of the squares on the other two sides -all in all, followed a mathematical view of reality Plato 427-347 BCE Pythagoras, Plato, and the Problem of the Irrational -the Pythagoreans came upon the irrational as an unavoidable aspect of reality -the “problem of the irrational” became a preoccupation for Greek mathematicians -the golden section: is an irrational proportion; its value can be approximated by the series of numbers called the Fibonacci numbers -as the successive numbers in the Fibonacci series become larger, the ratio of any two successive numbers gets closer to the golden section -the series very rapidly generates good approximations to the golden section -the successive approximations are alternately greater than and less than the value of the golden section -will always be a little greater or less than the actual thing The Forms -important distinction between the way things appear and the way things really are -Plato gave the notion that there are perfect forms on one hand and imperfect forms on the other -always seeking the perfect forms -much of Platonic thought was an extension of the Pythagorean doctrines -Plato wrote about Socrates a lot; it is through Plato’s dialogues that we know Socrates -dialogue called the “Meno” -recurrent problem with any psychological concept, definitions are either too broad or too narrow, too much or too little -cannot define virtue -innate knowledge discussed in Meno; the solution to a problem emerges on the basis of what a child already knows; capable of seeing necessary relationships -the implication of Plato’s and Wertheimer (Gestalt) analysis is that we are all in possession of all we need to know to fully understand our experience -says our deepest and most important ideas are innate; we know the knowledge of forms; where does this innate knowledge come from? th Lao-tzu 6 century BCE -also considered mythical creature -the wisdom of Lao-tzu is called Taoism The Tension between Confucianism and Taoism -Confucius was another great Chinese sage; he noted the importance of developing one’s intelligence through education and of following traditional values, such as loyalty to one’s family and government -therefore, important role relationships (like being a father or a friend) provided a framework within which social behaviour was regulated -though they have much in common, Taoism is usually seen as less explicit and more mystical -Confucianism emphasized the social and moral order, to the exclusion of an interest in natural phenomenon; seen as masculine -Taoism treated that natural and social orders as continuous; both nature and society worked the same way; seen as feminine What is Tao? -“the Way” -writings attributed to Lao-tzu ar
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