I love the precision and the elegance of science…. I like to create hypotheses and I like to test them against hard reality. I dislike fuzzy and personal emotional statements when they are given out as general truths, even when I respect them as expressions of the person….
But I am also a person. A therapist. An individual who has lived deeply in human relationships. Here I come up with some other values and views which have equally deep meaning for me…. such terms as personal freedom, choice, purpose, goal, have profound and significant meaning.
But there are boundaries to my regard for the subjective. I find that the elaboration of the subjective alone, as in some of the more far-out existentialists, is as unacceptable to me as the rigidity of a closed, impersonal science. As I read some of these existential writers, I feel that here we are entering into a situation in which history is repeating itself. We have suffered enough from the dogmatism of an unscientific Freudianism which initially enlightened us and then bound us into a rigid straitjacket.
[A]s a person I stand in both camps — the world of the precise, hard scientist, and the world of the sensitive subjective person.
(“Some thoughts regarding the current philosophy of the behavioral sciences,” J. of Humanistic Psych. V:2, fall 1965, pp. 183-185)
Browsing the early issues of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology last month for my paper, I came across a review of a book by the American psychologist Eugene Gendlin. I’d seen his name once before in an unlikely place — a booklet by a British Quaker writer named Rex Ambler, whom I had the pleasure of meeting a few years ago at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre.
Describing the shift in mainstream American psychology since William James, Joseph Gilbert writes,
Philosophical spectulation was, with considerable clatter, abandoned as the ultimate in unscientificism…. By the majestically immaterial phenomena of consciousness the Behaviorists were as embarrassed as a group of slightly inebriated men carrying the insensible form of one of their companions across a fashionable hotel lobby.
Academic criticism is usually more genteel, so I found that amusing. Especially since one of my professors was a colleague of B.F. Skinner.
This is from an article in the journal I’m studying, which tries to enlist the ghost of James for the fight between humanistic and behavioristic psychology — since, while the latter was empirical and anti-phenomenological, both James and the humanists embraced idiography and philosophical speculation.
(from “William James in retrospect: 1962″, J. of Humanistic Psych. II:1, Spring 1962, p. 93.)
I’m writing a research paper on the humanistic psychology movement, due early next week. Specifically, it’s looking at the relationship of the early movement to “science,” which I’ll leave intentionally vague for now. To keep it manageable I’m restricting it to obviously relevant articles in the first 10 years of the movement’s flagship journal.
Blogging tidbits of my notes and drafts could be a colossal time-waster, but I think having an audience might keep me motivated. That’s the shame about papers written for a class — only one person gets to see your work.
For now, just a quote, from the first issue, which expresses one variation on the movement’s goal to be both holistic and scientific:
A truly humanistic psychology is an integration of the historical and contemporary data and theories of psychology…. the psychologist of man is suspicious when a collective psychologist claims that man is only a mechanistic stimulus-response organism. On the other hand, he is as suspicious when personalistic psychologists claim that man is only a personal being without an aspect that is measurable and without adjustment to a collectivity.
(Adrian van Kaam, “Humanistic psychology and culture,” J. of Humanistic Psych. I:1, spring 1961, p. 100)
I'm a developer by night, a chef by day, and a musician every so often. This is the inside of my brain.
RT @fivethirtyeight: Another question: is it easier to hide from thousands of law-enforcement officers, or hundreds of thousands of people?