Psychology, Theory, and Critical Thinking

As part of my first foray into video-blogging, I re-visit some of the basic ideas I tried to express in an earlier post titled psychology’s neglect of philosophy. In some ways this is an introduction to the philosophy of science (in the tradition of Kuhn and Popper), or more specifically, the philosophy of psychology. While psychology works hard to present itself as a scientific discipline, it seems to me that in its attempts to fully embrace empirical reductionism and materialism, it often minimizes critical thinking and succumbs to scientism. I explain how the larger field of psychology is made up of disparate conceptual communities who subscribe to their preferred theories, jargon, and literature. These preferred ideas are often taken as true and seldom questioned – each community insists that they have uncovered the ‘truth’ about what it means to be human. However, it is important to recognize that our rationally-constructed theories are what organize, explain, and ultimately justify what we want to call ‘evidence.’ Careful reasoning (e.g. critical thinking and a developed capacity for philosophical argumentation) will better ensure that we do not fall into the trap of scientism.



4 Responses to “Psychology, Theory, and Critical Thinking”

  1. Mrs. Neutron Says:

    Very well done and I enjoyed it. A science without a philosophy can be a very dangerous thing. Science permitted us to develop antibiotics that have saved countless lives. What it didn’t do was instruct us how and when (and when not) to use them. It was predicted that antibiotics would rid us of infectious disease. What they did instead was provide the fuel for the genetic engine that drives the diversity and resistance of the very microorganisms we set out to destroy. Killing “germs” became the scientific goal when it “should” have been understanding just what it was about the host that made the difference between health and disease.

    My daughter and her scientist husband are living in The Netherlands and just experienced a Winter holiday celebration, in the town square, where unwrapped candy and cookies were thrown to a large crowd of children from a sack by a character named Sinterklaas and his side kick “Black Pete”. Most of the goodies fell to the ground and were picked up for consumption by the children as the parents looked on. In America the parents would have been aghast and would have screamed out…. “DON’T PUT THAT IN YOUR MOUTH!”

    To this day one of our biggest problems in America is physicians prescribing antibiotics for viral infections. Due to a total failure of philosophical underpinning we are developing “superbugs” that will one day probably do us all in.

    Enjoyed your work, as usual
    All the best
    Mrs. N.

    Brad Reply:

    As I was reading your response I found myself thinking about the George Carlin sketch on germs. Yes, science without philosophy can be more than blind -it can be downright neurotic.

  2. Shibu Says:

    Good talks. But the speaker need to learn to look into the camera

    Brad Reply:

    Thanks for the feedback Shibu. It is, however, difficult to look directly into a camera while also keeping a flow according to one’s intended ‘talking points.’ Few professors have the talent to give a lecture without looking at their notes – maybe someday.