History of Modern Psychology
Philosophers who historically relate to the beginnings of psychology as a formal discipline
Freud Sigmund was among the earliest philosophers whose work borrowed from the psychology discipline as it is known today. According to his 1932 lecture on psychoanalysis of Freud distinguished science from philosophy by branding psychoanalysis as the philosophy of life. In an attempt to dissociate science from philosophy, Freud argued that philosophy clung to the tradition methods of creating illusion about the universe without giving much thought to the intuitions which determine the most coherent picture of the universe (Sokal, 2001).
In the theory of positivism, Freud rejected the notion which had been previously out forward by other philosophers that God would die and that there were no “scientific men” as the story of creation placed the theory. This aspect of philosophy formed the basis of Freud’s psychoanalytic theory where he believed that human beings were driven by two major conflicting desires namely life drive and death drive. In this case positivism played a great role at ensuring that all human beings who were focused had to look up to God for survival and at the same time live positively. Positivism is a vital aspect in psychology as it was significant in the formulation of the discipline (Eijk, 2005).
Wilhelm Wundt also known as the “father of experimental psychology” established the very first formal laboratory where he conducted studies on mental disorders, religious beliefs and abnormal disorders in relation to the human brain. This was the basis of psychology as the neural causes of mental problems were defined through Wundt’s experiments. The concept of structuralism which describes an individual’s mental status as having an impact on his behavior is a key aspect in the development of psychology as a discipline (Sokal, 2001).
The other philosopher whose work relates with the historical development of psychology as a discipline is Nikolai Lossky who employed his notion of intuition and memory to develop the philosophy of intuitive-personalism. The entire theory accounted for much of the learning process aspects of human consciousness that were used to gauge the mental ability of the learner thus contributing towards psychology (Kroker, 2003).
Major philosophers in the western tradition that were primary contributors to the formation of psychology as a discipline
Ralph Waldo was a primary contributor to the formation of psychology as a discipline especially in the concept of transcendent where he refers to the world and man being connected to God. From his view, man could explore and learn almost everything he wished to through the freedom which allowed the soul as well as nature to converge. This is a major aspect of modern psychology where liberation of the soul and its integration with nature leads to a more fruitful learning process (Eijk, 2005).
Gestalt psychology is yet another philosophy that was significant in the formation of psychology a as a discipline where he recognized the response of patients according to the specific structural organization rather than the sensory components. This school of thought was founded by three German philosophers namely; Max Wertheimer, Kurt and Kohler Wolfgang. Their idea was used in determining the response which was seen in psychological patients as reacting to the stimuli in the external environment rather than their physiological nature. This was Gestalt’s way of combining the mind, inanimate nature and life of human beings into one scientific element otherwise called psychology (Eijk, 2005).
Abraham Maslow is another contributor to the discipline of psychology where he described the process of self-actualization as being attained when the individual has their physical, psychological and human needs being met. Consequently, the main idea in psychology is to enable people to attain their full potential through establishment of beneficial relationships with others. According to Maslow, this full potential is only attained when the person has all the mentioned needs being met (Sokal, 2001).
Development of the science of psychology during the 19th century
The most dramatic period in the development of the science of psychology in the 19th century too place when Wilhelm Wundt established the experimental study of self-conscious in his laboratory. This was a significant moment especially as the laboratory was exclusively used for psychological research in 1879. Similarly, the classical conditioning experiments by Ivan Pavlov were yet another milestone in the 19th century development of psychology. The pioneer study of the human memory by William James was also made more rampant in this century (Kroker, 2003).
After experimental psychology, other areas of specialization such as scientific pedagogy appeared in the early 1880s led by G. Stanley Hall and the educational theory by John Dewey was another milestone in the same era. The very first psychological clinic was built in the 1890s by James Cattell and it incorporated anthropometric methods which were used to test the mental condition of the clients. Similarly, in 1898 Sigmund Freud was developing a new approach to the study of the mind known as psychoanalysis (Eijk, 2005).
Eijk, P. (2005). Medicine and Philosophy in Classical Antiquity: Doctors and Philosophers on Nature, Soul, Health and Disease. New York, New York: CambridgeUniversity Press
Kroker, K. (2003). The progress of introspections in America, 1896–1938. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, vol.34, pp.77–108
Sokal, M. M. (2001). Practical phrenology as psychological counseling in the 19th- century United States. In C. D. Green, M. Shore, & T. Teo (Eds.), The transformation of psychology: Influences of 19th-century philosophy, technology, and natural science (pp. 21–44). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.