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Explore The Question "What Is Psychology?" Provide Clear Definitions And Explanations That Demonstrate Your Knowledge Of It's Historical Development Then Conclude With A Definition.

1528 words - 6 pages

This essay will explore the question of what psychology is and how it became what it is. Of course there is no universally accepted answer to this ongoing question of how to define the subject. The British Psychological Society, for instance, state on their website that "psychology is the scientific study of people, the mind and behaviour" (1), whereas the American Psychological Association define it as "the scientific study of the behavior of individuals and their mental processes" (2). Most definitions would agree with these in that psychology does indeed study behaviour and the mind/mental processes. However both definitions are limited as they assume psychology to be a science. Admittedly in the sense that psychologists carry out empirical studies and controlled experiments in order to learn more about a particular topic, it can be argued it is a science, however there are other viewpoints and definitions to consider. Many for example would argue psychology to be an art form, particularly clinical psychology which far from the applying of standard techniques requires experience to get the most desirable result. It can't be denied that the success of a clinical psychologist and progress of his or her patient is largely dependant on the psychologist's experience and technique in addition to simply their knowledge of a topic area, thus there are existing elements of an art form in clinical psychology at least.The origins of psychology can be dated back to Ancient Greece where such great minds as Plato, his mentor Socrates and his student Aristotle "helped to lay the foundations of Western Philosophy" with their thinking and writings (3). It is from philosophy that psychology draws it's roots, not emerging as a separate discipline until the 1800s. At a time when people believed the universe could be explained with a single central principle such as water or fire (4), Pythagoras, a Greek mathematician (whom, aside from Pythagorean theorem, contributed much to mathematics and philosophy) proposed that it was number. Pythagoras was also well known for his belief that everything could be explained, predicted and measured with numbers. He is quoted as once saying both "number is the ruler of forms and ideas and the cause of gods and demons" and "number rules the universe" (5). Heraclitus, who taught that the 'single central particle' was fire and Democritus, who taught that the world (including the soul) was made up of many tiny material particles, also strongly influenced early Greek thinkers (4).René Descartes was a French philosopher and mathematician born in March of 1596 and his influence on philosophy and therefore psychology is not to be overlooked either. His 'Discourse on Method' (full name 'Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason, and Searching for Truth in the Sciences') was published in 1637 and is most well known for containing the phrase and philosophical argument "Je pense, donc je suis" (in English; "I think,...

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