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[muse] Psychology on Philosophy - Transience Divine
July 8th, 2006
10:03 pm

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[muse] Psychology on Philosophy
The nature of modern philosophy is hugely changed by the existence of psychology-- both by the concept of the psyche, and the existence of a distinct study of the mind. Two of the original functions of philosophy, to explore ideas and cultivate sound minds, are better dealt with by a kind of psychology shrouded in philosophical-like discussion. Although as far as I know, Western Civilization has not yet cut specialties for these out of the liberal arts, philosophers recognize that it is not the concern of their study. That said, it's not clear whether that distinction comes out of the existence of psychology by being revealed by it, or by being created by it.

All philosophical problems are recognized as mental constructs that fall out of the civilized mind. The tools of philosophy, ideas, are psycho-social products, and as such are almost philosophically bankrupt. The followers of Hegel tried to fix it by creating new tools from whole-cloth: assigning creating names to ideas which are at once universally huge and intricately distinct. Many contemporary philosophers stick to the tools of logic and formal languages, ultimately, I think, because it's the only perfect safe haven. Modern philosophy loves to shroud itself in it's own vocabulary because it's the best chance of getting at something beyond the constructs. We don't spend all our time talking about ontology and epistemology because that's what most interests us, but because that's all we've been able to disentangle so far from the world of the psyche.

But psyche is just another concept: a metaphor that structures our thinking. Just as "objective fact" is based on an abstraction on subjective experience designed to remove a point of view, philosophical truth is the product of an abstraction on ideology designed to remove the psyche. It too is a construct, and worthy of scrutiny. On some level, we don't have a psyche, as we understand it, and like all studies, psychology is manipulating artificial symbols of a self-consistent universe, self-fulfilled by our belief in it.

What if there's something of the psyche that is necessarily and properly core to the great questions of philosophy, in addition to the part of the psyche that is properly distinct from it. I'm not sure what the consequences of such a paradigm shift would be, but I have some ideas. Our different understandings of psychological ideas, rather than being obstacles to philosophical discussion, would be vehicles for progress. "Philosophical progress" would become personal progress; the function of the discipline of philosophy, rather than to be a reservoir of accepted best arguments, would be a reservoir of stepping stones, to help people from one philosophical conception of their universe to another. It likely also makes it impossible to answer questions of universality, but I doubt we can answer those anyway.

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