Socrates (469-399 B.C.)

Plato (427-347 B.C.)

Supplementary reading: W.T. Jones The Classical Mind

Major topics:

- The Republic: a utopian society

- Concept of Psyche: tripartite psyche

- Ethics: the ideal of inner harmony

- Theory of Knowledge: Allegory of the Cave

- Theory of Reality: the concept of "Forms"

- Theory of the Origin of Ideas


Plato's Republic

- a Utopia

- Three classes in society:

- Rulers, warriors, merchants -- & slaves!

- Harmony among classes

- Rulers led by Reason

- "Philosopher-King"

- Favoured oligarchy, not democracy!


Note: Compare Skinner's Walden II,

where a "Psychologist-King"(?)

who uses behavioral technology

(rather than use of reason) is favored!

Plato's View of the Psyche The tripartite psyche

Part Seat of Seeks Characterizes

REASON Thinking Wisdom ESSENCE of

human beings

SPIRIT "Feeling" Success Assertiveness,


APPETITE Desire Bodily Indiscriminate

Pleasures desire

- Recognized individual differences according to

which part of psyche dominates

- Matching of aptitudes and occupations, leading to class differences

- The three parts of psyche, like the three

classes of society, often conflict

- Inner harmony desirable: Harmony leads to


Plato's Ethics

- The search for Justice

- Justice results from the balance in the qualities of

-> Wisdom

-> Courage, &

-> Temperance

- Harmony as virtue

- Reason as a tool in realizing this virtue

(Comprehension of harmony and beauty in the

world with the use of reason brings happiness.)

Note: Plato's Ethics anticipates contemporary models

that implicitly value inner harmony, e.g., by assuming the desirability of

- resolving inner conflicts (Freud),

- "tension-reduction" (Lewin)

- reducing "cognitive dissonance" (Festinger)


Plato's Theory of Knowledge

The Allegory of the Cave

Human beings can only know sensory impressions of objects directly; not the objects themselves.

Implications of the allegory:

(a) a mistrust of sensory experience & thus of

observational data as a means of knowledge

(b) emphasis on REASON as a means of obtaining knowledge:

Like the light which illuminates the whole world,

REASON illuminates the mind:

[the myth of the sun]

Plato's view of Reality


Objects States of mind


WORLD Higher Knowing

OF forms

REALITY ---------- -------------

Accessible Lower Thinking

to reason forms



OF Objects Believing

APPEARANCE ----------- ------------

Accessible Images Imagining

to the senses


Aristotle (384-322 B.C.)

Additional References:

(1) W.T. Jones: The Classical Mind

(2) On the significance for psychology of

Aristotle's view of causality:

J.F. Rychlak: Personality and

Psychotherapy, 1981, pp. 2-7

Important topics

Aristotle's views on:

- Politics

- Knowledge: deductive logic

- Reality: form & matter

- Causality: four types of causes

- Biology & Psyche: scala naturae

- Ethics: happiness as good,

happiness as the degree of

actualization of potentials

Aristotle's Politics

- Authored "Politics" and "Nicomachean Ethics"

in which he said that a human is first

"a political creature whose nature is to live with others."

- Reflects the interest of the ancient

Greeks in the affairs of the state

- Suggested a descriptive typology of states

- NOTE: Emphasis on description

- as opposed to prescription

- contrast Plato's utopianism

Aristotle on Knowledge

- Did not always or absolutely mistrust

the senses as a source of knowledge

- Favoured empiricism in that he collected

"data" (e.g., biological specimens)

- Still, there was a strong "rationalist"

element in his approach to knowledge:

- propositions which he believed to be

true were based more on reasoning

than of the observation of facts.

- Pioneered in Deductive Logic.

- Showed how to proceed in disciplined

reasoning, or drawing conclusions correctly,

such that these conclusions must be true

if the premises are true.


All men are mortal - (Major Premise) |

Socrates is a man - (Minor Premise) } syllogism

Therefore, Socrates is mortal. |

Note: In deductive reasoning, one begins

with a universal generalization, and

proceeds to validate a particular instance.

- Contrast with Inductive reasoning

where one starts with a single observation,

continues to observe many instances, and

then try to arrive at a (hopefully universal)

generalization (e.g., a "law" of nature:

laws of gravity, or of learning)


How to make a connection between the

particular and the general, or among

one - many - & all

is a perennial problem in

(a) classifying, or putting several particular objects

--chemicals, plants, people--in a common category

(b) defining concepts (what is common to a class)

and classification (e.g., in botany)

(c) generalizing across a category, or universally

(e.g., in discovering universal laws in science)


Aristotle's Views of Reality

- Transformed Plato's distinction between Form & Object

- For Aristotle (unlike Plato), Matter and Form are

two inseparable aspects of any thing.


- is the "stuff" of which things are made, e.g.,

- clay is matter of which bricks are made;

- bricks are matter of which walls are made . . .

- accounts for "thisness" (particularity) of the object

- has potential for actualization of its Form,

- e.g., food has potential to be flesh


- "shape" into which matter is molded,

- e.g., rectangularity of the brick

- essence of a thing whereby it

belongs to a class, e.g.,"humanness" whereby a body

is human, not merely flesh or animal

- accounts for "whatness" or general

(universal) category to which the object belongs

- implies actuality which the potential turns into at its best,

- e.g., an acorn can turn into an oak potential is actualized.

Note: In contrast with Plato,

(a) There is no separation (dualism)

of Object & Form, body & soul

(b) Forms are not merely abstract, imperceptible

"ideas"; they may be actualized in nature

(c) Body is not less "real" than soul;

both are part of Nature

Aristotle's legacy for Psychology.:

- a fully naturalistic (not idealist) view of humans,

- anticipates developmental theories (e.g., Piaget, Erikson), and "self-actualization" models (e.g., Maslow)

Aristotle's View of Causality

"Men do not know a thing till they
have grasped the 'why' of it."

Four Causes

- The statue metaphor: A statue is

- made of clay (material cause)

- through movements of sculpting

(efficient cause)

- as per a plan (formal cause)

- for a purpose, e.g., to decorate a

living room ( final cause)


- "That out of which a thing comes to

be and persists": e.g., bronze of statue

- In modern psych.: example difficult to give.


- "The statement of essence, and its

genera {class}": e.g., octave

(defined) by the relation of 2 : 1

- In Psych.: Explain behavior with

reference to a personality type

(introvert), or disease category like

"Manic Depressive Psychosis."


- "Primary source of change or coming

to rest" or "moving cause", e.g.,

builder as cause of building.

- In Psych.: "drive" as "moving cause."
or "stimulus" as a "prod" (Skinner) (unmoved mover)


- "That 'for the sake of which' a thing

is done", e.g., health as cause of

walking about.

- In Psych.: "Purpose" as cause of behavior

(controversial in modern psych).

Aristotle's Biology: An "empirical" approach

- Collected 500 animal specimens

- Studied chicken embryo at various

stages of development

The Scala Naturae :

- A continuum of life including plants,

animals and human beings

Aristotle's Three Types of Psyche


Plants - using nutrition

(a) - reproduction


Animals - sensation, "awareness"

(a+b) - actualizing potential of

eyes, ears, etc.


Humans - makes thinking possible,

(a+b+c) - abstracts principles,

- synthesizes experience

Note: - Contrast with Plato;

- Places humans in nature

Aristotle's Laws of association

- We can call up impressions of

original sensation which may:

(a) follow one another (contiguity)

(b) be like one another (similarity)

(c) contrast one another (contrast)

- Note: Anticipates laws of learning and

principles of perception


Aristotle's View of Perception

One may mistake a stranger

- for a lover when excited by love, or

- for an enemy when excited by fear

Note: a statement of the idea that emotions

distort perception

- no naive trust in sensory experience.

Aristotle's View of the Good

- Happiness as Good!

- Anything is happy to the extent

that it is performing its function,

i.e., actualizing its Form

- This anticipates the "self-actualization" model of Maslow.