Transition from Medieval to Modern Times

(14th-16th centuries)

Renaissance, Reformation, Rise of Science


- Revival of the Greek tradition

(philosophy, art, & etc.)

- Exploration

- Commerce - The Medici family

- Art: from Byzantine to Renaissance forms

- Nationalism in Europe


- Response to abuse/decline of Papacy

- Luther (1483-1546)

- no need of Pope to mediate between

individual & God

- "individualism"

- Calvin (1509-1564)

- asceticism & Protestant (work) ethic

Rise of Science

- Emergence of new ideas & their conflict with the Church

Copernicus (1473-1543)

- Heliocentric universe opposed to

Ptolemaic view endorsed by Church

- Escaped inquisition (dedicated his

work to the Pope!)

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

Important work: Novum Organum

- Visionary of modern science

- sailing beyond Pillars of Hercules:

symbolic limit of classical science

- Provided new perspective on knowledge:

- knowledge of what, what for, and how?

- Seek knowledge of works, not words

- (Read the book of Nature)

- Knowledge for Human Enlightenment and Power

- Experimenta lucifera: seek "light"

- Experimenta fruictifera: seek "fruit",

(Note: pure vs applied distinction)

- Seek knowledge to command Nature

into action, rather than to overcome

an opponent in argument

Knowledge for gaining power over Nature,

to improve the "estate of man [sic]"on earth

- How should we seek knowledge?

- start from observation of particulars

and proceed to the general (Form)

- follow the Inductive method

- Criticism of Aristotelian Deductive method:

- In proceeding from general propositions

to particulars, the entire superstructure

may fall if based on faulty


- "True knowledge is knowledge of causes."

- "But ... final cause rather corrupts than

advances the science [physics] ... except

such as ... human action."

- Proposed science as continuing, organized,

cooperative, publicly funded accumulation

of facts for the well-being of humanity

- Identified various types of errors and faulty

presuppositions which he called the "Idols":

1. Idols of the Tribe

Basic biases of human nature
(e.g., perceptual biases)

2. Idols of the Cave

Personal biases that result from one's

own experiences, education, feelings

3. Idols of the Market Place

Biases that result from being overly

influenced by traditional meanings

of words. "... unfit choice of words

obstructs the understanding"

4. Idols of the Theater

Blind allegiance to dogma, authority,

or tradition

Some general points about Bacon:

- " For man is but servant and interpreter of

Nature: ... For the chain of causes cannot

by any force be loosed or broken, nor can

nature be commanded except by being obeyed."


Note: the dilemma of

freedom vs determinism

faced by Skinner ...

and everyone else!

- Considered Founder of Empiricism

- followed by British thinkers Locke & Hume

- Inspired the founding of the Royal Society

in 1662


Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)

Developed the "method of experiment"

(e.g., experiment on speed of falling bodies)

Re-invented the telescope

- discovered satellites of Jupiter

(which Aristotelian scholars refused

to see through the telescope)

> observed spots on the sun

Adopted Copernicus' heliocentric view

of the universe

- angered Churchmen as a threat to an

established world-view


Important Source:

Robinson (1986). An Intellectual History of Psychology

- Rationalism: Geometry of the mind. Certainty!

Following Copernicus, Galileo, Kelper (1609)-1st 2 laws.

enabled: 1) Framing hypotheses
2) Mathematisation of data


Rene Descartes (1596-1650)

Traditional upper class upbringing

Jesuit training: of scholastic Philosophy and Physics

emphasis in mathematics

-contributions to mathematics, optics, analytical geometry

Jones (1975): Descartes had a "mystical Experience"

outlined a new scientific method

of building truths on others

1644 Principles of Philosophy

4 part maxim on an "unprejudiced mind"

1. Accept nothing as true except those of
enough clarity and vividness to remove doubt

2. Divide problems into many descriminable elements

3. work solutions from smallest to grandest

4. ...thus: guarantee solution is general enough
to allow no exceptions!

Cogito Ergo Sum

the indubitable foundation become a Kepler of Biology?

-thought highly of Harvey's work

Observed the nerves of the body,

thought of them as tubes through

which the animal spirits flowed.


Viewed body as machine

- invented concept of "reflex arc"

Viewed humans different from animals:

- rational soul; - free will

Distinguished substance from its attributes:

"Substance is a thing which so exists

that it needs no other thing to exist."

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(l' (me: mind, self, soul)


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(tangible) (intangible)



(mortal) (immortal)


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Mind-Body Interactionism

- soul acts on body & vice-versa

- soul has free will (works with help

of "animal spirits")

Descartes' "Rationalism"

- preference for reasoning over

experience as source of knowledge

- Doctrine of "Innate Ideas"

- God places clear ideas (such as

triangles) in the soul

Note: invited criticism from the

empiricist Locke!

The separation of body & mind as a way of

separating the spheres of science and religion

Importance for psychology:

Defined the "Mind-Body Problem"

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)

Important work: Leviathan

Useful ref.: Article on Hobbes in the

Encyclopaedia of Philosophy

Views of Body and Mind


- are Automata

- heart, a spring; nerves as strings, etc.


- ideas and thoughts are "phantasms,"

i.e., motions in the brain which may

cause other motions


Hobbes was a "metaphysician of motion":

"Life is but a motion of limbs"

Matter in motion is all there is:

implicit material monism.


View of causation and free will

- Cause simply means antecedent


- "Will" is the name we give to an appetite

or aversion that immediately precedes

action; and appetites and aversions are

but motions toward or away from


Freedom is merely the lack of constraint.

Note: A fully mechanistic & determinist position;

freedom does not imply will in the

sense of capacity to choose,

initiate and sustain a course action.


View of Knowledge

- "Nominalistic": i.e., implying that

concepts are mere words, no more

- Reasoning merely involves "adding and

subtracting" of "general names"

that mark & signify our thoughts

- "Science is the knowledge of

consequences, and dependence

of one fact on another" [so that]

"causes come into our power"

Note: implicit notion of knowledge for

"prediction and control"

View of the Good

- "Good" simply is

a man's object of desire;

evil that of hate and aversion

- Worth or value of a man is "his price",

i.e., "so much as would be given for

the use of his power"

Implications for Psychology:

- Anticipates mind/brain identity theory , &

REM (rapid eye movement)-type

studies of dreams:

"Dreams are caused by distemper

of some inward parts of the body"

- Materialist, mechanistic, and determinist

world view (LaMettrie, Watson)

- Advocacy of control of individuals by

the state or by monarchy

(Compare Skinner)