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Being scientific about our selves

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Abstract:

We cannot really understand other people unless we make some serious effort to understand ourselves as well. This is well known in ordinary life, but it sets a problem for any psychology which aims to be ‘scientific’ by the narrow standards which define that term today. Those standards have sharply narrowed the notion of ‘science’ to exclude reference to anything subjective. By contrast, the older, wider concept of it simply required disciplined, methodical thought, which could of course be shown in many kinds of enquiry (for instance history and language). The current narrowing is perfectly acceptable in the physical sciences but it cannot accommodate psychology. This has become clear from the dismal failure of behaviourism, which was carefully designed to implement it. It is that failure that has made room for the current upsurge of interest in consciousness. This upsurge gives us an enormous opportunity for better thinking. Yet we shall waste that opportunity if we remain so obsessed with a narrow notion of what constitutes ‘science’ that we merely go on devising thought-systems which look vaguely scientific (as behaviourism did) instead of ones that actually help us to understand human life. A striking example of such an etherial, quasi-scientific system may be seen in ‘memetics'.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1a Collingwood Terrace, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE2 2JP, UK.

Publication date: 1999-04-01

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