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1995 - Volume 16, Number 1, Winter

Introduction to “Newton’s Legacy for Psychology”
Brent D. Slife, Brigham Young University
The Journal of Mind and Behavior , Winter 1995, Volume 16, Number 1, Pages 1-8, ISSN 0271-0137
This first article (of the group that follows) is intended as a brief introduction to the general philosophical assumptions of Newton: namely, his mathematicism, empiricism, positivism, reductionism, and dualism. These five “isms” provide an important background to the main articles that are also briefly described.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Brent D. Slife, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, SWKT, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah 84602

Waiting for Newton
Thomas H. Leahey, Virginia Commonwealth University
The Journal of Mind and Behavior , Winter 1995, Volume 16, Number 1, Pages 9-20, ISSN 0271-0137
Argues that Newton’s influence on psychology has been broad and profound, if not always acknowledged. From the Enlightenment onward, most philosophers and psychologists have tried to be “Newtons of the Mind,” trying to do psychology as Newton did physics, stressing mathematics and mechanism. No Newton has arrived in psychology, but we go on waiting nonetheless. But Newton’s influence has been deeper than this, because he defined the modern style in science and ushered in a revolutionary concept of the universe and humans’ relation to it. Newton’s great influence has tended, especially in English-speaking psychology, to crowd out or depreciate other visions of psychology such as Wittgenstein and hermeneutics that do not conform to the Newtonian ideal of science. It is suggested that Newton, like Beckett’s Godot, may never arrive.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Thomas H. Leahey, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Box 842018, Richmond, Virginia 23284-2018

Ripples of Newtonian Mechanics: Science, Theology, and the Emergence of the Idea of Development
Brian Vandenberg, University of Missouri-St. Louis
The Journal of Mind and Behavior , Winter 1995, Volume 16, Number 1, Pages 21-34, ISSN 0271-0137
The field of developmental psychology has typically traced its history to Darwin or to changes in views about the nature of childhood. What has been generally neglected is how the core assumptions of contemporary theories were forged in the early history of modern science. In particular, the rise of Newtonian mechanics precipitated similar perspectives in geology and then biology. They all converged on a shared set of assumptions about the nature of change in the physical world. Theology also played a key role in this process, serving not only as a foil, but also as a source of important insights for the emerging scientific, and developmental, world view. The field of developmental psychology is a child of this complex and often stormy relationship between science and theology that has shaped Western thought.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Brian Vandenberg, Ph.D., Psychology Department, University of Missouri-St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri 63121

Psychology and Newtonian Methodology
Piers Rawling, University of Missouri-St. Louis
The Journal of Mind and Behavior , Winter 1995, Volume 16, Number 1, Pages 35-44, ISSN 0271-0137
According to Newton, the goals of natural philosophy comprise quantitative generalizations and causal knowledge, the latter being paramount. Quantitative generalizations are sometimes explanatory, in psychology as elsewhere (the role of the Gaussian model in explaining the shape of the ROC curve in signal detection is discussed). However, in psychology, they are not explanatory when the human subject is considered qua bearer of psychological states (beliefs, desires, and their ilk), but only when she is considered qua physical system. In the former case quantitative generalizations are, rather, to be causally explained. In this sense, psychology may be closer to the Newtonian methodological mark than contemporary physics.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Piers Rawling, Ph.D., Philosophy Department, University of Missouri-St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri 63121-4499

Newtonian Time and Psychological Explanation
Brent D. Slife, Brigham Young University
The Journal of Mind and Behavior , Winter 1995, Volume 16, Number 1, Pages 45-62, ISSN 0271-0137
Newton’s conception of time has had a profound influence upon science, particularly psychology. Five characteristics of explanation have devolved from Newton’s temporal framework: objectivity, continuity, linearity, universality, and reductivity. These characteristics are outlined in the present essay and shown to be central to psychological theories and methods. Indeed, Newton’s temporal framework is so central that it often goes unexamined in psychology. Examination is important, however, because recent critics of Newton’s framework – including both scientists and philosophers – have questioned its validity and usefulness.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Brent D. Slife, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, SWKT, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah 84602

Temporality and Psychological Action at a Distance
Richard N. Williams, Brigham Young University
The Journal of Mind and Behavior , Winter 1995, Volume 16, Number 1, Pages 63-76, ISSN 0271-0137
This paper discusses the manner in which Isaac Newton proposed to account for the phenomenon of action at a distance. His struggles arose from the attempt to maintain the corpuscular metaphysics (or, “metaphysic of things”) common in his day. In psychology the same difficulty arises in accounting for the effects of past events on present behaviors. Traditional theories account for this “psychological action at a distance” by proposing various constructs and structures that serve the same function that aether served in the physical explanations of Newton’s day. The paper argues that such explanations are unsatisfactory, and unnecessary once the assumptions of the metaphysic of things are given up. An alternative understanding of human action grounded in interpretation and free from the constraints of linear time and corpuscular metaphysics is presented to account for the subtle relationship of past events to present ones.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Richard N. Williams, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah 84602

Newton, Science, and Causation
James E. Faulconer, Brigham Young University
The Journal of Mind and Behavior , Winter 1995, Volume 16, Number 1, Pages 77-86, ISSN 0271-0137
Contrary to common belief, acceptance of Newtonian causation does not commit one to a mechanistic, materialistic, or deterministic understanding of the world. I argue that the Newtonian view can be assimilated to contemporary theoretical alternatives in psychology. This means that, given the Newtonian understanding of causation, it is possible for such alternatives to be scientific – to treat of causes – without requiring either mechanism, materialism, or mathematical formalizations. I argue that we best understand Newtonian causation as formal causation. I do this by discussing the history of Newton’s theory of causation and comparing his theory to Bacon’s. I also compare Newton’s theory of causation to Aristotle’s, arguing that when we speak of formal causes we speak of our descriptions rather than the nature of things. We may (or may not) accurately impute various elements of our scientific descriptions to the nature of things, but when we speak of formal causes, we are speaking of the patterns we use to describe the changes we observe rather than the nature of things themselves. Since any science must use such patterns, even alternative psychologies use Newtonian causation – if they are genuinely scientific alternatives. However, mathematics is not the only discipline that offers such patterned explanations. Moral explanations offer an alternate model for causal explanation.

Requests for reprints should be sent to James E. Faulconer, Ph.D., Department of Philosophy, 3196 Jesse Knight Humanities Building, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah 84602-6279

Can Post-Newtonian Psychologists Find Happiness in a Pre-Paradigm Science?
Paul A. Roth, University of Missouri-St. Louis
The Journal of Mind and Behavior , Winter 1995, Volume 16, Number 1, Pages 87-98, ISSN 0271-0137
This paper is a commentary on the essays by Faulconer (1995), Leahey (1995), Rawling (1995), Slife (1995a, 1995b), Vandenberg (1995), and Williams (1995). Whatever the differences among these essays, they nonetheless share a common concern with the image of science which Newton promulgated. What might be termed the Newtonian meta-paradigm is positivistic, in the contemporary sense. This meta-paradigm has survived the demise of the Newtonian paradigm in physics. Each of the authors in this volume, in turn, is concerned with how to expose, and so liberate, psychology from the grip of this meta-paradigm. I comment briefly on their respective strategies and relative success in doing so.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Paul A. Roth, Ph.D., Department of Philosophy, University of Missouri-St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri 63121-4499

Book Reviews

Changing the World: A Framework for the Study of Creativity
Book Authors: David Henry Feldman, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and Howard Gardner. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 1994
Reviewed by Paul G. Muscari, SUNY at Glens Falls
The Journal of Mind and Behavior , Winter 1995, Volume 16, Number 1, Pages 99-102, ISSN 0271-0137
[Note: First paragraph, no abstract available.] There is more than a tendency within the cognitive and physical sciences today to look upon the behavior of the individual as dependent upon rule governed systems that are divorced from one’s intentions but which still shape the direction the consequences take. Such a view often perceives creativity as a perfunctory affair where local problems are gradually solved and things finally come together. Indeed the creative act would seem to be little more than a simple step by step modification of previous ideas based on increased information – a borrowed token of sequential processes.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Paul G. Muscari, Ph.D., 28 Broadacres Road, Queensbury, New York 12804

The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul
Book Author: Francis Crick. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1994
Reviewed by Larry Vandervert, American Nonlinear Systems
The Journal of Mind and Behavior , Winter 1995, Volume 16, Number 1, Pages 103-106, ISSN 0271-0137
[Note: First paragraph, no abstract available.] “The astonishing hypothesis is that, ‘you,’ your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity, and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules” (Crick, 1994, p. 3). It is my impression that Crick’s astonishing hypothesis is a variation on Horace Barlow’s (1972) neuron doctrine of perception (see Crick footnote, p. 7). However, if Crick’s hypothesis is an attempt to recreate the power and generality of DNA codes in neuron form as Barlow hoped to do (see Barlow, 1972, p. 391, “Acknowledgements”), the reader would have been given a better sense of direction if that had been set out in a clear fashion.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Larry Vandervert, Ph.D., American Nonlinear Systems, West 711 Waverly Place, Spokane, Washington 99205-3271

Madness, Heresy, and the Rumor of Angels: The Revolt Against the Mental Health System
Book Author: Seth Farber. Peru, Illinois: Open Court, 1993
Reviewed by Mychael Gleeson, New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada
The Journal of Mind and Behavior , Winter 1995, Volume 16, Number 1, Pages 107-114, ISSN 0271-0137
[Note: First paragraph, no abstract available.] With the publication of Seth Farber’s first book, he has established himself as the most profound and provocative writer on the subject of madness since the death of R.D. Laing. Of course, neither Laing nor Farber could have formulated their counter-cultural interpretation of madness had they not first read and assimilated the writings of Thomas Szasz whose self-proclaimed disdain for the counter-culture and apparent disinterest in the question of the nature of madness, did not prevent him from single-handedly initiating the scientific revolution which cast the construct of mental illness into intellectual disrepute, and consequently made it possible to consider the next logical question: If madness is not mental illness, then what is it? (Nor did Szasz’s cultural conservatism prevent him from baptizing Dr. Farber’s book with a stunningly elegant Foreword.)

Requests for reprints should be sent to Mychael Gleeson, Ph.D., 720 Sixth Street, Box 212, New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada V3L 3C5

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