Psychology through a kaleidoscope: an attempt to integrate some shifting perspectives
Macgregor, Dawn Zoe Amy
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The relatively young science of psychology almost appears to be undergoing an adolescent identity crisis. The literature abounds with questions as to 'who we are', 'where do we belong' and 'where are we going to'? These questions, just as is characteristic of adolescence, are not explicit, but implicitly permeate the being of the questioner. Kendler, (1981) and Staats (1989) inter alia state categorically that there is considerable disunity within psychology, that separatism abounds, and that overt schisms and non-debatable absolutism seems to be the order of the day. One of the goals of this thesis has been to examine the detail of the so called crises and even chaos facing psychology. To do so, it was necessary to survey the current definitions of science as well as psychology as a science. Because it is a basic assumption that it is difficult to predict the direction that psychology is heading without an understanding of it's historical development, a journey was made through time as seen from a metatheoretical viewpoint and the stages of the development of philosophical psychology were briefly surveyed. This literature study accentuated the close interrelationship between the historical development of science as a whole, and for psychology in particular, the close simultaneous developmental history shared by physics, metaphysics, and psychology. So the next step was to examine this interrelated developmental history in more detail. This section ends with an overview of salient fundamental conclusions of the 'Science of Complexity' and the 'New Physics' where it becomes clear that certain aspects of physics seem to be heading in a direction of a non-mechanical reality whereby the indivisibility of nature is stressed and whereby observer and observed become dual aspects and part of a larger whole. Psychology and physics meet in a quantum world whereby both are essential to arrive at an adequate understanding of phenomena being researched. In quantum theory, the nature of particle-like and wave-like attribute manifest has been shown to be entirely dependent on the experimental choice and on the researchers perspective. Mind and matter are thus shown to be inextricably linked. Certain schools of physics and psychology see General Systems' Theory as a metatheory and as a contemporary explanatory model integrating aspects of science. Consequently, this metatheory was examined in detail. Current developments in the study of disorder, instability, and non-linear relationships as theorized by Prigogine and Stangers (1984) were added to the metatheoretical model to explain hitherto unclear concepts. The 'Science of Chaos' which deals with chaotic systems is also touched upon as a development emanating out of the Prigoginian paradigm. In line with trends that emphasize the necessity of research that makes a concerted effort to contribute towards the essential need for integrative models, this too has also been explored. (Godfried, 1982; Peat, 1989; Pietersen, 1989; Schoeman, 1991; Staats, 1987; Weick, 1980). Thus, the final model is an integration of many of the essential characteristics that the current Zeitgeist in physics, metaphysics, and psychology has to offer. A serious attempt is made to integrate the metaphysics of the time continuously as it appears to be that theories survive or cease to be relevant because of seemign flaws implicit in their metaphysical foundations. Throughout the thesis, the limitations of understanding are stressed, and the illogic of absolutism criticised. To mature into adulthood, psychology as a science must remain an 'open system' that is prepared to change and recognise it's limitations. There must be ways and means to integrate the salient contributions of the various schools of thought that are relevant in current times. This much needed theoretical integration that remains open and waiting for the Zeitgeist to develop is indeed an ideal to be strived for albeit a difficult goal to attain. This work is an attempt to contribute something to this end.
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