Philosophical Psychology

From Craig Steven Titus, “Picking Up the Pieces” in Philosophical Psychology: Psychology, Emotions, and Freedom

“First a working definition. Philosophical psychology is the comprehensive study of the human psyche and person, which is established neither by empirical studies nor by clinical psychology nor even by a priori conceptual analysis alone. Through a critical and ordered appropriation, however, it involves careful observations and reflections that draw on empirical, clinical, and conceptual endeavors according to their own competency. This bridge-building discipline connects elements not only from the psychological sciences, but also from philosophical anthropology, including the ethical and religious traditions that inevitably underlie those reflections. In turn, it provides a basis for psychological, moral, and social applications that recognize deeper human and spiritual resources.” (2)

Yes. Please. This is exactly the sort of integrative work that needs to be done. A problem with specialization is that it tends unduly to promote the explanatory power of one’s particular discipline. What is needed is careful integrative observation which synthesizes valuable insights from various disciplines. Psychology, in particular, has had the corner on the market with respect to authority in practice. Yet, as Titus points out later, “the tendency to ignore philosophical psychology and religion is found also in a clinical approach that relies on therapeutic techniques, with little attention being paid to the worldview and value-system of either practitioner or client” (12). The result is that clinical psychology begins to look a bit like a religion, operating on the basis of therapeutic “liturgical practices” with theoretical basis that is often uncritically and blandly secular. “Blandly” because what passes for a proper telos of a secular value-system is “normal” functioning and integration into society, a goal which tends to shy away from answering the “big questions.”

2 thoughts on “Philosophical Psychology”

  1. Here, then, seems to be an answer to the discussion you and I were having last year regarding the place of empirical studies in your work! Huzzah! Do you feel satisfied by Titus’ proposal for philosophical psychology?

  2. Absolutely. I hope that I can demonstrate that I was listening to your push back even the slightest bit! 🙂

    Titus is the editor, and there are various articles that may or may not be propounding a unified vision for this. I’m still too early in the book to tell. I especially like Titus’s comment about paying attention to each discipline “according to their own competency.”

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