Platonism as Psychotherapy
Being somewhat exasperated with my fellow psychologists, especially those of the so-called 'positive psychology' camp, I've written a concise manifesto or sorts with this title. Should anyone be interested, it can be found here: http://goo.gl/jPFTNJ .
Naturally any comments – whether supportive, critical, or corrective – are most welcome.
Based on a comment in a private reply I now see that my remarks about psychologists could stand some clarification.
I got my PhD in psychology in 1983, and have watched, with some concern, the whole positive psychology movement unfold. The basic problem I see is that the field is dogmatically materialist/empiricist/reductionist. It is also chronically unable to recognize even the possibility that human happiness has a moral component, or to comprehend the need for some principle corresponding to moral error. Along with this, it is almost completely ignorant of Classics, as though nothing written before Freud matters.
An example will illustrate. One prominent positive psychologist I know wrote a book in which he claimed to have uncovered a universal value system that applies to all human cultures in all times. Yet it never occurred to him that piety was one such universal value. Piety, or anything like it, was simply off his radar screen. Yet he presumed to announce that he had culled the literatures of all cultures, and had discovered a universal value system.
This is vast ignorance combined with incredible arrogance – or perhaps we should say hubris. This is true of most psychology, but especially so with positive psychology. I'm honestly embarrassed to tell people I'm a psychologist sometimes.
---In email@example.com, <john.uebersax@...> wrote :
- I don't see how Positive Psychology, per se, is materialist.It has roots in rejecting the "over-medicalization" (aka Freud, etc.) of human problems where a moral/ethical character flaw becomes a disability (Szaz, etc.) or merely a neglected potential for growth (aka, Jung, etc). It takes a virtue ethics approach, wherein virtues are character strengths and vices and character weaknesses that is attractive to those in divinity programs for pastoral counseling. Some "philosophy as therapy" people draw from it. Those I have encountered in both types of venues cite Peter Seligman's Character Strengths and Virtues (OUP).I have been present at two conferences where positive psychologists presented "controversial" papers (for their colleagues) that atheism may be a psychological disability based on some type of trauma and that developmental studies of children suggest the normal human psyche is intrinsically religious/spiritual.So, I don't see the connection of positive psychology with materialism. No I have seen them critically lay into Jungian psycholology as something like astrology but that in itself does not make such criticism, per se, a materialist position.So, I guesss I don't know exactly what the gripe is.Thomas
Thanks, John, for a really unifying reminder of the purpose of Platonic and Plotinian ideas --- which, I believe, is to remind of the soulful realities above this later, conventional mindset in which we often dwell,
You said, "This is vast ignorance combined with incredible arrogance...", and that, I think, is well said. Yet this ignorance and arrogance has already become the norm down here, and seems, historically, to seldom hear the higher call --- instead, it shouts forth its own misunderstanding of the higher call, and replaces the true unity with an unreal duality, of which it is the sophistic expert.
Yes, they reject the medical model, but not the materialistic assumptions of the medical model (viz. that human beings are naught but atoms, genes, and neurotransmitters).
The term positive psychology was actually invented by the humanistic psychologist, Abraham Maslow four decades before Martin Seligman got into the area. Yet you'll never hear Maslow's name mentioned by the psychological positivists.
Nor God, gods, or eternal verities. It's the same old Epicureanism with a new name.