An Essay Concerning Human Understanding byJohn Locke

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Psychology was derived from two other disciplines; physiology, the study of how living things work, and philosophy, the theories behind why living things behave the way they do. Philosophy and physiology are intertwined, in that they both have contributed to the study of the other. Before experimentation, philosophers gathered and made inferences based off their own experiences. When researches begain to attain information with a combination of experimentation and observation, psychology begain to seperate from its counterparts and form its independence. 

One philosopher who contributed to the study of psychology was John Locke. Locke was primilary concerned with cognitive functioning, which is the way the mind acquire its knowledge. A major physiologists who helped shape psychology and changed the direction was Gustav Fechner. Fechner developed a way in which a mental experience could be measured. Philosophy and physiology made psychology what it is today.

Locke’s biggest contribution to psychology was An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. At the beginning of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding Locke says that since his purpose is “to enquire into the Original, Certainty and Extant of human knowledge, together with the grounds and degrees of Belief, Opinion and Assent” he is going to begin with ideas—the materials out of which knowledge is constructed. His first task is to “enquire into the Original of these Ideas…and the ways whereby the Understanding comes to be furnished with them”. He belived that we are born with no knowledge and that we obtain knowledge through experience. 

There are two types of experiences, sensation and reflection. Sensation, Locke aruged, will always appear first; as you need a sensation for the mind to reflect on at a later time. Sensation is what is experienced in the environment through senses, following that comes reflection were the mind reflects back to the experience to form an perception that may or may not be reality. Locke also developed the concept of association. Association is an early name for the process psychologists call “learning.” 

The reduction or analysis of mental life into simple ideas or elements, and the association of these elements to form complex ideas, became central to the new scientific psychology. Just as clocks and other mechanisms could be disassembled—reduced to their component parts—and reassembled to form a complex machine, so could human ideas.

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October 22, 1850, marked a historical mark for psychology. Fechner believed that everything is endowed with a soul; nothing is without a material basis; mind and matter are the same essence, but seen from different sides. As he himself described it: ‘The task did not at all originally present itself as one of finding a unit of mental measurement; but rather as one of searching for a functional relationship between the physical and the psychical that would accurately express their general interdependence’. 

Fechner belived that adding a sensation to a stimilus will not produce an equal effect to the resulting stimilus. If this were true, this would mean that for the first time psychologist could develop a way to measure a mental process and to also perform experiements on the mind. This was a major step forward for psychology, as this also disproved earlier notions by theorists that experiments could not be done on the mind.

Unit four discussion states the following: ‘Johnathan is 15 years old. His parents are business owners and they are very wealthy. Johnathan is used to having the best of everything, he lives in a grand house and was recently gifted with a brand new car. Johnathan’s parents recently filed bankrupt due to overwhelming debt. Johnathan had to return the car, and they also downsized their home and cut back on expenses dramatically. Johnathan went from living first class to middle class. In response to his new environment he got a job to help his parents as much as he could. He never complained and showed little to no signs of frustration. Johnathan seemed to adjust to the changes fairly easy. 

Although they are not as well off as they once were, they have became closer and spend much more time together then they have in the past.’ Oberserving this case from Locke’s view he would suggest that Johnathan has been exposed to a new sensation. When reflecting, the perception would be that when faced with hard times financially, that downsizing and cutting back on expenses would be the solution. He would also associate that downsizing could equate to more family time, and bringing the family closer together. 

If this same case were viewed from Fechner’s perspective, he would suggest that this is a classis example of a sensation to a stimilus not producing a equal to the resulting stimilus. Most teenagers Johnathan’s age would probably react in a resentful manner. Adjusting from one financial group to another, especially when talking in terms of downsizing from one’s standard of living, would be a major change for a teenager; especially Johnathan’s age, where popularity and stature is usually associated with money.

From Locke’s study of cognitive functioning, to Fechner’s fasanation with the mind and body, there is no doubt that both physiology and philosophy played a major role in the development of psychology. Without all the discovers of so many great physiologist and philosophist, psychology would not be what it is today. Psychology formed its own independence and became a popular topic to study; even today, psychology is still wordly respected and admired. New experiements and observations are being done everyday, but old researched is still studied and heavily relied on. As it is said, ‘you don’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.’  

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