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The Development of Psychology as Science

Since ancient times, needs of social life made people distinguish and take into account the peculiarities of the psychological cast of people. The philosophies of antiquity already discussed some of the psychological issues that were resolved either in terms of idealism, or in terms of materialism. Thus, the materialistic philosophers of antiquity, Democritus, Lucretius, Epicurus, understood the human soul as a kind of matter, as a bodily formation, created from globular, small, and most mobile atoms. But the idealist philosopher Plato understood the human soul as something divine, distinct from the body. The soul, before getting into a human body, exists apart in the upper world, which perceives ideas – eternal and immutable essences. Once in the body, the soul begins to remember everything seen before the birth. Plato’s idealistic theory, which treats the body and mind as two separate and antagonistic beginnings, laid the foundation for all subsequent idealistic theories.

The great philosopher Aristotle in his treatise, On the soul, identified psychology as a kind of field of knowledge, and for the first time mentioned the idea of the indivisibility of the soul and the living body. The soul, the psyche, manifests itself in a variety of capacities in the activities: feeding, feeling, moving, intelligent; higher faculties arise from the lower and on their basis. People’s primary cognitive ability is a sense; it takes forms of objects sensible without their matter, just as the wax takes the impression of the seal without iron and gold. Sensations leave a trace in the form of representations – images of those objects that had previously made an impact on the senses. Aristotle has shown that these images are connected in three ways: by similarity, contiguity, and contrast, thereby indicating the main types of bonds – associations of mental phenomena.

Thus, at first, psychology was the science of the soul. Such a definition of psychology was given more than two thousand years ago. The presence of the soul used to explain all the strange phenomena in human’s life.

Then psychology became a science of consciousness. This definition appeared in the 17th century in connection with the development of the natural sciences. The ability to think, feel, and wish was called consciousness. The main method of studying was observation of a person by itself and the description of the facts.

After that, psychology became the science of behavior. This definition was used in the 20th century. The task of psychology is to experiment and observe what can be seen directly, namely, behavior, actions, human reactions (motives that cause actions were not taken into account).

Finally, psychology became a science that studies the objective laws, manifestations and mechanisms of the psyche.

The history of psychology as an experimental science begins in 1879. It happened in the world’s first experimental psychology lab founded by the German psychologist Wilhelm Wundt in Leipzig.

Since ancient times, needs of social life made people distinguish and take into account the peculiarities of the psychological cast of people. The philosophies of antiquity already discussed some of the psychological issues that were resolved either in terms of idealism, or in terms of materialism.

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18 July 2016
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19 July 2016
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