The types of questions
The examples above begin to illustrate my belief that the answers
to many of our more difficult questions is to be found in the
details of issues sometimes seen as very technical for example,
the relationship between psychology and neuro-physiology. If we
fully understood the nature of the domain of psychology and how
that domain of science related to neuro-physiology, then we would
understand how the mechanism of what we are related to the experience
of what we are, and whether one was reducible to the other.
In more general terms, we do not even fully understand how knowledge
relates to the object that knowledge represents. Nor is there
any thorough and accepted theory of the nature of science itself
and what if any is the nature and role of reduction (where one
set of variables is reduced to more fundamental underlying variables)
in science. Given this lack of understanding of science and knowledge,
little wonder we can end up confused over questions of whether
or not we are more than a bundle of atoms.
My position is that if adequate answers can be secured to these
types of questions then they could throw much light and understanding
on the broader and more general questions such as 'what are we?'
And how can I understand what causes me to do what I do and to
feel and think what I feel and think?
For many years there have been a core set of questions that have
dominated my personal search.
- If we had a true general theory of psychology what would it
and what could it tell us of a particular person in particular
- If we had a true general theory of society what would it and
what could it tell us about some particular society in some
particular state at some particular time?
- Given that society consists of people, what is the relationship
between a general theory of psychology and a general theory
- All of the above questions focus on creating knowledge of
various sorts of objects of the universe. That is, we have knowledge
of something and the something. What is knowledge, how does
it arise, and once we have created it what is the relationship
between that knowledge and the object represented by that knowledge?
The issues above are complex. Perhaps not each, alone, but in
their inter-relatedness. For several years at a time I seemed
to lose direction in the issues, eventually concluding that they
were interrelated, and to solve one is necessarily to solve them
all. That is, to solve the problem of a general theory of psychology
is also to solve the question on the structure and status of knowledge,
which is also to solve the problem of causality.
The difficulty is circular and I judged it impossible to unravel
the situation above and to deal the issues separately. I conceptualised
the issues as follows.
- We need a general theory of psychology that integrates the
best of the thought in the literature, Freud, Skinner, Neisser,
Piaget, Kelly, and so on. We do not need more data, nor do we
need more ideas. There are existing great insights that simply
need to be ordered.
- But if I want to add thought to the theory, then how does
it influence the body and the brain? There are many attempts
in the literature to solve this problem, and many intellectual
positions one could adopt, from inter-actionism to parallelism
etc. None are very successful. And it is best to avoid these
historical labels and seek to re-conceptualise the issues from
- It follows that we need to examine the notions of cause and
to build a theory of cause so that we can have a sound base
on which to build a general theory of psychology.
- Now Hume analysed issues of cause as perception of constant
conjunctions, and concluded, rightly, that noting of mere constant
conjunction is not sufficient. But what is constant conjunction?
In what way is it related to questions above on variables and
abstractions? What perceptual mechanisms are at work here?
- In addition, current notions on cause have it as a physical
phenomenon. But this seems to confuse two quite different things.
The hypothesis is that knowledge is independent of that represented
by the knowledge. So when I watch an atomic explosion and think
E=mc˛, and any other differential and quantum equations, then
there are two things, the mechanisms in reality which result
in the explosion, and our representations of those mechanisms.
What we know of reality resides in the equations. The mechanisms
simply are. The extent that we can and do predict what
will happen using the equations is testimony to the fact that
we have certainly grasped the essence of the reality in the
equations. But for all that they remain distinct from the reality,
and from the mechanisms. So is cause an aspect of reality or
an aspect of our knowledge of reality? What are the exact relationships
- The implication is that if we had better understanding of
how knowledge relates to reality then this would provide better
insight into causality, what it is, and how it arises? So we
need a general theory of knowledge.
- We need a theory of knowledge, to unravel issues of causality
and to provide the platform for us to integrate the insights
in the literature to form a general theory of psychology.
- But humans create knowledge; therefore any valid theory of
knowledge must arise from within a general theory of psychology.
At very least, any theory of knowledge not arising from within
a general theory of psychology must be treated with caution
until such a theory of psychology is produced. So to create
a theory of knowledge we need a general theory of psychology.
The circle is complete. They are not separate. To deal with one
of these issues is to implicate all of them, to find an answer
to, say the problem of a general theory of knowledge is also to
find an answer to a general theory of psychology, etc.