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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.

  1. If we had a true general theory of psychology what would it and what could it tell us of a particular person in particular circumstances?
  2. 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?
  3. Given that society consists of people, what is the relationship between a general theory of psychology and a general theory of society?
  4. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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 the beginning.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. 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 here?
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.



Copyright © 1999 - 2019 Graham R. Little.