Individualism and the Objects of Psychology

  • Naomi Scheman
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 161)


Much philosophical discussion has been devoted to questions about what sort of existence to attribute to the objects1 of psychology. Recent focus on scientific realism as a way of answering ontological questions2 has subtly shifted the center of these questions. Thus, Descartes claimed to have demonstrated that psychological states were of (or in) a mind, a substance wholly different from the body. The question of causal interaction between the two arose, but he took his ultimate inability to answer it to indicate not the inadequacy of his dualism but the limits of metaphysical investigation. In contrast, for modern scientific realists what exists is whatever has to exist for our best theories to be true, and causality plays a central role in these accounts. Psychological states are whatever they have to be to have the (physical and psychological) causes and effects that they do.3


Psychological State Political Theory Psychological Realism Psychosexual Development Lower Level Theory 
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  1. 2.
    See especially Hilary Putnam, Mind, Language and Reality: Philosophical Papers, Vol. 2, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1975.Google Scholar
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    In addition to Putnam, this has been argued (in different ways and to rather different ends) by David K. Lewis, ‘An Argument for the Identity Theory,’ in Materialism and the Mind-Body Problem, ed. David M. Rosenthal (Prentice Hall, 1971), pp. 162–71; and Donald Davidson, ‘Mental Events,’ in Experience and Theory, ed. L. Swanson and J. W. Foster, (Univ. Massachusetts Press, 1970), pp. 79-101.Google Scholar
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    For arguments very different from mine against this claim, see Putnam, ‘The Meaning of Meaning,’ in Mind, Language and Reality, and Tyler Burge, ‘Individualism and the Mental,’ in Midwest Studies in Philosophy 4 (1979), pp. 73–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 6.
    It is this sort of holism that Quine has in mind when he marks, with the thesis of the indeterminacy of translation, a sharp break between all the natural sciences and psychology, linguistics, and related fields. His theory of analytical hypotheses is meant to make the relativization precise for the case of translation. See Word and Object (Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 1960), esp. Ch. 2.Google Scholar
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    Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, trans. G. E. M. Anscombe (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1967), esp. §§269–315.Google Scholar
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    Hilary Putnam’s work on the division of linguistic labor, the irreducibly social dimension of meaning, has similar consequences for individualistic functionalist accounts. In Putnam’s writing, as in Davidson’s, an acute perception of this social dimension undercuts his programmatic work in philosophical psychology. (Putnam himself has acknowledged this effect, though perhaps not as extremely as I argue.) See esp. The Meaning of Meaning’.Google Scholar
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    Strictly speaking, the liberal wants individuals to be prior to forms of political organization. This split allows free reign to forces of social and economic coercion. The liberal needs to argue that these forces are less powerful or less reprehensible than political forces, or, quite implausibly as soon as one considers the socialization of children, extend liberalism to social forces as well. Problems of this sort are raised by Marx in ‘On the Jewish Question’ and discussed in relation to pluralism by Robert Paul Wolff in ‘Beyond Tolerance’ (in Critique of Pure Tolerance, with Herbert Marcuse and Barrington Moore, Jr., Boston: Beacon Press, 1965), and by Lorenne Clark in’ sexual Equality and the Problem of an Adequate Moral Theory: The Poverty of Liberalism’ (unpub. ms.).Google Scholar
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    Dorothy Dinnerstein, The Mermaid and the Minotaur: Sexual Arrangements and Human Malaise (New York: Harper and Row, 1976); Nancy Chodorow, The Reproduction of Mothering: Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender (Berkeley: Univ. of Calif. Press, 1978).Google Scholar
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    See especially ‘Being and Doing: A Cross-Cultural Examination of the Socialization of Males and Females,’ in Woman in Sexist Society: Studies in Power and Powerlessness, ed. Vivian Gornick and Barbara K. Moran (Basic Books, 1971); ‘Family Structure and Feminine Personality,’ in Woman, Culture and Society, ed. Michelle Z. Rosaldo and Louise Lamphere (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1974); and ‘Mothering, Male Dominance, and Capitalism,’ in Capitalist Patriarchy and the Case for Socialist Feminism, ed. Zillah R. Eisenstein (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1979).Google Scholar
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    Chodorow cites principally Alice Balint, Michael Bahnt, W. R. D. Fairbairn, Harry Guntrip, Hans Loewald, Margaret Mahler, Roy Shafer, and D. W. Winnicott.Google Scholar
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    For the discussion on the need for men’s personality structures to change to accommodate the demands of industrial capitalism, see Heidi Hartmann, ‘Capitalism, Patriarchy, and Job Segregation by Sex,’ in Eisenstein.Google Scholar
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    This point is argued and historically illustrated by Susan Moller Okin, Women in Western Political Thought (Princeton Univ. Press, 1979).Google Scholar
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    See especially Sigmund Freud, ‘“Civilized” Sexual Morality and Modern Nervous Illness,’ 1908, Standard Edition, vol. 9, ed. James Strachey (London: Hogarth Press, 1959), esp. pp. 194–5.Google Scholar
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    Juliet Mitchell, Psychoanalysis and Feminism (New York: Pantheon Books, 1974).Google Scholar
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    The notion of a father tongue and its difference from a mother tongue is Thoreau’s. See Stanley Cavell, The Senses of Waiden (New York: The Viking Press, 1972), pp. 15ff.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Naomi Scheman
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MinnesotaUSA

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