It seems that at the heart of modern Psychology there are certain assumptions about the uniformity of human behavior, structures within the mind and the existence of "mental illness" that would require philosophical justification.

My question is, are we really so knowledgeable about the mysteries of the mind that we can tame it with empirical study like Physics or Chemistry?

If not, what are the biggest unanswered questions?

If so, when was the issue generally settled, and what does that solution look like? Is there still any disagreement?

closed as unclear what you're asking by user2953 Aug 13 '16 at 5:08

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    What exactly do you consider 'the necessary philosophical work', and what do you mean by 'legitimate science'? Also, how is the question in your second paragraph ('are we really so knowledgeable...') a question about philosophy? Please see the help center for what is on topic here. – user2953 Aug 12 '16 at 19:26
  • Isn't "empirical study" the best way to become "knowledgeable about the mysteries of the mind"? Why wait until we've made more progress with philosophical speculation? – Jayson Virissimo Aug 12 '16 at 23:44
  • In an interview Quine called psychology a science; and it's also conventionally thought of as such. – Mozibur Ullah Aug 13 '16 at 3:39
  • Sorry for the kind of defensive answer below. But here is a different context (can't make it an answer because the question closed) Backing up @JaysonVirissimo: sciences have developmental periods. For Kuhn those are pre-science, normal science and revolutionary adaptation. Psychology may be in a pre-science phase, where no single trustworthy paradigm covers enough of the discipline to qualify it as a global theory. But it still requires data to get there. How would we get that data without maintaining an experimental structure for collecting it? – user9166 Aug 13 '16 at 16:57
  • From that point of view, you might be able to ask something like "In what philosophical traditions are various contending paradigms for human (clinical?) psychology currently in use based: What philosophical questions formed or guide them." You might want to include a list of paradigms that you are interested in. But it might still be too broad a question. – user9166 Aug 13 '16 at 17:07

Psychology was separated from the subfield of philosophy known by the same name largely by the work of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_Wundt, who first began laboratory experiments aimed specifically at analyzing the relationship between thought and behavior.

He was himself more properly still situated in the philosophical field of rational psychology, and theories very similar to his are still current within philosophy although they have little effect on modern psychology, for example the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_of_thought_hypothesis still promulgated by https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Fodor is very like Wundt's notion of how consciousness guided thought.

But he was convinced to look into the physiological considerations around psychology by things like optical illusions and other gaps between what we think we do or perceive and what we observably do, or can be proven to be shown. The first major work in the field per se may be his work "Principles of Physiological Psychology".

His students, and the American school he inspired, founded by https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_James, sought a reasonable separation from psychology that left most of it within philosophy.

Psychology cannot be blamed for the concepts of mental illness, or for presumptions about the regularity of human behavior. Psychiatry already existed as a branch of Medicine and Sociology had already fledged itself from philosophy as a descriptive science in the work of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89mile_Durkheim and other related schools. We cannot even be held accountable for Freud, who was a physician and not a psychologist. The resulting psychoanalytic theories remain properly within medicine or philosophy and generally do not integrate well with theories of psychology proper.

The parts of psychology that venture into these areas: Clinical and Social Psychology are still very underdeveloped and tentative compared to the parts of the discipline that lie closer to neurology or to animal behaviorism, despite attracting a lot of attention and many students. And, in contrast to the accusatory way you frame the question, we admit as much. We realize the proposed theories are too weak to hold themselves up as a physical or chemical theory might, and rely upon raw statistical procedures more intensively than most sciences with a better theoretical basis.

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