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Conceptual Dualism

  • Raziel Abelson


Recent studies in the conceptual foundations of psychology, beginning with Gilbert Ryle’s The Concept of Mind and Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, have disclosed some interesting differences between the language of natural science and the language in which we describe human experiences and actions — differences that were vaguely sensed by Kant when he contrasted the realm of nature with the realm of freedom. The dominant tendency in experimental psychology is to disregard these differences and to assimilate psychological concepts to the language of natural science by means of operational definitions. In so doing, psychologists like Tolman, Hull, Skinner and Hebb reduce psychology to biology. (In fact, Hebb explicitly defines psychology as ‘a branch of biology’.1) Clinical, social and analytical psychologists, on the other hand, continue to do non-biological psychology, but with uneasy consciences. When they claim for their work the same kind of scientific warrant that is claimed by experimental psychologists, they tend to repudiate the very features of human psychology that distinguish it as psychological. To sum up the matter roughly and provisionally : to the degree to which a psychologist tries to be scientific in a way analogous to physicists and biologists, to that degree his procedure is self-defeating, for it will not produce positive psychological knowledge.


Causal Explanation Normative Standard Stimulus Object Normative Judgment Antecedent Condition 
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  11. See also C. G. Hempel and P. Oppenheim, ‘The Logic of Explanation’, Philosophy of Science (1948) for an equally influential statement of this view.Google Scholar
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    A. C. Maclntyre, The Unconscious (New York: Humanities Press, 1957) pp. 48 fGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Raziel Abelson 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • Raziel Abelson
    • 1
  1. 1.New York UniversityUSA

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