EATON DECLARES STUDENTS SHOULD LINK PHILOSOPHY WORK WITH OTHER STUDIES
Philosophy Essentially Liberal and Unspecialized--Should Deal With Broad and Even Insoluble Questions and Induce Students to Take Interest in Work
The following article, written for the Crimson by Dr. Ralph Monroe Eaton, Ph.D. '15, Instructor and Tutor in the Department of Philosophy and Psychology of the University, is the second of the series of articles on the choice of a field of concentration. On May 8 Dr. Richard C. Cabot '89 in the first article of the series explained the aim of Social Ethics. In the same manner Dr. Eaton here considers the purpose of the study of Philosophy and Psychology, and the relation of the department to the individual concentrating in that field.
Philosophy was defined by William James as "the persistent attempt to think clearly on any subject," and he might have added, the persistent attempt to think widely or generally. Philosophy is essentially a liberal and unspecialized pursuit in which all the strands of human culture come together; science, art, religion, poetry, history, practical life, all of these are subject-matter for philosophy. And so the student may come to philosophy by many roads.
If he is interested in economics, government, and sociology, he will want to know something about ethics--what determines man's duties to his fellow men, to society, to himself. If he has studied science or mathematics, he will turn to logic and the theory of knowledge; he will want to know how to think accurately and he will not be content with the details of a particular science but will inquire about the methods of all sciences. If he is interested in history, literature, and the general evolution of ideas, he will want to take up the thought of past ages the great philosophical systems which have contributed to the stream of civilization. And if he is interested in religious problems, the nature of God, immortality, freedom, the origins of life and consciousness, he will turn to metaphysics.
Philosophy Treats Broad Questions
All these may seem to be large and insoluble questions, especially to the undergraduate in the second year of his college course. But it is the business of philosophy to deal with large and perhaps insoluble questions to view human knowledge and the universe as in no sense finished, to put a question mark where many people would be willing to finish the sentence. Moreover, it is the business of the undergraduate to ask large and insoluble questions. He often finds himself doing so till late at night over a wood fire with his friends. And it is the business of the professor of philosophy, if not to answer these questions, at least to make them clearer and more significant; to show him which ones can or can not be answered, and how some of the great, philosophers have puzzled them through to a conclusion.
Philosophy Must Have Background
The same William James, when a student who had filled out a study card with nothing but philosophy once came to him for advice, turned to the young man with the remark, "You mustn't try to philosophize on an empty stomach!" This tradition is still carried on in the Department. The student is urged to combine his philosophy with other things, to go to the sciences, to history, to literature, for concrete material for his philosophical reflections. One can not live on a diet of generalization, but neither can he live by bread alone; and the primary appeal of philosophy is to the mind which cares for speculation, which is not content with what can be found merely here and now.
Philosophy and psychology have always been closely allied, though within the past few decades psychology has been developing into a laboratory science and breaking away from the more speculative methods of philosophy. Psychology is, literally, "the science of the soul." But since there is a question as to just what the soul is, this definition does not exactly fit it at the present time. More accurately, it is the study of human nature; at least human psychology can be described in this way. It analyzes man's mind, his sensations, his thoughts, his instincts, his motives, his acts, his feelings, and carries on this analysis in the spirit of scientific accuracy, that is, by careful experimentation. But psychology extends beyond the study of human nature to other animals, to all animals which give evidences of having minds.
Psychology, as well as philosophy, links itself readily to other subjects, to biology, to medicine, to art, religion, industry, education; and psychology easily becomes philosophical; dealing as it does with minds, it leads to the question of the mind's place in nature and the universe. Some of the topics within the field of psychology are: comparative psychology, a comparison of the various types of animal mind and the human mind; abnormal psychology, covering such phenomena as hypnosis, double personality, hysteria, insanity; social psychology, the study of human nature as it appears in social relations; the psychology of artistic appreciation; the psychology of religion; physiological psychology, the examination of the physiological basis of mind; genetic psychology, the study of the growth of mind; the psychology of education; intelligence tests; applied psychology, that is, psychology in relation to business, industry, and all branches of practical life.
Though students concentrating in the Department of Philosophy and Psychology are asked to choose either philosophy or psychology for special emphasis, the general examinations are so devised that philosophy and psychology can be combined in any proportions the student may desire. The examinations cover both subjects; the general subject of concentration is Philosophy and Psychology.
No Single Philosophy to Learn
As in other departments, the tutor personally guides the student less with the intention of setting formal tasks than with the hope of awakening in him a love of the subject which will lead him, through his own interest, to pursue some special topic within his general field. The tutor attempts to draw the student out, to show him the bearing of his ideas, and to discover personal points of view; and the method of personal instruction, the-socratic question and answer, is especially fruitful in philosophy and psychology, for these are discussable subjects. There is no single philosophy to be learned, no one true doctrine to be painlessly injected under the student's skin. He is entitled to his own point of view, if he can find any arguments to defend it. The aim is to lead the student to an intelligent, and not wholly elementary, knowledge of the problems of philosophy and psychology, of the relations of these subjects to one another, to other branches of learning, and to life.