It was issues of personality and its transformations that thrust psychology into the forefront of popular consciousness during the twentieth century. Psy230H addresses these intensely interesting topics.
The first half of the course deals with classic issues of psychology. The psychoanalytic thinkers — Freud, Jung and Adler — are placed in a context of pre-experimental religious and ritual thought, devoted to the transformation of habit and interpretive schema. The existentialists, phenomenologists, and humanists — concerned with the relationship between the individual, meaning and health — are discussed from the perspective of philosophy and political science. The constructivists are dealt with from a viewpoint that is simultaneously developmental and ontological.
The second half of the course deals with issues of modern experimental psychology, from a more biological standpoint. Issues of motivation and information-processing are considered from within a standpoint that is essentially cybernetic: how do human beings operate in the world? What are their goals, their ends and means? What role do emotions and fundamental motivational states play in adaptation to the environment? How might personality traits and disorders be understood, from within such a framework?
The very existence of self-deception remains subject to debate, despite its apparently “normative” nature, and the immense effort devoted towards its explication. The consequences of self-deception, assuming its existence, appear no less ill-specified: classical theories of morality and personality place it at the very core of the process that generates psychopathology, while the increasingly mainstream view of social psychology appears to be that self-deception – at least in “optimal” doses – makes people happier, empathic, creative and more productive.
When an issue remains contentious, despite diligent efforts to address it, it is very likely that it has been poorly conceptualized – very likely that the spoken and unspoken presuppositions that underlie its current formulation are ill-defined or simply wrong.
We will, in consequence, lay out these presuppositions, alter them where necessary, and reformulate the idea of self-deception, using information derived from cybernetic theory and modern neuropsychology, buttressed by knowledge of relevant narrative, mythological, and philosophical thinking.
The world can be validly construed as a forum for action, or as a place of things.
The former manner of interpretation – more primordial, and less clearly understood – finds its expression in the arts or humanities, in ritual, drama, literature, and mythology. The world as a forum for action is a place of value, a place where all things have meaning. This meaning, which is shaped as a consequence of social interaction, is implication for action, or – at a higher level of analysis – implication for the configuration of the interpretive schema that produces or guides action.
The latter manner of interpretation – the world as a place of things – finds its formal expression in the methods and theories of science. Science allows for increasingly precise determination of the consensually-validatable properties of things, and for efficient utilization of precisely-determined things as tools (once the direction such use is to take has been determined, through the application of more fundamental narrative processes).
No complete world-picture can be generated, without use of both modes of construal. The fact that one mode is generally set at odds with the other means only that the nature of their respective domains remains insufficiently discriminated. Adherents of the mythological world-view tend to regard the statements of their creeds as indistinguishable from empirical “fact,” even though such statements were generally formulated long before the notion of objective reality emerged. Those who, by contrast, accept the scientific perspective – who assume that it is, or might become, complete – forget that an impassable gulf currently divides what is from what should be.
This course is based on the book Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief. Maps of Meaning lays bare the grammar of mythology, and describes the relevance of that grammar for interpretation of narrative and religion, comprehension of ideological identification, and understanding of the role that individual choice plays in the maintenance, transformation and destiny of social systems.