John G. Kuna, PsyD: The Epistemological Crisis in Psychology

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Information about John G. Kuna, PsyD: The Epistemological Crisis in Psychology
Health & Medicine

Published on March 5, 2014

Author: John_Kuna_PsyD



Presentation on the epistemological crisis in psychology. A brief history of the issue is presented, followed by an investigation into the nature of scientific endeavors, and finally a solution based on the work of the philosopher Bernard Lonergan is offered.


The Problem  Psychology seeks to:     Work within a heuristic of a scientific method Maintain objectivity Predict behavior Cross cultural applications  Behaviorism tried, but had difficulty with: o o o Objectivity in measuring internal states Testability of immeasurable data (e.g., Memory) Plethora of variables that influence human behavior make prediction nearly impossible

 The Results?  The fragmentation of psychology.  No single unified methodology (behaviorists, social cognitivists, etc. etc.) Mini-lit review of crisis literature: Ironically, even this is disjointed!  Institutional/disciplinary issues to blame (Stam, 2004).  Unified epistemology needed (Staats, 1983).  Unified methodology needed (Kantor, 1979). 

 All this philosophy is great, but so what?  Aren’t we still making progress in psychology as a scientific body of knowledge?    Thomas Kuhn (1996): “any science that holds competing paradigms is only a pre-science until a uniform methodology is adopted.” Popular opinion of psychologists as non-scientists (Leighton), leads to lack of credibility (Driver-Linn, 2003; Rychlak, 2005). Practical issues: Advisement of policy makers  Actual therapeutic work! 

What is science?  What is first in intention is last in execution  What is science?  What type of science should Psychology aspire to be?  Husserl: human beings are quite distinct from any other type of object found in the physical world, and therefore require a unique methodology for accurate study  Should it even aspire to a science at all?  Or maybe some sort of tertiary, hybrid?

What is science  Not inductive!  Fallacy of Newtonian physics.  Apple falls, then inferences about the nature of gravity are formed post facto.  Karl Poppper (1935)  hypothetico-deductive system Form hypotheses first  Then careful experimentation  Finally, discrete falsification 

What is science?  Falsification  Assumes inductive evidence is limited (cannot observe all things at all times)  Swan example  Thus, only one instance of falsification is needed to disprove an inductively based methodology

What is science?  K. Popper’s scientific method.  Six components  1. Empirical Evidence: Gathered through direct observation, does not rely on belief or argumentation.  2. Objectivity: Data should speak for itself, even if it differs from the investigators original intent.  3. Control extraneous variables: necessary to validly establish cause (IV) and effect (DV).

What is science?  Six components of science, cont.  4. Prediction of future occurrences of the phenomenon.  5. Hypothesis testing: hypothesis be made prior to the experiment,  serves as a prediction, and is derived from theory.  Both a Null and Alternative hypothesis must be operationally defined and unambiguous so that they can be tested and replicated.   6. Replication: Ensures accuracy and confidence in creating a scientific body of knowledge.  Intense discoveries that cannot be replicated should not be accepted by the scientific community. 

Objective-Subjective divide  A problem for the hard sciences as well!  Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle (1958):  The scientific method of analyzing, explaining and classifying has become conscious of its limitations, which arise out of the fact that by its intervention science alters and refashions the object of investigation (p. 29).  Two extremes in psychology:  Only what is observable and replicable is real (behaviorists).  Focus on the person through empathic interaction with the individual (Humanistic approach of C. Rogers, A. Maslow). Argue that scientific psychology tends to objectify the person.

Bridging the gap-Lonergan’s transcendental Method  Alarcon (1997) , proposes three principles for a unified psychological methodology:    1. Philosophical anthropology 2. The domains within which psychology ought to operate 3. Unified methodology

Lonergan--Background  Philosophically:  He attempted to construct an epistemology that would Take into account the Enlightenment ‘turn to the subject’,  While simultaneously avoiding the Kantian dilemma of system that collapses in on itself  Thus, metaphysics is no longer first in philosophy, but rather cognitional theory is the foundation for epistemology 

Lonergan  Underlying presuppositions:  1. An unrestricted, unlimited, detached and disinterested desire to know.  2. a normative and fixed pattern of recurring mental and cognitional operations involved in the process of inquiry and investigation.  3. Immanent norms of intelligence, reasonableness and responsibility that guide the cognitive dimension of human consciousness (Lonergan, 1992).

Lonergan-Consciousness  Explicate first consciousness, then derive cognitional operations from that.  Conscious intentionality and cognitional operations, then, form the basis for a universal methodology (and a subsequent metaphysics and ethics).

Current trends in Consciousness  Mini lit review  Again, current trends reveal the fractured and multi-faceted account of consciousness, for instance:  Searle (1997), appeals to perceptual models to describe the imperceptibleness of consciousness.  Chalmers (1996) argues that while attempts to explain the invisible are all well and good, but what is physical is ultimately real.  Others (Dennett, 1991; Griffin, 1991; Hay, 2007) consistently maintain that mental images and representations are necessary to explain the invisibleness of consciousness

Lonergan on Consciousness  Consciousness: “interior experience, of oneself and one’s acts, where experience is taken in the strict sense of the word” (Lonergan, 2002, p. 157).  ‘Strict sense’ insofar as it differs from an undefined knowledge  Experiential insofar as it is a direct awareness of data, which initiates a process of intellectual inquiry to understand what has been experienced and to pronounce judgment on its reality.

Reflective vs. Non-Reflective Consciousness  Non-Reflective:  Conscious awareness of awareness  Does NOT imply an object,  but rather it is an experiential awareness of one’s own subjectivity.  Introspection does not reveal subject as subject, but rather only reveals the subject as object (try it!)

Non-Reflective Consciousness  Non-reflexive consciousness is achieved by increasing one’s activity:  An example: When I hear my dog bark, I can recognize not only the sounds [external stimuli], but I am also able to attend to the fact that I am hearing. Again, I can decide that my dog needs to be taken outside. In this instance, I am aware not only of the decision to take him out, but also of my own cognitional state of deciding and finally of myself as deciding (Lonergan, 1967, pp. 175-176).

Non-Reflective Consciousness  Demarcation from prevailing theories based on perceptual models:   Not the same as direct knowing. Perceptual analogies fail here, for in non-reflexive consciousness, there is no subject-object relationship governing the cognitive processes. For Lonergan, Non-reflective consciousness is simply objectless awareness, with no objectified aspect of self.  A Crucial distinction (between reflective and non reflective)!  It is from the subjective and conscious awareness (nonreflecting consciousness) from which the objectification of cognitional acts of reflecting consciousness emerge.

Reflective consciousness and Intentionality Analysis  Reflective consciousness always implies an object.  The objectification of subjective stimuli, both external and internal, occurs as one’s reflexive consciousness unfolds through four distinct levels.   Levels here are to be understood metaphorically. Spatial and temporal analogies of human conscious tend to fail since they imply an ocular component to consciousness.

Reflective consciousness and Intentionality Analysis  The acts of reflexive consciousness that intends both internal and external objects are governed by four distinct levels of intentionality.  1. Conscious awareness   More than mere attending to data (whether internal or external), but implies an orientation of wonder, amazement, curiosity: the detached, disinterested, desire to know (Lonergan, 1992, p. 10). 2. Intelligent understanding  understanding and insights produced by intelligently probing the data received through conscious awareness opens up then further questions that can only be answered by advancement to the third level of reasonable judgment.

Intentionality Analysis, cont.  4 levels of conscious intentionality  3. Reasonable judgment   the insights, hypotheses, and theories propounded in the second level of conscious intentionality, intelligent understanding, are put to the strict demands of rational judgment 4. Responsible decision  responsible decision implies that human beings can freely choose a course of action that is either consistent or inconsistent to what has been determined to be reasonable understanding (second level) to the attended to data (Lonergan, 1972).

Empirical verification  Attempts to deny Lonergan’s cognitional structure would imply that the commentator has not attended to the data, is unintelligent, unreasonable, or sound asleep.  Attempts to refute Lonergan’s claims would necessarily involve the operations outlined above, namely—attending to the data presented, grasping the intelligibility of the theory, and making a reasonable judgment of its veracity (Lonergan, 1972, p. 17).

Transcendental Method  What is a method?  A normative pattern of recurrent and related operations yielding cumulative and progressive results” (Lonergan, 1972, p. 4). cumulative results entail a sustained succession of discoveries  progressive results indicate synthesis of each new insight that builds upon previously validated insights  Where the normative pattern from which the rules of the methodology may be derived are cognitional operations outlined above. 

Transcendental Method, cont.  “However true it is that one attends, understands, judges, decides differently in the natural sciences, in the human sciences…still the difference in no way imply or suggest a transition from attention to inattention, from intelligence to stupidity, from reasonableness to silliness, from responsibility to irresponsibility” (Lonergan, 1972, p. 23).

Transcendental Method, cont.  “Transcendental method offers a key to unified science…in harmony with all development is the human mind itself which effects the developments. In unity with all fields, however disparate, is again the human mind, which operates in all fields and in radically the same fashion in each” (Lonergan, 1972, p. 24).

Self-Appropriation  Self-appropriation as key for methodological control  Where self-appropriation is understood to be: heightening one’s conscious intentionality, directing one’s awareness to one’s own conscious and cognitional operations (Lonergan, 1972).

Self-Appropriation  Self-Appropriation enables one to employ the transcendental precepts: Be Attentive  Be Intelligent  Be Reasonable  Be Responsible “The derivation of the categories is a matter of the human…subject effecting self-appropriation and employing this heightened consciousness both as a basis for methodological control…as well as an a priori whence he can understand other men [and women], their social relations, their history, their religion, their rituals, their destiny (Lonergan, 1972, p. 292).” 

Recap  Psychological methodology and epistemology are completed fragmented  We investigated the scientific methods of the natural sciences to develop a heuristic for methodological control.  Historically, psychology has struggled to unify the objective and subjective aspects of the study of human behavior.

Recap, cont.  Lonergan’s distinction between reflective and non- reflective consciousness provides a framework within which one can attend to one’s own cognitional operations.  From the cognitional operations outlined above, one can derive a methodology—basic patterns and operations that are employed, cross culturally, in every cognitional enterprise.

Recap, cont.  Thus, by grounding objectivity within one’s own subjectivity and rational self-consciousness, Lonergan’s method provides a plausible, reliable and indeed first person empirical alternative to the varied epistemological and methodological approaches to the study of psychology.  In other words, such an approach mediates between the two extremes mentioned above (behaviorists and the humanistic approach a la C. Rogers).  One might expect such a view to have a certain appeal to psychologists.

 Questions, comments, conerns?

References  Alarcón R. (1997). La síntesis experimental del comportamiento y la unificación de la psicología. Revista Latinoamericana de Psicología, 29 (3), 415-433  Beveridge, A. Time to abandon the subjective—objective divide? The Psychiatrist (2002) 26: 101-103 doi: 10.1192/pb.26.3.101  Bühler, K. (1927). Die Krise der Psychologie. Jena: Verlag von Gustav Fischer.  Brannick, K. J. (2006). Norms of the Mind: Applying Lonergan’s Analysis of Human consciousness to the epistemological crisis in psychological theory and clinical practice (Master’s thesis). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database (Accession No.: 2006-99002-250).  Chalmers, D. J. (1996). The conscious mind: In search of a fundamental theory. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.  Cohen, J. (1994). The earth is round (p< .05). American Psychologist, 49(12), 997- 1003. Doi:10.1037/0003-066X.49.12.997

References  Crysdale, C. ed. (1994). Lonergan and Feminism. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.  De Feijoo. (2011). La crisis de la subjetividad: Despuntar de las psicologías fenomenológicas. Psicologia em Estudo, 16(3), 409-417.  Dennett, D. C. (1991). Consciousness explained. Boston, MA: Little, Brown, & Co.  Driver-Linn, E. ( 2003). Where is psychology going? Structural fault lines revealed by psychologists' use of Kuhn. American Psychologist, 58, 269– 278.  Doran, R. (1977). Subject and psyche: Ricoeur, Jung, and the search for foundations. Washington, DC: University Press of America

References  Gardner, H. ( 2005). Scientific psychology: Should we bury it or praise it? In R. J.Sternberg (Ed.) , Unity in psychology: Possibility or pipedream? (pp. 77– 90). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.  Goertzen, J. R. (2008). On the possibility of unification: The reality and nature of the crisis in psychology. Theory & Psychology, 18(6), 829-852. doi:10.1177/0959354308097260  Griffin, D. R. (1991). What is consciousness and why is it so problematic? In K. R. Kao (Ed.), Cultivating consciousness: Enhancing human potential, wellness, and healing (pp. 51– 70). Westport, CT: Praeger.  Grünbaum, A. (1979). Is Freudian psychoanalytic theory pseudo-scientific by Karl Popper's criterion of demarcation? Psychoanalytic Psychology, 25(4), 574-589. doi: 10.1037/a0013540  Grünbaum, A. (2012). Epistemological liabilities of the psychoanalytic method of free association, In M. Holowchak (Ed.), Radical claims in Freudian psychoanalysis: Point/Counterpoint (pp. 167-172). Lanham, MD US: Jason Aronson.

References  Hay, D. (2007). Something there: The biology of the human spirit. Philadelphia, PA: Templeton Foundation Press.  Helminiak, D. A. (2013). More Than Awareness: Bernard Lonergan's Multi-Faceted Account of Consciousness. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0031682  Heisenberg, W. (1958). The Physicist's Conception of Nature. London: Hutchinson.  Horstein, Gale. The Return of the Repressed. Psychology’s Problematic Relations with Psychoanalysis 1909-1960.

References  Husserl, E. (1977). Cartesian Meditations: An Introduction to Phenomenology. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff Pub.  Kantor, J. R. (1977). Evolution and revolution in the philosophy of science. Revista Mexicana de Análisis de la Conducta, 3(1), 7-16.  Kantor, J. R. (1979). Psychology: Science or nonscience? The Psychological Record, 29(2), 155-163.  Kline, P. (1989). Objective tests of Freud's theories. In A. M. Colman, J. Beaumont (Eds.) , Psychology survey, 7 (pp. 127-145). Oxford Florence, KY EnglandUS: British Psychological Society.  Koch, S. (1971). Reflections on the state of psychology. Social Research, 38, 669–709.

References  Koch, S. (1981). The nature and limits of psychological knowledge: Lessons of a century qua “science.” American Psychologist, 36, 257–269.  Kuhn, T. (1962). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.  Lacey, H. (1999). Is science value free? Values and scientific understanding. London, UK: Routledge.  Lonergan, B. J. F. (1967). “Cognitional Structure” in F. E. Crowe (Ed.). Collection: Papers by Bernard Lonergan (221-239). New York, NY: Herder and Herder.  Lonergan, B. J. F. (1972). Method in theology. New York, NY: Herder and Herder.

References  Lonergan. B. J. F. (1973). Philosophy of God and Theology: The Relationship between Philosophy of God and the functional Specialty, Systematics. London: Darton Longman and Todd.  Lonergan, B. J. F. (1974). “An Interview with Fr. Bernard Lonergan, SJ.” In A Second Collection. Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press.  Lonergan, B. J. F. (1992). Insight: A study of human understanding. Collected works of Bernard Lonergan (Vol. 3). Toronto, Canada: Toronto University Press. (Original work published 1957)  Lonergan, B. J. F. (2002). The Ontological and Psychological Constitution of Christ, Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan (Vol. 7). (Michael Shields, Trans). Toronto: University of Toronto Press. (Original work published in 1956)  McShane, P. (1996). Economics for Everyone. Edmonton: Commonwealth Press.

References  Melchin, K. (1987). History, Ethics and Emergent Probability: Ethics, Society and History in the Work of Bernard Lonergan. Lanham, MD.: University Press of America.  Meynell, H. (1994). Lonergan's Cognitional Theory and Method in Psychology. Theory Psychology 1994 4: 105 DOI: 10.1177/0959354394041005  Planck, M. (1949). Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers, trans. F. Gaynor. New York: Philosophical Library.   Polkinghorne, D. (1982). What makes research humanistic? Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 22(3), 47-54. doi: 10.1177/0022167882223007  Popper, K. (1935). The Logic of Scientific Discovery. New York, NY: Science Editions, Inc.

References  Rogers, C. (1961). On Becoming a Person. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company.  Rogers, C. (1965). Client Centered Therapy. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company.  Rychlak, J. F. ( 2005). Unification in theory and method: Possibilities and impossibilities. In R. J. Sternberg (Ed.), Unity in psychology: Possibility or pipedream? (pp. 145– 158). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.  Searle, J. R. (1997). The mystery of consciousness. New York, NY: The New York Review of Books.  Staats, A.W. (1983). Psychology’s crisis of disunity: Philosophy and method for a unified science. New York: Praeger Publishers.

References  Staats, A. W. (1999). Unifying psychology requires new infrastructure, theory, method, and a research agenda. Review of General Psychology, 3(1), 3-13. 10.1037/1089-2680.3.1.3  Staats, A. W. (1998). Unifying psychology: A scientific or non- scientific theory task? Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, 18(1), 70-79. 10.1037/h0091317  Stam, H. J. (2004). Unifying Psychology: Epistemological Act or Disciplinary Maneuver? Journal Of Clinical Psychology, 60(12), 1259-1262. doi:10.1002/jclp.20069  Tharp, R. G. (2007). A perspective on unifying culture and psychology: Some philosophical and scientific issues. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, Vol 27-28(2-1), 213-233. doi: 10.1037/h0091294

References  Yanchar, S.C. (1997). Fragmentation in focus: History, integration, and the project of evaluation. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, 17, 150-171.  Zavershneva, E. (2012). Investigating L.S. Vygotsky’s Manuscript “The Historical Meaning of the Crisis in Psychology.” Journal of Russian and East European Psychology, 50(4), 42-63. doi: 10.2753/RPO10610405500402

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