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History of Psychology - Basics

Updated on July 4, 2011

Psychology's Past (B.C.)

460-399 B.C. - Socrates

  • Socrates was an early philosopher quoted to have said, "One thing only I know and that is I know nothing." He believed that philosophy begins when one learns to doubt, especiallly one's beliefs. In addition, he was known for believing that there is no real philosophy until the mind begins to examine itself. "Know thyself" (Socrates).

The origins of psychology come from the physiological underpinnings of the three "Ps":

  1. Philosophy
  2. Physics
  3. Physiology

In 500 B.C., phiosopher, Simonedes was the first person to point out the importance of memory and organization.

Hippocrates (460 B.C.) is known as the father of medicine. He developed a new method of inquiry with careful observation and the collection and interpretation of facts. HIs method could be incorporated into emotional, mental, and physical reactions of individuals. This new method for his era was a major advantage over magic, superstition, and supernatural powers.

427-437 B.C. Plato

Plato was a Nativist. He believed individuals had innate knowledge. He would teach his pupils using the Socrates method in order to bring out innate ideas simply by asking the right questions. He believed that everything was in there; all he had to do was ask the right questions.

Plato was a very knowledgeable physician for his period. For example, he used detailed case histories, he dissected dead bodies, he used dream analysis to analyze emotional disorders, and he developed the Hippocratic Oath for physicians.

Plato believed knowledge existed in two worlds. The first being the world of phenomena. This world was known through sensory experience. The second world was the world of forms. This world was known through reasoning. Ultimately though, knowledge relied on reasoning, not sensory experience. Plato believe that knowledge was the possession of truth.

384-322 B.C. Aristotle

Aristotle disagreed with Plato. He believed that all knowledge come from the sense and through experience. Aristotle is known for believing that the mind is like a blank writing tablet - known as Tabula Rasa. Knowledge should be based on observations of the external world.


History of Psychology - the Roman Empire

Starting with the Roman Empire, scientific investigation is underway.

129-199 Galen

Galen was the most prolific and influential medical author after Hippocrates. He possessed a strong experiemental approach. His writings became dominant, authoritative sources on biology, psychology, and medicine throughout the middle ages. He also experimented extensively on animals, particularly monkeys.

35-96 Quintilian

Quintilian advocated theories of learning that have been implemented in many schools today. He attributed mental illnesses to both physical and psychological factors such as alcoholism or drug abuse, brain injuries, and shocking life experiences.

354-430 Augustine

Augustine developed Neoplatoism. He believed there was a distinction between the sensory world and the world of forms. However, he also embraced Christianity, and because of this there developed the sensory world, known through the organs, and the intelligible world (mind), known through the soul - Christianity.

Thus, through Plato, ultimate truth is found through reasoning, and through Augustine, ultimate truth is found through faith.


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