The Corner

Crisis of Foundations

From an actual Professor of Physchology: “I enjoyed your piece. I teach

history of psychology and spend a lot of time on the skeptical crisis of the

18th century as David Fate Norton calles it. I believe the problem started

with Descartes and his search for Truth that led to the argument of the

cogito, although one could make an argument for Socrates, for his assertion

that one did not really know somethng unless one can rationally explain and

justify it. Two books you might find interesting: Descartes’ error by

Antonio Damasio, a neuroscientist who argues that emotion has been

underestimated as a source of practical wisdom; and John Farrell’s Freud’s

paranoid quest, which roots Freud’s deconstruction (if you will) of mind and

personality to Descartes’ method of doubt. A psychologist who praised

habit, by the way, was William James in his Principles of psychology (1890).

If I recall the quote correctly, he called it the great flywheel of society.

Then, in 1900, John Dewey argued that psychology as a science arose when

modern life made it necessary for people to think about things they have

taken for granted.”

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