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Chapter 3: Psychology During
Mid-Millennium Transitions
15th to the end of the 18th Century
While there is no universally accepted theory to explain the
global complexity of mid-millennium transitions, historians
generally agree about Western civilization. They describe this
period in terms of three fundamental developments:
The scientific
Historians associate the Renaissance with the
reintroduction of major elements of Greco-Roman
antiquity in arts, sciences, and education.
As the advancing Reformation
movement grew in Europe,
religious faith was becoming
increasingly a matter of individual
Scientific revolution: For the educated,
the mysterious and unpredictable quality
of nature was unfolding into something
clear and quantifiable.
Scientific Discoveries of the 16th and 17th Centuries: Selected Examples
• In 1543, Nicolas Copernicus theorized that the Earth
rotated around the sun.
• In 1621, Johannes Kepler established that the celestial
orbits were not circular but elliptical.
• In 1638, Galileo Galilei introduced his theory of
• In 1641,William Gilbert published his theory of
• In 1628,William Harvey collected evidence about
blood circulating in the body and in 1651 formulated the
main principles of embryology.
• In 1687, Newton articulated the laws of motion.
• In 1665, Robert Hooke first reported to the world that
life’s smallest living units were “little boxes.” These were
later known as cells.
Girolamo Cardano (1501–1576) wrote
a detailed autobiography (a relatively
common practice among scientists),
filled with meticulous details about his
activities and psychological experiences
including thought process, doubts, and
anxieties. He provided an interesting
account of therapeutic techniques,
such as self-inflicted physical pain to
reduce more serious psychological
disturbances. Small pain or irritation,
psychological anguish caused by a
more serious disturbance.
Anatomy of Melancholy
By Robert Burton published
in 1621 was one of the
earliest books devoted to
anxiety and mood problems
Mysticism, a belief in the existence of realities beyond
perceptual reflection or scientific explanations but
accessible by subjective experience, remained a very
important element in the lives of the Christian and
Jewish communities in Europe and in the Muslim
communities of the Middle East and North Africa.
Witchcraft was part of human folk tradition supported by
religious beliefs. From the evidence accumulated in printed
sources, including The Malleus Maleficarum, we can infer that
the “work of the devil”, and witchcraft in particular, was
attributed to psychological and behavioral symptoms such as
delusions, hallucinations, or manic episodes.
René Descartes (1596–1650)
Descartes believed that animal
spirits are light and roaming fluids
circulating rapidly around the
nervous system between the brain
and the muscles.
The Body
Animal spirits come into contact
with the brain and trigger,
strengthen, or weaken affective
states in the soul, or passions of
the soul.
The Brain
Descartes distinguished six basic
passions: wonder (surprise), love,
hatred, desire, joy, and sadness.
Passions of
the Soul
Benedict Spinoza (1632–1677)
His views of emotions
We too often follow
our impulses and
become virtual
slaves to our wishes
We lose freedom because we are
trapped in the continual search
for gratification of our wishes
without knowing why we do so
To avoid this endless quest for pleasure, we should
know more about the causes of our own actions
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716)
According to Leibniz, the soul has an infinite number of monads
and therefore perceptions. Monads can perceive, and the soul
possesses “little perceptions” that are not conscious but could
become so because of memory and attention.
The soul possesses several areas of knowledge distinguished by the
strength of apperception: clear knowledge, fragmented knowledge,
and unconscious knowledge. Leibniz is one of the first scholars to
have identified a category of unconscious psychological phenomena.
Like Descartes, Leibniz believed in the existence of innate
ideas because he felt it was impossible to derive certain
abstract ideas directly from experience.
Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679)
Hobbes believed that
the essence of human
behavior is in physical
motion and that the
principles of Galileo’s
mechanics could
explain sensation,
emotions, motivation,
and even moral
Hobbes understood the
soul as mechanical
movements in the body.
He laid foundations for the
empirical branch of epistemology
and psychology and supported
empiricism, the scientific belief
that experience, especially
sensory processes, is the main
source of knowledge.
John Locke (1632–1704)
Locke believed that the
child’s mind is a “clean
board,” or in Latin, tabula
rasa. Experiences can be
recorded in the mind in a
fashion similar to the way
in which teachers use a
piece of chalk to write on
the board.
Following a tradition in
epistemology, Locke continued
to distinguish between the
primary and secondary qualities
of things. Primary qualities are
inseparable from the body and
reflect the qualities of objects;
these included extension,
motion, number, or firmness.
Secondary qualities, such as
color or taste, exist only in
George Berkeley (1685–1753)
To understand Berkeley is
to comprehend his
famous principle: to exist
is to be perceived (esse
est percipi in Latin).
We always use our sensations
to prove the desk’s existence!
Therefore, every object requires
a perceiving mind.
David Hume (1711–1776)
Hume contributed
to psychology by
pragmatic views in
the fields of
naturalism and
Naturalism refers to the view that
observable events should be explained
only by natural causes without
assuming the existence of divine,
paranormal, or supernatural causes
such as “magic” or “evil eye.”
Instrumentalism applied to Hume’s
works means that human action is
reasonable as long as it justifies this
individual’s goals.
David Hume (1711–1776)
Hume’s Views of Personality.
1. The Epicurean displays elegance and seeks pleasure.
2. The Stoic is a person of action and virtue.
3. The Platonist is the person of contemplation and
philosophical devotion.
4. The Skeptic is the person of critical thinking.
Immanuel Kant (1724–1804)
“Golden Rule”: act according to your rational will but
assume that your action, to be considered moral, should
become a universal law for others to follow. He believed
that such a moral imperative should be innate, which
means, in contemporary terms, that all human beings
should have a natural predisposition for moral behavior.
Many years later, founders and supporters of humanistic
psychology and its many branches emphasize the moral side
of human behavior and, like Kant, they celebrate moral act
as a natural expression.
Paul-Henri Thiry (1723–1789)
He believed that the brain is capable of
producing within itself a great variety of
physical motion called intellectual faculties.
In his materialist outlook, the
brain is the center of all
activities attributed to the soul.
To understand how the brain
works, scientists should combine
their efforts as physicians,
natural philosophers, and
In addition to his publications,
he was best known for hosting
his famous salon -- a common
name for periodic “gettogethers” of people of social
status and intellectual merit.
Abbé de
Acquisition of
according to
Julien Offray de LaMettrie (1709–1751)
In “Man a Machine”, he defended a view that a
human being is just a complex machine. Each tiny
fiber or part of a living body moves by a
particular principle. People are trained to
perform simple and complex tasks in the same
way that animals are trained to look for food and
protect themselves. A geometrician, according to
La Mettrie, learns to perform the most
complicated calculations in the same way as a
trained animal learns to perform tricks.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778)
He openly glorified the very early stages of
human civilization, the view endorsed today by
some cultural anthropologists and psychologists
(Shiraev & Levy, 2009). Rousseau even coined the
term, “noble savage” suggesting that people
were essentially good when they lived under the
rules of nature, before modern civilizations were
created. Those rules, in his mind, stood for
honesty, reliability, and spiritual freedom.