This Month's Featured Journal Article

Drob, S. L. (2003). Fragmentation in contemporary psychology: A dialectical solution. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 43, 102-123.

ABSTRACT: The author proposes a dialectical/realist solution to the problem of multiple paradigms in psychology. Specifically, he argues that theoretical models in psychology are akin to various two-dimensional maps of the three-dimensional, spherical earth. In cartography each projection serves as a complementary, if ultimately inadequate, perspective on the whole, in a context where a “total perspective” is impracticable. Like such cartographic projections, each paradigm in psychology (biological, behavioral, cognitive, systems, psychoanalytic, phenomenological, etc.) necessarily distorts certain aspects of human mind and behavior while being accurate regarding others which are, in turn, distorted by other points of view. The author argues that the various paradigms in psychology emerge as a result of (combinations of) answers to fundamental problems in the philosophy of psychology. These are the problems of: (1) free will vs. determinism, (2) materialism vs. phenomenology, (3) reductionism vs. emergent properties, (4) public vs. private criteria for psychological propositions, (5) the individual vs. the system as the basic unit of inquiry and description, (6) facts vs. interpretations (hermeneutics) as the datum of psychology, and (7) knowledge vs. unknowability as a basic methodological assumption. Psychologists have been mistaken in their assumption that the oppositions or “antinomies” represented in these problems must lead to mutually exclusive ideas. Instead, the polarities (e.g. free will and determinism) are better conceived dialectically as complementary, interdependent ideas; each idea only making sense by assuming the truth of its presumed contrary. When the complementarity of these contraries is recognized the problem of multiple paradigms and factionalization in psychology is cast in a new light. Psychologists can continue to flesh out details in their various maps, secure that they are contributing to the exploration of a (dialectically) integrated whole. Full text

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