Notices
Results 1 to 12 of 12

Thread: Learning about human life...

  1. #1 Learning about human life... 
    Forum Freshman
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Posts
    26
    I am currently writing an essay on philosophy and theory of knowledge, and I was wondering if I could get some of your opinions on the topic. The question was:

    "we will always learn more about human life and human personality from novels than from scientific psychology". (Noam Chomsky). To what extent do you agree?

    What are your thoughts and ideas?


    Reply With Quote  
     

  2.  
     

  3. #2 Re: Learning about human life... 
    Forum Ph.D.
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Posts
    924
    Quote Originally Posted by Sci-Fry
    I am currently writing an essay on philosophy and theory of knowledge, and I was wondering if I could get some of your opinions on the topic. The question was:

    "we will always learn more about human life and human personality from novels than from scientific psychology". (Noam Chomsky). To what extent do you agree?

    What are your thoughts and ideas?
    I think that we can learn from novels as well as scientific texts. The difference is that it would take a thousand years to learn from novels what you can learn from scientific texts in one year. Most people prefer the novel because they have more interest in entertainment than learning.


    Reply With Quote  
     

  4. #3 Re: Learning about human life... 
    Forum Freshman Tortuegenial's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Switzerland
    Posts
    36
    Quote Originally Posted by Sci-Fry
    I am currently writing an essay on philosophy and theory of knowledge, and I was wondering if I could get some of your opinions on the topic. The question was:

    "we will always learn more about human life and human personality from novels than from scientific psychology". (Noam Chomsky). To what extent do you agree?

    What are your thoughts and ideas?
    I think this is true to some extent.
    Novels can tell us about how a person interacts with society and themselves on different levels. Take, take say for example, The Mayor of Casterbridge, we learn a lot, almost too much about Michael Henchard on so many levels. One is how he interacts with society and the community, then we also see how he acts on a more personal level, that is with his wife, daughter and his friends, and we also see how he interacts with himself, for example his drinking problems and so on.
    So I think novels are quite particular in this way. They also show how these different levels interact with one another, that is there is a reflection of his personal character with his more societal community character, if this makes any sense. The same thing can be said about Tolstoy's "Master and Man", and I think you can even take it all the way and say that even plays, such as those from Shakespeare, also show quite a lot about human life and personality.

    Scientific psychology on the other hand mainly deals with the hows and in what ways human beings interact with each other, and they look at a humans as a population. Very few times do they look at individuals as themselves. It doesn't look at human character.

    This is just the surface of what I think, if I ponder on it any more perhaps I can come up with something more concrete and logical. The question is just brilliant that I had to type something quick (anything that just came to mind before it was lost) so forgive me if this all sounds like notes, because it really is something like just notes. I haven't had time to think about it.

    I would like to hear from other people as well who might not think so or might want to counter-my idea, also I want to know what the author thinks as well.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  5. #4  
    Forum Freshman Lothuian's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    in dreams
    Posts
    35
    I am currently writing an essay on philosophy and theory of knowledge, and I was wondering if I could get some of your opinions on the topic. The question was:

    "we will always learn more about human life and human personality from novels than from scientific psychology". (Noam Chomsky). To what extent do you agree?

    What are your thoughts and ideas?
    I agree with a lot of what you posted Tortuegenial. I feel that a lot of it has to do with the amount of interest expressed in a topic. For many people they may only be interested in one person's story and how they interact. It's written in a way that is entertaining and usually easier for most regular people to understand. I really think that is the draw. Psychological texts are based more on hows and whys (as has been said) and usually rather dry. You see only case studies and the factual part of it. You really don't get to "feel" or identify with the interactions in experimental situations.
    I think really that we learn the best from observation and interaction
    If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years how man would marvel and stare.
    ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
    Reply With Quote  
     

  6. #5 Re: Learning about human life... 
    Forum Cosmic Wizard paralith's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Posts
    2,190
    Quote Originally Posted by Tortuegenial
    Quote Originally Posted by Sci-Fry
    I am currently writing an essay on philosophy and theory of knowledge, and I was wondering if I could get some of your opinions on the topic. The question was:

    "we will always learn more about human life and human personality from novels than from scientific psychology". (Noam Chomsky). To what extent do you agree?

    What are your thoughts and ideas?
    I think this is true to some extent.
    Novels can tell us about how a person interacts with society and themselves on different levels. Take, take say for example, The Mayor of Casterbridge, we learn a lot, almost too much about Michael Henchard on so many levels. One is how he interacts with society and the community, then we also see how he acts on a more personal level, that is with his wife, daughter and his friends, and we also see how he interacts with himself, for example his drinking problems and so on.
    So I think novels are quite particular in this way. They also show how these different levels interact with one another, that is there is a reflection of his personal character with his more societal community character, if this makes any sense. The same thing can be said about Tolstoy's "Master and Man", and I think you can even take it all the way and say that even plays, such as those from Shakespeare, also show quite a lot about human life and personality.

    Scientific psychology on the other hand mainly deals with the hows and in what ways human beings interact with each other, and they look at a humans as a population. Very few times do they look at individuals as themselves. It doesn't look at human character.
    Novels are much more accessible to the average human, and this is why (at least, I strongly believe this is why):

    Humans are highly social animals. (I know, I start so many of my posts with that sentence.) To be reproductively successful we have to navigate a complex social world that involves figuring out who you can trust, who you can't; who is higher up in the hierarchy, who is lower; who you should ally with, who you should mate with, etc etc. So, we have evolved to be able to do this, and do it very well. To observe individuals, the way they interact with other people and the world around them, and assess them. Novels are an extension of what we do best. Watching how individuals live their lives, and coming to understand them through this observation. This is an essential function of every social animal, and is the natural way we humans think and learn about other humans.

    Now, I will be the first to admit I don't know very much about traditional psychology; the only psychology I know is evolutionary psychology, and psychology based on behavioral ecology theory. But I think that traditional psychology doesn't take into consideration this natural mode of human thought, so it doesn't describe human nature in the terms we understand best. At least, not as much as it could. In this case, I would agree with the quote.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
    ~Jean-Paul Sartre
    Reply With Quote  
     

  7. #6  
    Forum Professor sunshinewarrior's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    London
    Posts
    1,526
    My take: Chomsky is a great rhetorician, but not necessarily always correct.

    Good novels can be fascinating, but then so can simply observing the people around you. And the people around you can be just as information-loaded as a novel. So what are the differences?

    1. A novel can often use artistry and artificiality of construction, whereas regular social life tends to be more amorphous.

    2. A novel can give you insight into a life or lifestyle of which you have no other experience.

    3. And this may be true for a number of readers - the novel can give you a more concentrated fix of drama than everyday life.

    Only point 2 is relevant to your question, though.

    As opposed to that, scientific psychological studies about humanity give you a perspective on human behaviour that neither novels, nor everyday life (both closely linked as I hope I've shown) can supply - structured, statistical, and frequently insightful in ways you may not have imagined possible.

    You decide - but me, contra Chomsky, I'd go with science: if there were no more novels I'd still have the people around me to observe and learn from; if there were no more psychology, novels will never fill that gap.

    cheer

    shanks
    Reply With Quote  
     

  8. #7  
    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    2,590
    What use is scientific psychology without a context? Reading novels is one way to put science into a meaningful context. Socialization is another and probably (as I think Sunshinewarrior suggested) more important one.

    Many times I have read text books on engineering topics and presumably absorbed some knowledge from them. Sometimes it takes several reads to “get it”, because there is no real experience to relate it to mentally. It’s only when later confronted with a real life engineering problem that that knowledge (sometimes) comes bubbling up and starts to mean something useful.

    To the extent that knowledge without context is not very useful I would tend to agree with Chomsky.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  9. #8  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    14,169
    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    To the extent that knowledge without context is not very useful I would tend to agree with Chomsky.
    However, knowledge without validation and structure is even more limiting. Insights into personality and the like that we gather from novels are derived from biased perspectives. Although they may appear to be embedded in a context we have no rigorous way of assessing their broader applicability or their accuracy. Scientific investiagtion of aspects of personality, cognition, behaviour, etc can be properly quantified and integrated, so that hypotheses can be made and tested.
    Novels are to psychology what Sesame Street is to education.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  10. #9  
    Forum Professor sunshinewarrior's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    London
    Posts
    1,526
    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    To the extent that knowledge without context is not very useful I would tend to agree with Chomsky.
    However, knowledge without validation and structure is even more limiting. Insights into personality and the like that we gather from novels are derived from biased perspectives. Although they may appear to be embedded in a context we have no rigorous way of assessing their broader applicability or their accuracy. Scientific investiagtion of aspects of personality, cognition, behaviour, etc can be properly quantified and integrated, so that hypotheses can be made and tested.
    Novels are psychology what Sesame Street is to education.
    Bunbury, I respect you to bits - but I'm with Ophiolite on this one!
    Reply With Quote  
     

  11. #10  
    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    2,590
    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrio
    Bunbury, I respect you to bits
    Mutual ol' pal.

    - but I'm with Ophiolite on this one!
    Well you know I sometimes shoot from the hip. On further reflection I mostly agree, but surely this:

    Scientific investiagtion of aspects of personality, cognition, behaviour, etc can be properly quantified and integrated, so that hypotheses can be made and tested.
    is hard to do objectively. No doubt the scientific method (or one of them :P ) can be applied to psychology but the brain is so complex that you can never separate out a single variable to study in isolation as perhaps you can in physics, so the results will always be fuzzy.

    Even in "hard" science results are not necessarily objective. I'm not going pomo here, but look at superstring theory - there is a bitter controversy between the superstring faithful and the skeptics that seems to arise not entirely from objective analysis but at least partly from personal contexts - background such as where is the grant money coming from, what is the majority belief, what does it take to get tenure.

    Not that this strengthens my earlier weak claim about novels.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  12. #11  
    Forum Professor sunshinewarrior's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    London
    Posts
    1,526
    I agree with you. My point was not to deny the joy of reading novels (I love 'em to bits) but simply to defend the sort of structure that good empirical investigation can provide.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  13. #12  
    Forum Freshman Everlasting's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Posts
    93
    As someone who enjoys writing novels, I have to agree. Characters become an extension, of our differing levels of understanding, within our social base. We all operate on different levels within society, and we tend to take for granted whether everyone is on the same page of understanding, or on a different page entirely. Scientific psychology is woven through a character's existence in a novel. It's easy to sometimes wonder or even refuse to see, the actual relevant stimulus to a character within a plot, and the character's actual response. Or if the response is actually attainable, within our own judgment.

    Just a thought


    Everlasting,

    Moon over Key Biscayne
    Reply With Quote  
     

Bookmarks
Bookmarks
Posting Permissions
  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •