If in a previous article we reviewed some differences between psychology and philosophy, in this one we will see the points in which both disciplines are deeply related.
I propose seven things in common between the two , although there may well be more.
Similarities between psychology and philosophy
So let’s start: how are the two disciplines similar?
1. They share their roots
Psychology has its origin in a millennial tradition of philosophers and thinkers. In fact, the word “psychology” means the study of the soul , something that was once carried out by the philosophers of ancient Greece.Aristotle, for instance, dedicates to his concept of psychology a whole treatise, the Peri Psyche .
Thus, psychology was a branch of philosophy for centuries , until the concept of “soul”, which was an idea linked to mysticism, was redefined to transform it into theoretical constructs accessible from scientific methodology.
2. They share a certain speculative character
Philosophy could not be understood without speculation , that is, the creation of theoretical constructs not empirically contrasted through science that allow the solution of contradictions. For example, Descartes proposed a theory according to which the body and the soul are part of two different planes of existence to explain why sensations can lead us to deception.
Similarly, much of the history of recent psychology includes the creation of new theories about our way of thinking and feeling that, in the absence of much evidence in their favour, have either been discarded or serve to formulate hypotheses and seek empirical support through them.
3. They share study themes
Both disciplines deal with themes such as perceptions and sensations , memory and intelligence, the nature of the conscious mind, the will and relationships with others, although they use different languages and methodologies in their research.
4. They share the problem of the body-mind relationship
Historically, philosophers have been in charge of proposing synthetic theories and explanations about the distinction between body and soul, and, in fact, this is where the conflict between monism and dualism that characterized thinkers such as Avicenna or Descartes comes from. Psychology has inherited this debate and has entered into it using new methodologies.
5. Philosophy lends psychology categories to work with
Traditionally, psychology has functioned on the basis of notions and concepts inherited from philosophy. For example, the philosophical tradition of the Enlightenment led psychologists initially to think of the human being (or, rather, man) as a rational animal with great voluntary control over the appearance of feelings and states of mind, although this is a way of conceiving our species that psychoanalysts and, later, neuroscientists, have confronted.
Similarly, the category of what is “will” has been clouded by a certain mysticism, as if the human brain were taking orders from a control center that is not quite sure where it is. This is the fruit of a dualistic philosophical tradition.
6. Philosophy also draws on psychology
Since some of the objects of study of psychology and philosophy are so similar, philosophy is also capable of “translating” psychological discoveries and passing them on to its field of study. A relationship of interdependence is thus established between philosophy and psychology. The philosophical aspect of embodied cognition, for example, always has one foot in the latest research about the feedback process between the brain and the rest of the body. Similarly, the philosophy of the mind is constantly being updated with the discoveries of psychologists and neuroscientists.
7. Both can have therapeutic purposes
Many great philosophers believed that the ultimate goal of philosophy is to do good to human beings , either by bringing them closer to the truth and enabling them to achieve intellectual emancipation or by helping them to reach the thoughts and states of mind necessary to face life in the best possible way. The Stoics and the thinkers of the Epicurean school are classic examples of this type of philosopher.
As far as psychology is concerned, its therapeutic application is well known. In fact, there is a stereotype according to which the only purpose of psychologists is to offer therapy. Even if this is not the case, it is clear that knowing the logics governing the appearance of thoughts and affective states is a great advantage when it comes to tackling certain mental and emotional problems.