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Philosophy of psychology refers to the many issues at the theoretical foundations of modern psychology.
- What is the most appropriate methodology for psychology: mentalism, behaviorism, or a compromise?
- Are self-reports a reliable data-gathering method?
- What conclusions can be drawn from null hypothesis tests?
- Can first-person experiences (emotions, desires, beliefs, etc.) be measured objectively?
Other issues in philosophy of psychology are philosophical questions about the nature of mind, brain, and cognition, and are perhaps more commonly thought of as part of cognitive science, or philosophy of mind, such as:
- What is a cognitive module?
- Are humans rational creatures?
- What psychological phenomena come up to the standard required for calling it knowledge?
- What is innateness?
Philosophy of psychology also closely monitors contemporary work conducted in cognitive neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, and artificial intelligence, for example questioning whether psychological phenomena can be explained using the methods of neuroscience, evolutionary theory, and computational modeling, respectively. Although these are all closely related fields, some concerns still arise about the appropriateness of importing their methods into psychology. Some such concerns are whether psychology, as the study of individuals as information processing systems (see Donald Broadbent), is autonomous from what happens in the brain (even if psychologists largely agree that the brain in some sense causes behavior (see supervenience)); whether the mind is "hard-wired" enough for evolutionary investigations to be fruitful; and whether computational models can do anything more than offer possible implementations of cognitive theories that tell us nothing about the mind (Fodor & Pylyshyn 1988).
Philosophy of psychology is a relatively young field because "scientific" psychology—that is, psychology that favors experimental methods over introspection—came to dominate psychological studies only in the late 19th century. One of philosophy of psychology's concerns is to evaluate the merits of the many different schools of psychology that have been and are practiced. For example, cognitive psychology's use of internal mental states might be compared with behaviorism, and the reasons for the widespread rejection of behaviorism in the mid-20th century examined.
Topics that fall within philosophy of mind go back much farther. For example, questions about the very nature of mind, the qualities of experience, and particular issues like the debate between dualism and monism have been discussed in philosophy for many centuries.
Related to philosophy of psychology are philosophical and epistemological inquiries about clinical psychiatry and psychopathology. Philosophy of psychiatry is mainly concerned with the role of values in psychiatry: derived from philosophical value theory and phenomenology, values-based practice is aimed at improving and humanizing clinical decision-making in the highly complex environment of mental health care. Philosophy of psychopathology is mainly involved in the epistemological reflection about the implicit philosophical foundations of psychiatric classification and evidence-based psychiatry. Its aim is to unveil the constructive activity underlying the description of mental phenomena.
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- Stuart C. Brown, Royal Institute of Philosophy. 1974. Macmillan, 1974. Original from the University of Michigan
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- Terence Horgan, John Tienson. 1996. Connectionism and the Philosophy of Psychology. MIT Press. ISBN 0262082489, 9780262082488