The Great Ideas of Psychology


It is customary to defi ne psychology as a “behavioral science” or, following William James, as a “science of the mind.” What is left unexamined in such statements is the model of science presupposed in such defi nitions. One infl uential model of science requires that any candidate-science be able to explain events by subsuming them under general laws; e.g., the law of universal gravitation “explains” why objects fall toward the center of the earth. But very few psychological events have ever been subsumed under reliable general laws. Moreover, some have argued that any event that can be thus subsumed is, by that fact, not a social or psychological event at all! Thus does controversy abound even at the outset. Psychology cannot be understood as a “science” because it employs the scientifi c method. It is not at all clear what the scientifi c method entails. Alternatively, science can be understood as a particular mode of explanation, as opposed to a particular method. Hempel’s nomological-deductive model

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