4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Piaget makes important points.,
This review is from: Insights and illusions of philosophy; (Hardcover)
This book is really a reply to doubts and criticisms of Piaget himself regarding the concept/area of study he calls "philosophical psychology". The book is of its time, circa ~ 1950's, and this is clear. As such, it is meant as a contemporary reply to both his critics and those he criticises. The concept of philosophical psychology is never really explained throughout but it appears to be the result of philosophical ideas/speculation on the human condition, as is all philosophy. By this I mean that a product of a philosophical system must be also a psychology of human behaviour whether it is ethics based or a result of speculation on perception. The consequences of these hard and fast philosophical ideas e.g. Husserl's phenomenology, or Bergson's intuitionism is to both explain and construct human psychology based on these ideas and thus restrict it, somewhat, within this sphere; all else lies beyond the pail. Note, the very important points that 1. such a construction must be based on mature philosophy i.e. a philosophy constructed in view of the mature human and 2. this kind of structure is not capable of change or adjustment. The consequences of these two salient points are that they do not study how psychology is constructed as a person grows from childhood to adulthood but rather assumes a kind of fixed perspective and, in addition, it can not adjust its premises when confronted with evidence to the contrary, rather it is forced to either reject the data as unreliable or explain the problem away in some way.
These two great weaknesses of systematic philosophy are the springboards from which Piaget launches a tirade against such a system. He constructs good arguments to refute attempts by proponents of these systems to in some way be able to state that philosophical psychology can be the equal or even the better of the gradual comprehension of the human psyche through the scientific study of psychology as practised by Piaget himself.
At times his arguments are convoluted and very difficult to follow and at others, when his passion gets the better of him, they are almost attacks on the various people involved. Nonetheless they are cogent and relevant in their criticisms and this seems to account for the almost universal lack of such systematic structures saying anything very much nowadays without strong evidence from psychological studies.
Piaget is correct here in saying that the scientific approach must be superior to the that of any fixed system. However there are also weaknesses in this view. Although the scientific approach adjusts itself, in a perfect world, to the evidence it does not stop the scientist himself from approaching the subject in a way based already on a certain philosophy e.g. the mechanistic ideas of biology. This too can be counterproductive in not allowing the scientist to "see" with new eyes but rather colour the results in the previously given almost unconscious inner ideas. This similarly applies to the construction of experiments which, using a theory tests the subject expecting to see certain kinds of results. Also, Piaget refuses to believe that intuition can really lead to any psychological insights. This conveniently ignores the fact that scientists themselves make their greatest leaps through intuitions and scientific history is alive with them.
Piaget makes important points and the subject deserves further study in all manner of ways whether they be psychological or in some other way.