Descartes Influence on Psychology Essay

938 Words Oct 17th, 2010 4 Pages
Running head: DESCARTES INFLUENCE ON PSYCHOLOGY

Descartes Influence on Psychology

DESCARTES INFLUENCE ON PSYCHOLOGY René Descartes was a famous French mathematician, scientist, and philosopher throughout the mid 1600’s. He is often regarded as the father of modern philosophy; however, his highly influential ideas have also impacted many other scientific fields, including the world of psychology. Descartes contributions in philosophy and biology have had a significant influence on modern psychology. He introduced new theories about the mind and the body that, while not always correct, undoubtedly changed peoples’ views and sparked a whole new approach to looking at the mind. There is one thing Descartes knew for certain,
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We see evidence of these conflicting philosophies in today’s controversy of nature versus nurture. Psychologists today still
DESCARTES INFLUENCE ON PSYCHOLOGY argue over whether we start off knowing nothing and learn through experience, or whether we have these sort of “innate ideas” that we are born with.
Descartes quote, “I think therefore I am,” gave support this idea of the individual mind and its precedence over sensory experience and thinking by defining knowledge in terms of doubt. He did not learn how to doubt through experience, it was a concept already in his mind. His theory inspired much opposition by empiricists and later influenced theories of perception found in the gestalt school of psychology. Gestalt psychology emphasizes that the whole is made up of a sum a parts, and that the whole is essentially greater than the sum of each part. This parallels Descartes theory that the mind and body function separately, but interact to form the self. Descartes research in biology also had a significant impact on the world of psychology. He argued that the mind is responsible for thinking processes while the body is responsible for much of life’s functions, including movements. This suggested that some movements are not a result of the mind, but rather a reflex of the body. He ultimately established that the brain is important for behavior and thinking. This further supported

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