Sunday, March 1, 2009

Theoretical Position Paper (Team) (PSY310)

The great insight of psychological analysis, including Freud’s psychoanalysis, Adler’s individual psychology, Jung’s analytical psychology, and James’s “stream of thought” analogy; is that consciousness can be explained. However, there exists a gulf between the Jamesian understanding of consciousness and the traditional psychoanalytical approach, epitomized by the contrast between functionalism and structuralism, respectively. Whereas structuralism has sought to explain the mind as a reducible set of basic elements (i.e. Freud, Adler, Jung), functionalism seeks to understand the human mind as a deliberate agent of change able to effect the environment, evolutionary adaptation, and, especially in reference to James, itself.

Carl Jung was not one of the original members of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, such as Alfred Adler, but rather met Freud as the result of several exchanged correspondences (Goodwin, 2005). Freud was interested in Jung’s development of a technique for divulging unconscious associations, called word association. Word association consists of presenting a patient with a word and asking them to say the first word that comes to mind. During this exercise reaction time and breathing is measured in order to understand unconscious elements, much the same as a modern-day polygraph. At any rate, Jung was quickly admitted into Freud’s inner circle subsequently joining Freud on his 1909 trip to America during the Clark conference. Jung was also named the first president of the International Psychoanalytic Society in 1911, in no small part because of Freud. By 1913 though, Jung had started to part ways with Freud just as Adler had done earlier. As with Adler, Jung did not believe that early sexual development was paramount to the understanding of human behavior. Jung proposed analytical psychology as an alternative. In many ways Jung’s theory went beyond Freudian psychoanalysis. For instance, Jung took the idea of a personal unconscious to the next level and put forth a theory of collective unconsciousness, exemplified in mythology as a culmination of the collective experiences of our ancestors. However, Jung’s theory of analytic psychology put him at odds with both Adler and Freud, as to the underlying cause of unconscious thought, and James, as to the idea of consciousness altogether.

William James’s could be rightly described as a willing pacifist on the subject of psychoanalysis. On the one hand he claimed that Freud’s ideas, “…can’t fail to throw light on human nature” and then on the other hand said that, “…’symbolism’ is a most dangerous method” (Goodwin, 2005, p. 368). So in James’s mind psychoanalysis can do nothing but further our understanding of human nature, but not through the major avenues of dream analysis, free association, and psychosexual repression; which rely heavily on the interpretation of symbolisms. James was also very uncomfortable with any approach to consciousness that sought to reduce the mind to its subordinate parts. He viewed consciousness as a stream of thought, rather than a static, reducible mechanism. James believed that we cannot consider consciousness outside the realm of self-consciousness, that consciousness is constantly changing, and that consciousness is a selective, active agent in and of itself. To James, the functionalist understanding of consciousness as an active agent of mental action was more consistent with reality than what he called the meaningless, artificial exercise of identifying the elements of consciousness, which conforms more to the structuralist perspective (Goodwin, 2005).

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60(4), 333-337. Retrieved January 30, 2009, from SocINDEX.
Goodwin, C. J. (2005). A history of modern psychology (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Kowalski, R., & Westen, D. (2005). Psychology (4th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

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