Response to Philosophy Club meeting.

There appeared to be very little mention of the suggested 19th Century break between Philosophy and Experimental Psychology? in response to this, and I think it was Oliver who touched on this in the last comment of the evening, I would suggest the real break away was psychiatry in its attempts to legitimise itself with medical science. I believe this left Psychology somewhere in the middle, trying to keep links with psychiatry and medical science, but also not losing touch with its philosophy cousin. The poles increasing their distance in both directions, the distance between philosophy and psychology having to increase so that psychology could keep in touch with both cousins. Emile Kraepelin is understood to have been at the forefront of psychiatry’s attempts to legitimise itself with medical science in the late 19th and early 20th Century and it was he that provided the blueprint for our current system of taxonomies of “mental illness” in psychiatry.

There was also a comment about “Happier people are more altruistic”. I suggest that this is a secondary effect to the greater truth; that unhappy, or fearful people, have a tendency to be more selfish, self serving and self preserving. The less fearful a person becomes, the less self preserving they become. In other words; fear interferes with the functioning of empathy.

The first 2 questions of the evening were on the subject of flow, as the suggestion of the talks was that flow was good and the first 2 questions highlighted that flow isn’t always necessarily “good”. Flow is neither good nor bad in itself, but it is a state in which we gain some comfort from our internal divisions and find a oneness in our direction. As stated, this creates a comfort in ourselves, but comfort can also be gained from other people’s misery and misfortunes as it helps us feel better about our own misery and misfortunes. This entered somewhat of a dichotomous debate on flow and whether it was good or bad, which gives me an excuse to bring out my favourite quote from Stephen Jay Gould; “our lamentable tendency to taxonomize complex situations as dichotomies of conflicting opposites.”. When considering flow we need to also consider that we are not just creatures of great light, but also of potentially great darkness, too. Flow can just as easily flow from that darkness as it can from that light. Flow can be good when it flows from the light, but one might suggest Osama Bin Laden, or Saddam Hussein were in a state of flow. Another example of flow might be Anders Breivik as he wandered around that island. They probably felt very good about themselves and what they were doing, but their flow lead to great destruction and things we consider to be “evil”. So whether flow is good or bad all depends upon motives and where these motives are emanating from, but anyone in a state of flow is going to feel good at that time because they have temporarily escaped from their division by finding a singular purpose.

So should we look at this “new synthesis” of psychology and philosophy? Shouldn’t life itself be a synthesis of everything in order to create a complete life and is there anything new in that? Wasn’t this the ultimate message of the ancient philosophers?