Book Review: A Student’s Guide To Psychology

A Student’s Guide To Psychology, by Daniel N. Robinson

This book, as is not uncommon in this series [1], this book took a familiar subject and decided to approach it from an angle that I did not really foresee, and that is looking at psychology, which is nearly universally viewed as being a phenomenon of the late 19th century, as being the result of the thinking of Greek philosophers.  And indeed this aspect of this short book is what is the most puzzling, as psychology underlies a great deal of the concerns of the ancient world (including the history of ancient Israel).  If the author’s approach to this material is somewhat striking and unusual, there is at least one obvious point that the author has when it come to psychology and that is to explore some of the tensions that exist within the field and some of the areas where a deeper understanding of psychology may prove to be useful as a line of inquiry.  It is hopeful at least that some readers of this book may be able to examine some of the fruitful research avenues that the author lays out, as they are highly relevant in our time.

This book is a particularly short one at less than 100 pages.  It begins with a subject and then discusses the invention of psychology in the ancient world.  The author focuses his interest on ancient Greece, and on the naturalistic perspective gained from Aristotle as well as those developments that took place both before and after him.  The author looks at psychology as science and how this came about as a result of Darwinian evolutionary theory while also discussing developments in neurophysiolgy and neurology to contemporary understanding of the mind.  The author then looks at various schools and approaches of psychology, including behaviorism, neuropsychology and cognitive neuroscience, and Freud and depth psychology.  The author also discusses the social context of psychology as well as the moral and civic aspects of human development as well as providing an epilogue that deals with abiding issues in the field of psychology that the author finds to be of interest.  This leads to suggestions for further reading as well as an encouragement to the student reader to embark on a lifelong pursuit of knowledge and self-reliance.

There are at least a few takeaways that this reader at least took from this slim volume.  For one, the field of psychology is far longer in its historical origins than is commonly recommended.  It seems puzzling why the history of psychology so frequently begins with Freud rather than looking at the philosophical and moral interests of the ancient world where the study of the mind began.  Secondly, it is strange and remarkable that psychology struggles so mightily to say something useful or interesting about people individually, given that is the reason why people seek after this field in the first place.  The desire to be recognized as a science and an art has made psychology adept at summarizing the average mind but lacking insights into the particular minds that practitioners of the field deal with.  In addition to this, psychology as a whole has largely not dealt with large issues, such as politics, where it may provide useful insights that may be of use to society as a whole.  What all of this suggests is that in the history, practice, and conception of psychology and its disciplines that there is a lot of work that can be done by those who are willing to go in unusual directions and carve out largely virgin territory.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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