Scientific psychology is historically developed in personalistic and naturalistic approaches. The first theory of scientific psychology emphasizes the contributions and achievements of certain historic figures.
Therefore, changes and progress occur due to the goals and charisma of individuals who changed the course of history. For instance, such charismatic personalities as Hitler, Napoleon, and Darwin were among the most influential figures shaping the history and influencing the present (Schultz & Schultz, 2012).
So, if these monumental figures did not exist, the history would not be shaped. In contrast, naturalistic theory implies that social, intellectual, and cultural development depends on the Zeitgeist, the spirit and climate of age. The theory also proposes that if there was no an influential figures shaping the history, the societal environment will still encourage the intellectual and technological evolutions by other means and approaches.
In other words, science would anyway be developed irrespective of the contributions made by such great mind as Einstein, Darwin, or Newton (Schultz & Schultz, 2012). Such a perspective is explained by the concept of conditioned response, which implies that human would still react to their needs and concerns and discovered in technologically advanced ways to adjust to the environment.
Despite the consistence and logical ground of both theories, they cannot exist separately from each because there are cases when exceptions to the frameworks occur. For instance, there are cases when several scientists work on similar scientific theories, but they were unknown to each other. At the same time, there is no guarantee that someone else than Einstein would discover the laws of gravity. Similar assumption could be made in response to the contribution made by Rene Descartes.
On the one hand, this historical figure has made unique discoveries and inventions that had never been considered before. He was the first person to link algebra and geometry through coordinate system. One the other hand, there is an assumption that the evolution of geometry and philosophy could be developed by other outstanding philosophers. Moreover, there is no guarantee that these discoveries were made first because of the probability of unknown authors failing to unveil their scientific explorations.
Though Descartes is recognized as a famous person in the intellectual history, there is no an adequate appreciation of his contributions. In particular, he is, first of all, known as a philosophy, but not as a outstanding mathematician.
Lafleur (1950) writes, “…Descartes’ empiricism was widely influential in promoting the change from the typical medieval to the typical modern attitude” (p. 11). Therefore, it is impossible to neglect the contributions and discoveries Descartes made because of their significant influence on the present science.
Despite his enormous achievements of Descartes, the naturalistic approach is more justified in explaining the philosophers’ position. Naturalistic approach implies that context and environment in which individuals are placed have a potent impact on intellectual and scientific development of human history.
Therefore, time, place, and circumstance, as well as specific psychological and individual characteristic have become a favorable combination for developing philosophical and mathematical theories. Descartes, therefore, was lucky to face perfect coincidences of cultural, psychological and economic streams. Upbringing was also among the most significant effects on Descartes’ theory.
His belief in rationalism and absolute rule of God are predetermined by the requirements of time. The naturalistic position also reflects in Descartes’ ideas as the philosopher insisted that all our notions and concepts are disposed in the common truth. Hence, knowledge existed apart from human consciousness, which contributes to the historical determinism (Bailey, 2006). Naturalistic influences are also represented through moral and ethical sense of humans.
Naturalistic attitude to Descartes’ work also justifies his principles of empiricism, realism, and objectivism. Most of the ideas represented by Descartes prove these principles. More importantly, it denies the societal self-interest, which can only be confined to the ideas of experimentation in the real world.
Naturalism is closely correlated with rationalist tendencies in Descartes’ thoughts (Bailey, 2006). Hence, his theory also implies that all living beings operate in accordance with the established mechanisms and principles. Hence, the conditions, including location, climate, and environment shape social needs and motivate them to discover new options and opportunities for advancing their society.
In conclusion, naturalistic approach proves to be more consistent and logical to define the course of history because personalities discover similar things with awareness that other individuals consider the same opportunities. In this respect, Descartes’ positions is consistent with the naturalistic, rather then personalistic approaches, although cannot be entirely rejected.
The point is that most of the discoveries are closely dependent on inner intensions of individuals, their psychological features, and character traits. People under similar conditions can achieve goals with various degrees. Therefore, Zeitgeist provides a solid ground for explaining the discoveries and changes in the history of human psychology.
Descartes’ also recognizes the presence of common truth permitting the existing of knowledge and experience that people could develop and make conclusions. His concept of idea that is apart from subjective thinking coincides with the naturalistic approach and totally approves this position.
Bailey, D. D. (2006). Descartes on the logical properties of ideas. British Journal For The History Of Philosophy, 14(3), 401-411.
Lafleur, L. J. (1950). Descartes’ Role in the History of Science. The Scientific Monthly, 71(1), 11-14.
Schultz & Schultz (2012). A History of Modern Psychology. 10th ed. Wadsworth: Cengage Learning.