Re: What Makes Psychology Different?

From: Stevan Harnad (
Date: Tue Oct 24 1995 - 20:32:10 BST

ll> From: "LIZ LEE" <>
ll> Date: Tue, 24 Oct 1995 13:34:58 GMT
ll> I don't think psychology is very different from any other field when it
ll> comes to "proving" what is or isn't true, if in psychology the point
ll> is to be able to predict an outcome (in this case behaviour) then by
ll> observing, testing and reaching a conclusion we must be at least as
ll> accurate as meteorologists predicting weather!

The point, though, was that you don't prove anything outside of
mathematics and logic. And we were trying to see how psychology DIFFERS
from weather-forecasting, rather than how it resembles it...

ll> I'm a little confused by "induction", does the past become the past a
ll> second (or less) after it's happened? If so, we'd have to disbelieve
ll> any evidence placed in front of us wouldn't we? Nothing at all could
ll> exist except this minute now - or have I got this hopelessly wrong?

The problem of induction is a philosophical one, not a practical one.
If you can't be sure, it doesn't mean you are hopelessly wrong.

ll> Isn't being predictable part of being "normal"? Often we refer
ll> to somebody as " unpredictable" if they behave in an unusual way.
ll> If we lived unpredictable lives socialisation would be very
ll> difficult.

Yes, but unpredicability had been proposed as one of the things that
makes psychology different. You seem to be agreeing that it isn't.

ll> How much free will do we really have? The choices laid in front of us
ll> influence what we will do; we can only choose from a given set of
ll> choices, so even our will to choose is constrained isn't it?

Free will is not meant to be the same as omnipotence. And even within
our constrained options, when you look up close, free will seems to
fail as a causal force.

> sh> Did you CHOOSE to feel like it? Can you really tell me a detailed,
> sh> conscious story of what led up to your decision to pick the left pencil
> sh> rather than the right one? IS there such a story?
ll> I don't think these sort of conscious decisions are ever made, they
ll> are impulses when the choice is an unimportant one, I guess I should
ll> follow that by asking what gives us the impulse?

Right. And that's the trouble with free will.

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