What is the philosophy of psychology?

There are as many philosophies as psychologies. Psychology is as ancient as philosophy. There are remarkable works dating hundreds of years B.C. specially among Greeks, Egyptians, Persians, Indians, Chinese, etc.

Those philosophers were the forebears of psychology. In their quest to understand and explain the world we live in, multiple scholars developed theories that later on would become the genesis of psychology.

That is the reason why we say there is not one psychology. There are many different approaches, based on different interpretations and philosophical concepts. Both areas are deeply related to each other. You can not conceive psychology without knowing philosophy.

What is required of psychology students during college years is to choose a school of thought that better fits their own. And to remain adherent, faithful to their choice. Some schools of thought are completely divergent. This does not mean they are wrong or better than others. It simply means that there is consistency in their line of work, but they have different approaches. I may like both fried eggs and chocolate syrup, but they do not match well on the same plate.

For example, if I believe that the subjective experience of an individual is of utmost importance, there will be no room to match this concept with archetypes or collective unconscious. These are examples of two different schools of thought, phenomenology and archetypal psychology. Both seek results for the same phenomena. What varies is their approach. The objective is the same.

In layman terms, I want you to know that psychology as a subject emerged much later than philosophy. In fact, it emerged from the latter in as late as the 18th century. Also, the two have a lot of things in common and unique including the area of expertise,knowledge,scope and method of experimentation. Psychology is much much more practical and useful in modern times than philosophy.

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems that concern concrete matters such as values, existence, knowledge, reason, and language. Methods of philosophical examination include questioning, critical analysis, and rational debates. Philosophical questions that have been posed in the past include: is it possible to know anything and prove it? What is most real, and what is the meaning of life? However, philosophy is also concerned with more concrete questions such as: do humans have free will, and what is the best way to live a life?


Psychology, derived from the Greek word ‘psychologia’ translates literally to ‘the study of human spirit.’ Psychology is the study of the human mind and human behavior. It incorporates the examination of both conscious and unconscious experiences, as well as the interactions between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Psychology is an academic discipline and applied science, which seeks to understand the role of mental processes in human behavior, whilst also exploring the physiological and biological functions that underpin cognitive processing and behavior. Concepts explored by psychologists include perception, cognition, attention, emotion, intelligence, phenomenology, motivation, brain functioning, personality.

A scholar in this discipline tackles with the philosophical questions that arise within the discipline of psychology. There are various ways in which he may do this analysis.

“Philosophy of psychology” is a subject in many universities across the world.

This subject is focused more on psychology than philosophy and more focused on cognitive psychology . This discipline is important because it acts as a connector between the scientific (cognitive ) psychology with common folk psychology.

The roots of this discipline can be vividly seen in the writings from Plato to Aristotle and Descartes.

Here Descartes assume major importance where he gave a concept of separation of mind and body which will be called as dualism.

The basic philosophy of psychology is the Tripartite Soul.

Infact; the idea of what Sigmund Freud explained as psyche, stems from the platonic theory of soul.

The tripartite soul was divided into three parts.

  • The supreme part : Rational part

  • The auxiliary part: Emotional part

  • The subordinate part: Desirous part

Unsurprisingly, Freud’s psyche is also divided into three parts, each part corresponding to the platonic counterparts respectively.

  • Super ego

  • Ego

  • ID

Now the rational part of mind, is what should be in charge of the others. Say, if your body is a car, the rational part should drive it, while emotion and desire sits in the rear part.

Emotion is what helps the reason in times of needs. Like your response to injustice. Your fear of losing a loved one. So by the help of your emotions, your reason raises voice or takes care of the loved one.

Your desirous part on the other hand, is your instinctive thoughts. To eat. To survive. To have sex.

All three are co-existent, while one cannot function without the help of another.

Rational part is the king.

Emotional part is the state auxiliaries.

Desirous part is the artisans.

A king cannot survive without the help of the auxiliaries or artisans. Likewise, a state will not run without the king and the auxiliaries and artisans will lose their purpose to work.

Why should rational part be the king?

Have you ever noticed too much emotion is dangerous? How it affects your studies when you’re too distracted because of a break up?


Have you noticed how too much desire is dangerous in terms of making your grades poor? How it affects your studies when you’re too distracted because you need to check if your girlfriend has sent you the nudes you asked for an hour ago?

You’ll say ‘I was just out of my mind’. Well that simply is the case. You were indeed out of your mind. Duh! Did your reason just go to take a nap?

Now lets talk about anxiety.

Ever wondered ‘why do I feel anxious being a lazy bone, when its just what I chose to do? To lie all day.’

Well because little fight took place in your psyche/soul. Freud had an explanation:

When we act lazy, we are mostly guided by our desirous part. Our reason being smarter knows better and so picks up a bone with the stupid desire. The result is anxiety.

You’ve seen the picture of it in allegorical form so many times, that you do not probably notice.

The list goes on and on and here’s an example of it. Meet you reason/superego and desire/ID fighting.

Now lets talk about sin.

Why do we sin? Don’t we fear eternal damnation? Don’t we fear the mighty God?

We do. But we have a propensity to sin. The answer lies in the aforementioned statement.

Lack of reason.

Your desire was not in check by reason. That’s just why you sleep around. Cheat on your gfs/bfs. Eat too much and eventually die of a heart disease.

But it’s still ok. Study says it’s natural. Because we’re all guided by death instinct.

Don’t want to die an awful death?

Let your reason do most work!

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