“There is a noticeable general difference between the sciences and mathematics on the one hand, and the humanities and social sciences on the other. It’s a first approximation, but one that is real. In the former, the factors of integrity tend to dominate more over the factors of ideology. It’s not that scientists are more honest people. It’s just that nature is a harsh taskmaster. You can lie or distort the story of the French Revolution as long as you like, and nothing will happen. Propose a false theory in chemistry, and it’ll be refuted tomorrow. “(Noam Chomsky)
Psychology: Humanities or science?
For subjects like literary science the case might be fairly clear: They are part of the group of subjects we refer to as the humanities, just as physics and biology are natural sciences. It’s a dichotomy we take for granted in academia, clear as night and day, black and white, male and female… but wait a minute, are these antonymic oppositions really as clear as we’d like them to be?
Take for example psychology. Psychology used to be part of the humanities, and now considers itself part of the natural sciences – and, somewhat begrudgingly perhaps, sometimes as part of the social sciences. The Bachelor you receive here in Hamburg is, in fact, a B.Sc. and not a B.A. We might ask ourselves why students of psychology prefer to view themselves as part of the natural sciences. Is it an attempt to make themselves more objective, as natural sciences are, supposedly, more objective that the arts are? And aside from the fact that we can question objectivity and the empiric nature of any framework of reference, why is being “objective” what we seem to strive for? What are the underlying reasons? And what does the attempt of some subjects, such as psychology and linguistics, to divide themselves from the humanities to some extent, say about the ideas of quality we presuppose for natural sciences vis-à-vis arts and humanities?
Well, I can’t answer those questions. But some of them might be answered on Thursday in the Von-Melle-Park 8, when Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Maiers (University of Magdeburg-Stendal) tackles them. The talk will be presented by the Menschenbilder-Seminar, a seminar run by students for over forty years now in the psychology department.
Lecture “Naturwissenschaftlichkeit oder Naturalismus? Kritische Anmerkungen zum Selbst(miss)verständnis der herrschenden Psychologie” (Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Maiers)
Thursday, 15 January 2015, 6 p.m.
R05, Von-Melle-Park 8