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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

H01 Group Three "matters of the soul"

H01 Psychology and Ancient Greek Philosophy

 Janie Kullmar, Epicurus and Stoics

Epicurus and psychology. What we would call psychology he called 
            Psychology regularly addresses matters of how to make people happy or content. This was Epicurus's lasting impression on the world. In both what Epicurean had come to mean and what it actually meant. He believed that happiness stems from three things " peace of mind; bodily health and comfort; and the exigencies of life itself." This is interesting because Epicurus died from kidney stones that are today one of the most painful ways to die. These three things are hotly contested in modern psychology. His address of the issue could be seen as a simplification of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Shortly before his death he wrote "I have written this letter to you on a happy day to me, which is also the last day of my life. For I have been attacked by a painful inability to urinate, and also dysentery, so violent that nothing can be added to the violence of my sufferings. But the cheerfulness of my mind, which comes from the recollection of all my philosophical contemplation, counterbalances all these afflictions." This is indicative that he considered the mind capable of happiness in all circumstances.
            Modern psychology recognizes that interpersonal relationships merit attention. In fact he is quoted as saying " Of all the things which wisdom provides to make us entirely happy, much the greatest is the possession of friendship."
            Epicurus believed many matters of the soul were located on the chest as opposed to the head and brain. In many ways Epicurus has a very naturalistic viewpoint. He did not believe in an eternal soul, which is a central view for the modern understandings of psychology and neurology. He believed that the world was entirely physical, including our soul. However he viewed the soul as something that rested in the body. His view was naturalistic in that he didn't believe in an eternal soul but he did believe in a soul separate from the body.
            Epicurus believed that in the right state of mind anyone could enjoy life, which subtly indicates that he believed that people could be taught how to enjoy life. This is a hugely foundational belief for therapies.


In general the Greek concept of the mind was actually more connected to the body than modern values.  Stoics were concurrent with modern psychology in that they separated experience from the body. We see the brain as the processing system and it is frequently taught now that it isn't the eyes that see but the mind. Stoics held a system that was similar to this.  They believed that the soul truly perceives and therefore cannot be trusted.

The stoics believed that despite experiences people are in fact innately born with characteristics but that these were very simple such as self -regard and the usage of limbs. Stoics wrote about childhood development as well which is an enormous area of research in modern psychology. They believed that as children grew they developed rationality and they believed that impulse was the opposite of rationality. Their ideas of impulse opposed those of Euripides, who shared many characteristics with stoics. He thought that our main impulse was satisfaction or happiness. Therefore Stoics believed impulse was usually bad and Epicureans believed that impulse was usually good. Stoics believed that one chose their emotions wisely and dispassionately. Epicureans actually could be more suppressive of emotion as they usually stated that sensual desires were incorrect no order to have long-term pleasure. Stoics seemed to be less interested in labeling as wrong and right emotions but observed emotions from afar.  They also noted that the primary difference between However they considered the soul as a blank slate.  Today they were addressing a psychological issue, which we now refer to as nature over nurtured an issue that is still debated.



  1. Socrates, Plato, and Modern Psychology
    Socrates was one of the earliest and most well known philosophers. He spent most of his time in the market place, being both an inspiration and a nuisance to the people around him. He asked questions that challenged people’s preconceived notions of how much they knew—he thoroughly enjoyed using clever wording and other brainteasers to frustrate and illuminate his subjects. It is of no surprise that he had a great contribution to psychology, a field dedicated to the weird habits of the human brain. One example of this was in the dialog Euthyphro (a conversation with Socrates about holiness). He was a staunch supporter of the idea that what makes an action good or moral is related to how it betters us as people and contributes to our happiness instead of being supported by the gods. Many psychologists find this attention to personal happiness very interesting and thought provoking—the idea has had an impact even outside the psychological field and more into the everyday person and how they choose to define their morality. Another example of how he has contributed to the psychological field is his simply found in his “Socratic Method” of questioning. A prominent therapist, Dr. Aaron T. Beck developed Cognitive Therapy, which entails a Socratic method of questioning that fosters teamwork to get to the bottom of issues with the patient. This cultivates introspective digging instead of throwing reasons at the patient as to why they have problems. It can be used to treat depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and more. Much of what we learn about Socrates was not recorded by himself; the man hated writing and much preferred to have live conversations with people so he could alter his teaching based on their personal traits. His star pupil, Plato, mainly wrote down what he could about his mentor (including the dialogs of Euthyprho). He was a rational man who started his own school, the Academy, which became a hub of learning for Greeks. He believed in the higher ideals of “forms”, or the perfect idea of something. He thought this to be far superior to the reality of anything. He also believed in defining the physical: he believed all humans were subject to reason, feeling, and appetite. This led to his idea that any disease of the mind (a higher form than the body) such as depression or madness were brought about by the faults of the body. His work inspired Sigmund Freud, a classic modern psychologist who believed that mental health required cooperation with the rest of the body. Plato also inspired Freud and many others conclusions about human nature—such things as a need for sex, parenthood, and a higher desire for something more relieving to the soul (such as a religion). He delved a little into neuroscience as he tried to theorize about where certain impulses lied within the brain. Together, these two men had a great influence on psychology and how therapists and others view the human brain today. Socrates had a great influence over ideas on morality and personal happiness, as well as creating a line of questioning that could help solve complicated mental issues. Plato helped spark the discussion on human nature and where many diseases of the mind could possibly come from. Modern psychology owes a lot to these two philosophers.


  2. For my contribution to the group, I research the Greek Physician-Philosopher Galen of Pergamon. He was a prominent medical doctor in the Roman Empire and even served as the personal physician to several prominent emperors, including Marcus Aurelius. While he did not belong to a certain school of philosophy, he did integrate several different schools with his own medical observations in order to make judgements about the world and the way it worked. One of the ideas he build upon was Plato's Tripartite Theory of the Soul. Galen believed he could localize the logical part of the soul to the brain, the spirited part to the heart, and the appetite part to the liver. He felt that one of his main jobs as a doctor was to help patients balance these three parts. Galen also integrated the empiricism of Aristotle in that he believed that medical doctors should theorize, observe, and experiment in order to find things out about the world. He also considered medicine an interdisciplinary field that should include a merging of philosophy and science. During his time, there was a fierce debate between the empiricists and the rationalists in the medical community, but he chose to remain relatively open minded because he had been exposed to all four (Platonist, Peripatetic, Stoics, and Epicureans) schools of thought growing up. Galen butted heads with the stoics by arguing that the brain was the location of the psyche while the stoics thought it was in the heart. He also disagreed with them about the mind-body problem. He felt that the physical and mental were the same thing and not separate entities. He also described the organs as contributing to specific function of the organism as a whole and not certain parts of the organism. Galen's main contribution to psychology comes from his writing in On the Diagnosis and Cure of the Soul's Passions. In it, he applies both his medical knowledge and philosophical learning to describe the treatment of patients afflicted by what we today would call psychological problems. This book represents one of the first attempts at what is now known as psychotherapy. One of the most important things Galen discusses is the concept of talk therapy. With this method Galen would sit with a patients and learn more about their private lives and issues and from that help them to solve whatever was afflicting them. This practice is by and large still used today in the modern discipline of psychology, often to great effect, on par with or surpassing the use of medication. Despite the similarities, Galen had different ideas about what the therapist should be like. He determined that the only people who could be therapists were older men who were not controlled by passions in their own lives. While today anyone can be a therapist with the right education and licensure, the idea that a therapist should be neutral and not involve their own problems in discussions with the patient still strongly persists. Finally, Galen also delved into personality theory, building off of Aristotle's four humors with his own four fluids. He used this theory as another basis for treating mental disorders.
    King, D. Brett (2009). The Roman Period and the Middle Ages. In King, D. B., Viney, W., Woody, W. D. (Eds.) A History of Psychology: Ideas and Context (4th ed., pp. 70-71) Boston, Massachusetts: Pearson Education, Inc.
    Gill, C. (2007). Galen and the Stoics: Mortal Enemies or Blood Brothers?. Phronesis, 52(1), 88-120. doi:10.1163/156852807X177977

  3. Aristotle is widely known for his contributions to the field of Philosophy and for his philosophical ideas, such as the concept of eudaimonia. However, Aristotle was also responsible for setting the foundation for some of the basics of Psychology, and setting a precedence for generations to come. Through his book, Para Psyche (about the mind), the first known text in the history of psychology, he laid down the foundations for the study of psychology from the Greek point of view. His main areas of influence into modern times have been through his work with Dreams, Impulses and Urges, and speaking of the soul in general.
    To Aristotle, the mind and the soul were interchangeable concepts. Additionally, Aristotle wrote that our minds where the “Primary Entelechy”, or the primary reason for the existence and function of our bodies. In his writings, there are three different types of souls/minds: animal minds, plant minds, and human minds. Having a human mind is what he believed sets us apart from the other organisms in our world, giving us a connection to the gods. Although we now see the soul and mind as different things in modern Psychology, these ideas served as a strong launching point.
    In regards to dreams, Aristotle has impacted this area of study greatly. Aristotle’s greatest contribution to this area, however, was that he argued that gods did not send dreams as messages or revelations to humans. He argued that since animals were capable of dreaming, and since only the human mind/soul was directly connect to the gods, that this would not be a possible occurrence if dreams were sent directly from the gods. Instead, Aristotle believed that imagination was responsible for our dreams, and that dreams are extensions of our reality, made possible by our imaginations. In addition, Aristotle noted the act of lucid dreaming, where someone is able to control their dreaming. His point stated that if the gods were sending us dreams, we wouldn’t be able to control them. Aristotle also held that personal and situational occurrences in dreams were important, and he began studying how to interpret them. In modern times, one can find Aristotle’s principles on dreams within the work of Sigmund Freud, who was influenced by them and incorporated them into his theories.
    Finally, Aristotle was greatly intrigued by the concept of human and animal impulses. Because of his work, he is now able to be called the first behaviourist. He noted that humans and animals both had the tendency to act without thinking, or spontaneously, and could greatly be affected by the circumstances they were in. Through these observations, he was able to propose the concept of a natural “reproductive” impulse carried within the carnal nature of animals and humans centuries before Charles Darwin. This refers to not just the act of spontaneous horniness, but also the innate thoughts and feelings that arise randomly giving us thoughts about having offspring to continue our legacy and to bring us honor. Aristotle’s thoughts in these areas have influenced thinkers such as Skinner and Pavlov, again, giving him the reputation as the first behaviorist.