Psychology and its Artistic Counterparts.

Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts, the book of their deeds, the book of their words and the book of their art. Not one of these books can be understood unless we read the two others, but of the three the only trustworthy one is the last.
The History of Venice, Preface
Nothing, it is true, is more common than for both Science and Art to pay homage to the spirit of the age, and for creative taste to accept the law of critical taste.
On the Aesthetic Education of Man
As in political revolutions, so in paradigm choice—there is no standard higher than the assent of the relevant community… this issue of paradigm choice can never be unequivocally settled by logic and experiment alone.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
A Grecian urn from the late 6th Century B.C.
“Beauty is truth and truth is beauty,”
Ode to a Grecian Urn
By John Keats
Much of the Greek mindset may be centered around two inscriptions at the temple at Delphi: “Know thyself” and “Nothing to excess”. These two imperatives have as it would a critical and perfectionist attitude. Here we see form and content blended together to produce something that seems apt or fit, maybe even as “complete”.
Plato (427?-347B.C.)
 An idealist, Plato shifted his attention from the senses in order to find something more transcendental and unchanging. Much of western thought can be traced back to Plato. The pre-Socratics focused on the natural world; however, Socrates brought philosophy to a reflection on the human condition. Socrates’ disciple, Plato, closely followed his teacher. Focusing on the problems of knowledge, conduct, and governance, Plato paved the way for much of the western intellectual tradition.

In Plato’s Dialogues, Socrates is asked if virtue can be taught. Without answering the question directly, he proceeds to give a servant boy guidance to the discovery of a fundamental geometrical principal. Essentially, it shows the effects a diagonal line has on a square—very Pythagorean conclusion is then made.This is a recollection theory of knowledge, because Meno’s servant always knew the answer to Socrates’ questions. However, he just needed to be guided along in the right manner. So, one may guide another to the answer, however, the forms cannot be held up and pointed to. One can’t point to the universal of virtue, nor can one point to Pi. It is finally left up to the mind to take the last step out of the cave and into a state of knowledge—this is what it means to cross the divided line.


Athenian Acropolis Mid 5th century B.C.
This was a humanistic period called the Age of Pericles. Athens began to build itself up after the Persians destroyed it. This was about removing the rubble from the land that once reminded them of what more they could lose, and instead they put in its place something that they stand for, something elevating and uplifting, rather than demeaning and depreciatory.

Aristotle (385-322B.C.)
Aristotle, a student of Plato’s, was a polymath who wrote on many subjects. His teachings make up most of the core curriculum in university classrooms today. His systematic thought reaches into the biological, psychological, social, and political aspects of human life.
There is something which is eternally moved with an unceasing motion, and that circular motion… Then there is also something which moves it. And since that which is moved while it moves is intermediate, there is something which moves without being moved; something eternal which is both substance and actuality.
[T]he final cause is not only ‘the for something.’ But also ‘the good which is the end of some action.’ In the latter sense it applies to immovable things…
[T]hought thinks itself through participation in the object of thought; for it becomes an object of thought by the act of apprehension and thinking, so that thought and the object of thought are the same, because that which is receptive of the object of thought, ie essence, is thought.
Posterior Analytics
Now for those in which it does not come about, there is no knowledge outside perceiving… but for some perceivers, it is possible to grasp it in their minds. And when many such things come about, then a difference comes about, so that some come to have an account from the retention of such things, and others do not.
So from perception there comes memory, as we call it, and from memory… experience… and from experience, or from the whole universal that has come to rest in the soul… there comes a principle of skill and of understanding—of skill if it deals with how things come about, of understanding if it deals with what is the case.
A Greek Sculpture of Apollo from the 4th Century B.C.
The Greek Ideal of melding beauty and truth is here once again. Apollo is a sign of health, beauty, strength, truth, and prophecy.
St. Augustine (354-430AD)
A theologian, St. Augustine’s mission was to affirm the existence of God. He was a Neo Platonist and brought an intellectual dimension back into the Catholic Church. In Confessions, Augustine goes at length to discuss the difference between “concepts” and “percepts”. This is an echo from Plato’s dialogue and the Divided Line.
18. Thus we find that learning those things whose images we do not take in by our senses, but which we intuit within ourselves without images and as they actually are, is nothing else except the gathering together of those same things which the memory already contains — but in an indiscriminate and confused manner — and putting them together by careful observation as they are at hand in the memory; so that whereas they formerly lay hidden, scattered, or neglected, they now come easily to present themselves to the mind which is now familiar with them… These are the things we may be said to have learned and to know. Yet, if I cease to recall them even for short intervals of time, they… slide back… into the further reaches of the memory — that they must be drawn out again as if new from the same place (for there is nowhere else for them to have gone) and must be collected [cogenda] so that they can become known. In other words, they must be gathered up [colligenda] from their dispersion. This is where we get the word cogitate [cogitare]. For cogo [collect] and cogito [to go on collecting] have the same relation to each other as ago [do] and agito [do frequently], and facio [make] and factito [make frequently]. But the mind has properly laid claim to this word [cogitate] so that not everything that is gathered together anywhere, but only what is collected and gathered together in the mind, is properly said to be “cogitated.”
19. The memory also contains the principles and the unnumbered laws of numbers and dimensions. None of these has been impressed on the memory by a physical sense, because they have neither color nor sound, nor taste, nor sense of touch. I have heard the sound of the words by which these things are signified when they are discussed: but the sounds are one thing, the things another. For the sounds are one thing in Greek, another in Latin; but the things themselves are neither Greek nor Latin nor any other language. I have seen the lines of the craftsmen, the finest of which are like a spider’s web, but mathematical lines are different. They are not the images of such things as the eye of my body has showed me. The man who knows them does so without any cogitation of physical objects whatever, but intuits them within himself. I have perceived with all the senses of my body the numbers we use in counting; but the numbers by which we count are far different from these. They are not the images of these; they simply are.        


Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere
Symbols from the Bible are abound in the surrounding mosaics. For those who cannot read, one could still use their senses to search for understanding. However, interpretation was controlled, which made intellectualism suffocate. Nevertheless, the surroundings and symbols are a constant reminder of morals and examples—given to us as universalized concepts if one is prepared to bridge the gap between particular artistic examples and their universal concepts.


Rene Descartes (1596-1650AD)
Descartes’ mission was to find an absolute starting point for philosophy. Therefore, his final goal was directed towards an epistemological goal, not a metaphysical one. Defeating an absolute position on skepticism, and find one truth—one bit of knowledge to hold on to—shows that we might have a method which we can further use to get to the truth of reality.
Book II
I suppose there exists an extremely powerful and… malignant being… directed toward deceiving me. Can I affirm that I possess any one of all those attributes of which I have lately spoken as belonging to the nature of body?… The first mentioned were the powers of nutrition and walking; but if it were true that I have no body it is true likewise that I am capable neither of walking nor of being nourished. Perception is another attribute of the soul; but perception too is impossible without the body… Thinking is another attribute of the soul; and here I discover what properly belongs to myself. This alone is inseperable from me. I am, therefore, preceisely speaking, only a thinking thing, that is, mind… or reason.
Book XI
Further, I cannot doubt but that there is in me a certain passive faculty of perception, that is, of receiving and taking knowledge of the ideas of sensible things; but this would be useless to me, if there did not also exist in me, or in some other thing, another active faculty capable of forming and producing those ideas.
By Johannes Vermeer
Woman in Blue Reading a Letter
Then Enlightenment was a humanistic period where the light of reason allowed many to see the world through a new lens. Here we see Vermeer playing with light, which was popular amongst his contemporaries.
John Locke (1632-1704)
An empiricist, Locke put together a Newtonian theory of mind that laid much of the foundation for later empiricists. Some of his main ideas are the blank slate theory, primary and secondary qualities, simple and complex ideas, and the laws of association that acted upon our ideas as gravity does matter.
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
Book II Chapter I Section 2
Let us suppose the mind to be a blank paper void of without any ideas. All our knowledge comes from experiences which enter simple and unmixed, and which the mind has the power to repeat, compare and unite to an almost infinite variety, and so can make at will new complex ideas. But it cannot make new ideas, nor destroy those that are there. Ideas are produced from primary qualities, viz. solidity, extension, figure, motion or rest, and number. Secondary qualities are colours, sounds, tastes, etc. From whence it is easy to draw this observation: that the ideas of primary qualities of bodies are resemblances of them, but the ideas produced in us by the secondary qualities have no resemblance in them at all. Light, heat, whiteness, or coldness are no more really in things than sickness or pain is in manna. Perception is often altered by our experience, as when we see a globe as a circle, but take it to be spherical, it is the first operation of our intellectual faculties, and the inlet of all knowledge into our minds. We can also discern and distinguish between several ideas, if ideas are clear. The comparing of ideas one with another is the operation of the mind upon which all understanding of relation depends. By composition, the mind puts together several simple ideas into complex ones.
Book II Chapter XXXIII Section 6
This strong combination of ideas, not allied by nature, the mind makes in itself either voluntarily or by chance; and hence it comes in different men to be very different, according to their different inclinations, education, interests, etc. Custom settles habits of thinking in the understanding, as well as of determining in the will, and of motions in the body: all which seems to be but trains of motions in the animal spirits, which, once set a going, continue in the same steps they have used to; which, by often treading, are worn into a smooth path, and the motion in it becomes easy, and as it were natural…A musician used to any tune will find that, let it but once begin in his head, the ideas of the several notes of it will follow one another orderly in his understanding, without any care or attention, as regularly as his fingers move orderly over the keys of the organ to play out the tune he has begun, though his unattentive thoughts be elsewhere a wandering. Whether the natural cause of these ideas, as well as of that regular dancing of his fingers be the motion of his animal spirits…
Old Royal Naval Hospital in Greenwich, London.
Is the architecture and art too much for mere soldiers to look at every day? Our eyes are a great source of power in our lives, Locke believed. If we implicitly learn as we spectate, then what we look at day to day, even simple ideas, will have a transforming effect on us within. Perhaps if one was able to see something as beautiful as this every day, they would know what human beings were capable of, and what kind of beings they are protecting, too!
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716)
Leibniz, like Plato, is a rationalist. As a philosopher and a mathematician, he ,like Pythagoras, embraced monads as the ultimate constituents of reality. However, for Leibniz there are many. He criticized Locke (wrongly) for his tabula rasa theory. Where Locke asserts that the mind is like a blank slate, Leibniz then asserts that the intellect itself is what Locke is overlooking.
New Essays
This tabula rasa, of which so much is said, is in my opinion only a fiction which natures does not admit…. Uniform things and those which contain no variety are never anything but abstractions, like time, space, and other entities of pure mathematics. There is no body whatever whose parts are at rest, and there is no substance whatever that has nothing by which to distinguish it from every other… those who speak so frequently to this tabula rasa, after having taken away the ideas, cannot say what remains…. Experience is necessary, I admit, in order that the soul be determined to such or such thoughts, and in order that it take notice of the ideas which are in us; but by what means can experience and the senses give ideas? Has the soul windows, does it resemble tablets, is it like wax?
By Rembrand
Christ in the Storm on the Lake of Galilee
Crashing waves with a crew looking towards Christ, the ship is in danger of going under. Because of the Enlightenment, many values were being cast overboard. Here we see the painter himself in the ship with Jesus. Leibniz made more room than Newton was willing to accept in the flux and flotsam of the perceived reality of the time.
Thomas Reid (1710-1796)
Critiquing David Hume, Reid sharply criticized his purely theoretical conjectures. A defender of Bacon and Newton, it is hard to clearly place Reid in the empiricist or rationalist camp. His modularity theory of mind, also known as “faculty psychology” is seen as a precursor to phrenology. Nevertheless he never attempted to, nor would, make the analogy between mind and brain as one and the same. Some of his other contributions an active account of mind, a form of direct perception, and he worked on a theory of natural signs. Finally, he is the father of commonsense philosophy, which is later echoed in American pragmatism.
Of Analogy
[S]ome of the schoolmen maintained, that, if a hungry ass were placed between two bundles of hay equally inviting, the beast must stand still and starve to death, being unable to turn to either, because there are equal motives to both. This is an instance of that analogical reasoning, which I conceive ought never to be trusted: for, the analogy between a balance and a man deliberating, though one of the strongest that can be found between matter and mind, is too weak to support any argument. A piece of dead inactive matter, and an active intelligent being, are things very unlike l and because the one would remain at rest in a certain case, it does not follow that the other would be inactive in a case somewhat similar.
The conclusion I would draw from all that has been said on analogy, is, that, in our inquiries concerning the mind, and its operations, we ought never to trust reasonings, drawn from some supposed similitude of body to mind…
An Inquiry into the Human Mind
If any reader should imagine that he inductive principle may be resolved into what philosophers usually call the association of ideas, let him observe, that, by this principle, natural signs are not associated with the ideas only, but with the belief of the things signified. Now, this can with no propriety be called an association of ideas, unless ideas and belief be one and the same.
Charlotte Square, Edinburgh
The second floor Columns and designs fuse Greco-Roman art and architecture with the present age. Also, many of the blocks are specially cut for the windows as to produce a sunburst. The effects of this building make me want to look upward towards the even more complex work.
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
Awoken from his dogmatic slumbers by David Hume; Kant put together a system of thought that precedes Hume’s empirical conclusions. For Hume to be right, Kant must be right. Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason is his response to Hume. Pure reason is that which can’t be seen with the eye or anatomic blow-pipe. The Critique of Pure Reason attempts to find out how the mind must necessarily work for there to be experience at all. This eventually led to a barrier. His epitaph writes: The starry heavens above me and the moral law within me. This is just another echo of this barrier.His distinction between the phenomenal world and the noumenal world are pressing. Pure reason is contained within the noumena. However, we can never know the objects of that realm as they are in themselves. The world of phenomena is the world that is, by principle, accessible to the senses. This realm is where science takes place. Therefore, there is a barrier between the noumena and the phenomena making a science of psychology impossible.

Friedrich Casper
Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog

Notice the wild waves crashing in the background, and the high mountaintops. This painting is not realistic; it’s imaginative and hints at a vantage point more from the first person perspective. This is the solitary, heroic, Romantic man of adventure—going out against a sea of troubles. This may also reflect Kant’s noumena realm. The Romantics believe that art was the way to finally break through Kant’s barrier.
Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920)
Known as the “father off experimental psychology”, Wundt established the first laboratory for psychological research in German. He formed a theory of mind known as Structuralism. He wrote Principles of Psychology, and studied various areas in psychology, including the “inner psychological construction”. One problem with this theory, however, was that it relies centrally on subjective thought. In opposition to this line of reasoning was functionalism. Some of his influential ideas were on voluntarism, association, and apperception.
Hence, wherever we meet with vital phenomena that present the two aspects, physical and psychical there naturally arises a question as to the relations in which these aspects stand to each other.
Physiological psychology, on the other hand, is competent to investigate the relations that hold between the processes of the physical and those of the mental life.
Physiology seeks to derive the processes in our own nervous system from general physical forces, without considering whether these processes are or are not accompanied by processes of consciousness.
The distinguishing characteristics of mind are of a subjective sort; we know them only from the contents of our own consciousness.
Lectures on Human and Animal Psychology
If we could see every wheel in the physical mechanism whose working the mental processes are accompanying, we should still find no more than a chain of movements showing no trace whatsoever of their significance for mind…  (All) that is valuable in our mental life still falls to the psychical side.
When we have taken account of every one of the external reasons that go to determine actions, we still find the will undetermined. We must therefore term these external conditions, not causes, but motives, of volition. And between a cause and a motive there is a very great difference. A cause necessarily produces its effects; not so a motive…. [S]ince all the immediate causes of voluntary action proceed from personally, we must look for the origin of volition in the inmost nature of personality—in character. Character is the sole immediate cause of voluntary actions.
By Delacroix
Orphan Girl in a Cemetary
Do we know what this girl orphan is thinking, what she is seeing, or what she feels? These are questions that she must ultimately tell us if we are to know. We can only make conjectures given her posture and expressions, given inferences that we ourselves make every day.
Hermann Ebbinghaus (1850-1909)
His father was a Neo-Kantian. Also, in college, he took a particular interest to philosophy.  Focusing on memory, Ebbinghaus was a German psychologist responsible for laying the foundations for the study of memory.
Ideas which have been developed simultaneously or in immediate succession in the same mind mutually reproduce each other, and do this with greater ease in the direction of the original succession and with a certainty proportional to the frequency with which they were together.
One needs but to say that, in the case of an unfamiliar sequence of syllables, only about seven can be grasped in one act, but that with frequent repetition and gradually increasing familiarity with the series this capacity of consciousness may be increased.
The relation of repetitions for learning and for repeating English stanzas needs no amplification. These were learned by heart on the first day with less than half of the repetitions necessary for the shortest of the syllable series.
By Suende Franz
Repetitiously looking at this photo, one might see many details; however, if one were to “see” the symbols one may then remember it after seeing it just once. Notice the snake around the woman and how her face is shaded in. Is she a serpent, also known as a “lamia”?  Once we attach our own symbols to external images we then have actively engaged with the world around us, making it more intelligible and more memorable.
Titchener (1867-1927)
A student of Wundt’s, Titchener closely studied introspection and the structure of the mind. He was British and studied at Oxford. There he was introduced to the works of the German psychologist Wilhelm Wundt. Similar to Locke’s simple and complex ideas, and using the theme of J.S. Mill’s “mental chemistry”, Titchener began to reduce structures of the mind, such as sensations and ideas. Sensations had four attributes: intensity, quality, duration, and extent.
[W]hen we are trying to understand the mental processes of a child or a dog or an insect as shown by conduct and action, the outward signs of mental processes,… we must always all back upon experimental introspection… we cannot imagine processes in another mind that we do not find in our own. Experimental introspection is this out one reliable method of knowing ourselves; it is the sole gateway to psychology.
Psychology is a very old science; we have a complete treatise from the hand of Aristotle (384-322 B.C.). But the experimental method has only recently been adopted by psychologists.
The rules for introspection are of two kinds: general and special…. Suppose, e.g., that you were trying to find out how small a difference you could distinguish in the smell of beeswax; that is how much greater the surface of the stimulus must be made if the sensation of smell is to become noticeably stronger. It would be a special rule that you should work only on dry days; for beeswax smells much stronger in wet than in fine weather…. The general rule of experimental introspection are as follows: (1) Be impartial… (2) Be attentive… (3) Be comfortable… (4) Be perfectly fresh.
By Erich Heckel
Looking at the broad, simple brush strokes, one may easily not see much in such a piece. However, does that guy know that there is a Sasquatch to his right! It could just be a few unskilled brush strokes, but this is the problem we encounter when we try to reduce art, for beauty as it is, is non-reducible.
Edward Tolman (1886-1961)
With a Gestalt perspective, Tolman’s studies focused primarily on cognitive problem solving. For example, he would have students wheel barrel rats down a hallway over and over again. Then he would put the rats in a maze that was a replica, and watch them go through it. They were able to go through the maze easier after having been wheeled though the hallways. A “cognitive map” is a mental or cognitive representation of the world. Using these maps, through motivation and repetition, rats were able to find creative solutions to their goals.
“Cognitive maps in rats and man.” 1948, Psychological Review
The stimuli which are allowed in are not connected by just simple one-to-one switches to the outgoing responses. Rather the incoming impulses are usually worked over and elaborated in the central control room into a tentative cognitive-like map of the environment. And it is this tentative map, indicating routes and paths and environmental relationships, which finally determines what responses, if any, the animal will finally make
By Edward Hopper
What brings these nighthawks together at such a late hour? Maybe, like a cognitive map, it’s not always repetition that brings a people together, but also some sort of motivation, such as the enjoyment of each other’s company. They seem to be enjoying each other’s company, especially the café romantics touching fingers…
Karl Lashley (1890-1958)
An American psychologist, Lashely, like Tolman worked on learning and problem-solving.  Trying to find where memory is in the rat’s engram (brain), he soon quit and decided that memories were widely distributed in the cerebral cortex.
“In Search of the Engram” 1960. Society of Experimental Biology Symposium.
2. It is not possible to demonstrate the isolated localization of a memory trace anywhere within the nervous system. Limited regions may be essential for learning or retention of a particular activity, but within such regions the parts are functionally equivalent. The engram is represented through the region.
4. The trace of any activity is not an isolated connexion between sensory and motor elements. It is tied in with the whole complex of spatial and temporal axes of nervous activity which forms a constant substratum of behavior. Each association is oriented with respect fo space and time. Only by long practice under varying conditions does it become generalized or dissociated from these specific coordinates.
By Everett Shinn
Fifth Avenue
With the industrial revolution in full swing, we see busy streets, tall buildings and people walking to their destinations. No where do we see a tree or any other sign of life except for the human beings, well dressed.  There is much mystery going on here, coupled with amazing reflections. Imagine if we could photo copy our memories; what would they look like in detail?
Jean Piaget (1896-1974)
Piaget studied how children learn and develop over time. His theory of cognitive development, in conjunction with epistemological ideas, are labeled together as “genetic epistemology”. His developmental psychology deals with “schemas”, which are elemental building blocks of larger more complex ideas. The four stages are as followed: sensory-motor stage, pre-operational stage, the concrete operational stage, and the formal operational stage. Each stage brings the child to a mental awareness of conceptual and perceptual investigations.One of Piaget’s examples is done with the conservation law. With two beakers, a fat short one and a long tall one, Piaget would proceed to test children at different stages. Early on, a child might be dependent on perception as to think, when the water is poured from the tall to the short beaker, that there is significantly less water in the short’Genetic Epistemology’, Columbia Forum
The fundamental hypothesis of genetic epistemology is that there is a parallelism between the progress made in the logical and rational organization of knowledge and the corresponding formative psychological processes. With that hypothesis, the most fruitful, most obvious field of study would be the reconstituting of human history—the history of human thinking in prehistoric man. Unfortunately, we are not very well informed in the psychology of primitive man, but there are children all around us, and it is in studying children that we have the best chance of studying the development of logical knowledge, physical knowledge, and so forth.

New Directions in Curriculum Studies
The principal goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done—men who are creative, inventive, and discovers. The second goal of education is to form minds which can be critical, can verify, and not accept everything they are offered.
By Duchamp
The Fountain
Is this even art? Is it a fountain? Is it a urinal? How do we measure what a thing is? So many questions arise when we look at something so absurd. However, clearly, a window is not a window anymore when one starts to use it as a door. Perhaps a dog might see this as a fountain, and as we pollute our waters we might as well be drinking out of these—just make sure you flush first. What makes this art though? Perhaps it the free play of ideas that flow into our active minds as we ponder such a sight.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s