History of Psychology Essay

Psychology became more popular within the past century and is a fairly new revelation. It is recognized as a science. It was pointed out by Ebbinghaus that psychologists have to recognize their deep roots in philosophy; psychology’s history cannot be understood adequately without knowing something of philosophy’s history (Goodwin, p. 2, 2008). “Descartes’ time, the early seventeenth century, is known as an era of revolutionary developments in science” (Goodwin, p. 5, 2008). Modern Western philosophers such as John Locke and John Mill were impacted by the writings and philosophies.

Psychology, at this point, became the science it is now recognized as. The seventeenth century is the foundation when philosophy grew into psychology. Descartes (1686-1650) was credited to be the inspiration and father of modern philosophy, and psychology. He is most famously known and quoted for “I think, therefore I am” (Descartes, 2006). He believed that the only way to find truth is through the human’s ability to reason. Descartes refused to accept anything to be truth unless there was otherwise no reason for doubt.

The only way to get to the certainty of truth is to arrive at oneself, relying on the clear use of one’s own reasoning powers” (Goodwin, 2008, p. 33). Due to his passion with the philosophy he was taught, Descartes found that nothing would be left to question in what he has learned. He was said to only believe as truth what could not be doubted and Descartes pursued to find the knowledge he could find within himself (Goodwin, 2008). Descartes was a dualist and a rationalist. He was a firm believer in that the mind and the body were two completely separate machines.

His beliefs on this matter have been and are still debatable in philosophy and psychology. To this day, philosophers and psychologists are still trying to find the connection between the mind and the body. John Locke was a seventeenth century, British philosopher. He is credited with being the founder of Empiricism, the idea that our experiences are our only true source of knowledge. His view on the formation of ideas was that reflection and sensation is the one and only foundation on which we form ideas.

Locke believed that we acquired all of our knowledge from our experiences in life and the world. He also compared the human mind to a sheet of white paper. On this sheet of white paper, all of our life experiences and sensations are recorded. These sensations may be recalled later, in reflection, to add to new sensations and to acquire new compounded knowledge. John Mill is looked as and considered to be the most important contributor during the British Empirical movement. His contribution stated that all knowledge is attained through experiences and inborn ideas to not exist.

He also believed that a man should be able to do anything desired as long as his actions do not harm or hurt fellow man in the process. This affected his views on the necessity of government. “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community against his will is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant” (Mill, 2008). He found the government to be only necessary for the protection of the people in defense of a war, safety against violence, and to prevent fraud and/or cheating.

The evolution of philosophy into the science of psychology took shape in the 19th century. The world was rapidly changing as well; the Industrial Revolution created new technologies to assist in the advancement of many facets of science. Moving forward into the next century, advances in the knowledge in anatomy and the brain further assisted in the progress of psychology being a science. Robert Watson was also crucial in the study of the history of psychology.

Founding a new division of the American Psychological Association, he ncourages a study of the history of psychology. As a result, nearly all psychology programs today require a course in psychology’s history (Goodwin, 2008). Psychology, as the science we recognize today, is just more than a century in the making. Much is to be learned when following the links to the past and the minds that have gotten use to where we are in psychology today. Psychology is a long-standing and diverse study ranging from modern medicine and science all the way back to ancient philosophers.


Goodwin, C.J. (2008). A History of Modern Psychology (3rd ed.). Retrieved from https://portal.phoenix.edu/classroom/coursematerials/psy_310/20130225/OSIRIS:424533 49.

Descartes, Rene (2006). A discourse on method/ by Rene Descartes [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com Mill, John S. (2008). On liberty/by John Stuart Mill [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com