Modern history is generally said to have begun with the Renaissance, a period roughly defined by the end of the Middle Ages,. when new social orders, new learning, and modern science and technology emerged. The Reformation, which followed shortly, dramatically highlights man's attempt to act as his own agent and to engage in independent thought. These two movements were the roots of science and a changed philosophical outlook which, in turn, gave rise to the new psychology.


1. How were Erasmus and Luther symbols of the new age?
2. How did the distinction between primary and secondary qualities influence the development of psychology?
3. What was Bacon's conception of science?
4. How are empiricism and inductive methods related?

In this and subsequent units we turn to the more recent years in the development of psychology -- the years which precede the contemporary history of our subject matter. There are but four major centuries requiring our attention -- the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th. The seventeenth is the first great century of modern philosophy and science. The first modern scientific methods were devised during those years and the major principles in mathematics, physics, and physiology were established. The eighteenth century was a time for digestion and for discovery of applications for the prodigious and amazing scientific developments of the seventeenth century. During the nineteenth century there is an upsurge of scientific advances again, primarily in the fields of chemistry and physiology. The twentieth century, however, appears as another period of integration and application.

Although in this unit we primarily examine these first two centuries, the seventeenth and eighteenth, let us look first at the sixteenth century and the Renaissance and Reformation, the years immediately preceding. Let us turn to the Renaissance and to the sixteenth century, periods which heralded those spectacular seventeenth century developments in science and philosophy. There was, prior to the seventeenth century, a period of preparation for what became a new humanism emerging out of the sixteenth century. The sixteenth century belonged to Spain and to Charles V during the first half, and to Philip II during the second half of the century. The Spanish Netherlands in northern Europe was a gem in the Spanish crown. Germany, as well as much of Europe, was disrupted and troubled by the Protestant Reformation. Across the Channel, in England, the entire century was dominated by the Tudors -- Henry VII, Henry VIII, and then the amazing Queen Elizabeth.


The period immediately prior to the seventeenth century might be called a "search for consciousness." Man sought, for the first time, his own identity and an understanding of his uniqueness. He also sought the reasons for why he understands. In the sixteenth century, this self conscious activity was centered in two men -- Luther and Erasmus. Luther was "tough minded," a man of action, courageous, disciplined, vigorous, and popular. Erasmus, on the other hand, was "tender minded," a man of thought, compromising, sensitive, academic, and classical (Durant, 1957, p. 428). Luther spoke to the masses; Erasmus spoke to the intelligentsia. The establishment heard both. Erasmus became a signal to a new age and a beacon to those changes occurring in European soil. Those changes created in the populace doubts about the increased powers and unexcelled prestige of the church of Rome. These powers were reaping unfair political and economic advantages and both Luther and Erasmus, like the Watergate Committee, called attention to the resulting public injustices.

Erasmus, upon the death of his parents, went into a monastery of the Augustinian order. He tolerated this life mostly because the libraries were excellent. But he was restless. He traveled to Paris, Britain, Utrecht, and Rome and in each place he ingratiated himself to the local leaders. After returning to England as a court scholar to Henry VIII, he published in 1509 his most famous work, The Praise of Folly. This is a satirical volume which asserts that man survives because of his folly, not in spite of it. While it is sheer folly to sell one's sexual freedom for a life of monogamy, it does save the human race.

In 1514, Erasmus anonymously published his Julius Exclusus. This is a stinging satire of Pope Julius II, featured as a pompous and conceited man who condemns Peter for challenging his entrance to the gates of heaven (Durant, 1957). The published attacks on church father and established customs did not win for Erasmus affection from all quarters. But he was as discrete as he was sensitive; he did not publish for the general public. There was little danger that his works would threaten a mass revolt. He admired the arts; and reason was the way to the arts and sciences. This was a subtle approach to a reformation. Erasmus hope for a more enlightened age, soon fulfilled by Leo X, a descendent of the Medici family who was elevated to the papacy and seemed ready to reinstate a period of classical culture. Such a transformation within the establishment was warmly endorsed by the sensitive Augustine monk.

Luther, however, was more direct. As a man of the soil, he spoke to the populace in their own tongue. He was pompous, unbending, and serious, and he approached the problems of the present from the stance of the middle ages. He stood on the authority of the Bible, in spite of the gradually diminishing intellectual and scholarly support for that document.

The reformation, Durant (1957, p. 425) suggests, became a threat to the new humanism. It favored the supernatural and irrational, whereas humanism sought a return to classical culture within the Catholic Church. The contrast between the tough and the tender-minded emerges early and clearly. The reformers blamed Erasmus for igniting the fuse and then bowing out. The humanists, on the other hand, thought the reformers were really not so tolerant after all. Erasmus escaped to Basel and enjoyed an idyllic existence in the company of Holbein and others. The world does not always await the man of reason. In twentieth century American psychology there have been similar parallels. Titchener was brushed aside when functionalism crowded in upon the scene. And McDougall was forced to relinquish his stage to the more popular Watson. Modern learning theory in the second half of the twentieth century has winced at the contemporary lure of the more dramatic fields of sensitivity training and biofeedback studies.

As Durant says:
Luther had to be; but when his work was done, and passion cooled, men would try again to catch the spirit of Erasmus and the Renaissance, and renew in patience and mutual tolerance the long slow labor of enlightenment (Durant, 1957, p. 437).


Before proceeding to the seventeenth century, two other persons of this period should be mentioned. They were the physicist astronomer Galileo Galilei, and the chemist, Francis Bacon. Galileo, born in 1564, lived during the end of the sixteenth century and beginning of the seventeenth century. He was, therefore, both a Renaissance and a seventeenth century man. He was trained in Aristotelian philosophy, whose concepts he later disproved. Known for developing the telescope and the microscope, though to whom credit belongs for the invention of these two instruments is not clear, Galileo made them generally accessible to the scientific world. In 1591, he conducted experiments from the learning tower at Pisa to demonstrate that the rate at which objects fall is not a function of their weight. Heavy balls do not fall faster than do light feathers. The rate of fall was a function of the time involved, not the amount of mass. Therefore, objects dropped from tall buildings will fall faster than objects dropped from short buildings; the higher the building, the faster the fall. But the most dramatic aspect of Galileo's work was his attack upon the "unchanging" heavens of Aristotle. This was accomplished when he discovered that 1) a new star in a constellation was beyond the planets; and 2) Venus had phases, a fact which thus affirmed Copernicus' claim that planets circle the sun.

Of particular interest to psychologists, however, is Galileo's theory of the characteristics of matter. He proposed that every object possessed two kinds of qualities -- primary qualities, which existed independent of the senses, and secondary qualities, which were "mere words,"dependent on the minds and senses of persons. The first group of qualities, the primary qualities, were four: size, shape, quantity, and motion. These were essentially the same qualities suggested by Epicurus. These primary qualities were independent of each other, though not entirely unrelated, for the larger an object the greater its quantity; size can vary independently while quantity remains constant. For example, take a feather pillow and fluff it up to a good sized object. Then double the pillow over several times and observe that the size is reduced considerably. Although the quantity or mass of feathers in both cases remains the same, size and shape may change or the form can vary. Take a pound of butter and melt it; the form (size and shape) change considerably. The butter, however, has not evaporated;it has merely changed form while the quantity remained the same. This change of form is intrinsic to Piaget who, investigating the thought processes of children, has explored this mental capacity to manipulate primary qualities.

The secondary qualities, on the other hand, are those qualities coded by a person's senses. These qualities are: color, smell, taste, and sound. The qualities do not reside in someone's mind but they depend upon some mind for meaning. This problem eventually became resolved in the eighteenth century with the subjective idealism of Bishop Berkeley.

This differentiation between primary and secondary qualities led to a division within the sciences between physics on the one side and psychology on the other. Physics was to study primary qualities, those which resided in objects and were independent of sensation. Psychology was to study the secondary qualities, those which varied with changes in light, or space, or a person's perception. This differentiation between body and soul furthered the dualism originally begun in Judaic Christian philosophy. After Galileo, this distinction between primary and secondary qualities again appeared in Newton's theory of color. Newton said color occurs because powers within an object have the capacity to incite neural changes in the brain (Kantor, 1970). Locke used this same assumption as the basis for his empirical philosophy. In the nineteenth century, the English philosopher William Hartley elaborated on this theory in his principles of association. The larger physical vibrations of sensation initiated smaller nervous system vibrations corresponding to the mental activities of thought and memory. The behaviorists in the twentieth century, continuing this same tradition, formulated a model where external physical "stimuli" set up internal sensations or perceptions which caused observable behavior.


Philosophy reached a turning point in the writings of Francis Bacon and the work of Galileo and other empirical scientists in the sixteenth century. Bacon, in a characteristically modern ring, spelled out the first clearly detailed criteria for an objective science. His Novum Organum identifies the logical fallacies or errors of judgment found in the human mind (Bacon, 1902).

The logical fallacies were four -- the idols of the tribe, the cave, the market, and the theatre. The idol of the tribe is the supposition, inherent in the human race, that man is the measure of all things; one generalized, therefore, from his own errors to that which is observed. The idol of the cave is the effect of the individual, one's bodily or mental state,even one's education, on one's perception. All conclusions, therefore, must be held suspect. This recognition of individual differences and observer biases was not explicated again until the nineteenth century when Thomas Brown proposed it as a principle of secondary association. The idol of the market is the way in which commerce with other persons influences how mere words cloud our thinking and observation. The idols of the theatre are the fallacies produced by the philosophical systems which bind us (Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed.).

In contrast to Descartes, Bacon was a staunch empiricist (Bacon, 1902, pp. 20-22). Where Descartes started from certain generalizations and abstract reactions, Bacon began from observations. He advocated the collection of large masses of data which would then permit one, computer-like, to sift through and find the patterns. Such was an inductive approach to science -- one starts from the particulars, gathers data from large samples and observes the emerging patterns, as a boy who collects hundreds of butterflies and sorts them out according to patterns. But Bacon also suggested that experimentation could be used in these cases where particulars might suggest "if. . . then" generalizations which served as hypotheses. From these hypotheses, axioms could be deduced, which could be tested out to confirm the deductions. The Baconian doctrine was, as aptly phrased by Whitehead (1933 "Observe and observe, until finally you detect a regularity of sequence (p. 121)."

Bacon's work was right for the times. There was a growing tendency to negate Aristotle, a philosopher who was too closely identified with church authorities and about whom confidence was gradually eroding. The literary (Italian) scholars, tired of the constant references to Aristotle, were eager to try new ideas. The new method of science was part of the climate of the times. Bacon was sent to France at the age of 16, where he must have heard the opinions of Ramus and the accompanying revolt which was emerging against Aristotle. Others, like Coseza the novelist, were freely criticizing Aristotle (Fowler, 1889, p. 83).

Bacon's psychology included a rational and an irrational soul and was similar to the dualistic system of Plato. The rational side, from God, went by the term "spirit" (Fowler, 1889, p. 17). Consistent with this categorical type of thinking, Bacon helped to advance a faculty psychology. Characteristic, though, of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, he distinguished clearly between the various faculties of the mind. The faculties were memory, imagination, and reason; the corresponding divisions were history, poetry,and philosophy (Fowler, 1889, p. 18). But this dualistic, mentalistic, faculty psychology was clearly less important than his suggestion that science and knowledge should be objective, empirical, and based upon sense data.



Check those answers which are correct (one or more) or fill in the blank spaces.

1. The century identified as the beginning of modern science was the:
a. 16th
b. 17th
c. 18th
d. 19th

2. Erasmus' satire:

a. Ushered in a new humanism
b. Attacked the excesses of the pope
c. Were one of the causes of the reformation

3. Two examples of primary qualities are:

a. __________________________.
b. __________________________.

4. Empirical science emerged from philosophy with the work of which man?

a. Erasmus
b. Galileo
c. Bacon
d. Brown

5. The idol of the cave referred to the way in which our perceptions or conclusions are biased

a. Our race
b. Personal experiences
c. Influences of others
d. Our philosophical

6. Bacon was primarily important to psychology because of his emphasis on:

a. inductive methods
b. deductive methods
c. an empirical approach to science
d. the four idols

7. Bacon was really the first modern philosopher of science because he maintained that knowledge should be based upon:

a. sense data
b. objective information
c. empirical methods
d. deductive methods

7 or more correct GO TO MODULE 2.
Less than 7 - Complete Exercise on next page

Check your ANSWERS



1. The four major modern centuries during which the development of psychology takes place were:

a. __________
b. __________
c. __________
d. __________

2. If one wished to gain a better understanding of the major scientific discoveries, he would look to which centuries?

The __________ century and the __________ century.

3. The man who was most responsible for the reformation was

4. Galileo is noted for discovering:

a. The telescope
b. Circulation of the blood
c. Path of the earth around the sun
d. Rate of fall of falling objects

5. In understanding the history of psychology, the distinction made between primary and secondary qualities is important because ______________________________.

6. The four idols outlined by Bacon are logical fallacies which may interfere with objectivity in ____________________.

7. The gathering of a large mass of data for the purpose of discovering a general pattern is an example of the ____________________ method in science.


4. A,D 5. It separated psychology from physical sciences just as the soul is separate from the body. 3. Luther 2. 17th, 19th 7. Inductive 1. 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th 6. Science NOW TAKE PROGRESS CHECK 2



1. The two leaders of the sixteenth century were:

a. Erasmus
b. Julius 11
c. Leo
d. Luther

2. Besides Erasmus and Luther, two other eminents of the sixteenth century were the scientists:

a. Newton
b. Copernicus
c. Galileo
d. Bacon

3. Secondary qualities are those which depend upon which of the following?

a. Senses
b. Size
c. Motion
d. Mass

4. The approach to knowledge advocated by Bacon was:

a. Inductive
b. Deductive
c. Hypothetical-deductive
d. Speculative

5. Which theory did Francis Bacon attempt to replace in his "Novum Organum"? _______________________________________.

6. Inductive methods form the basis of science because they:

a. involve reasoning from the general to the specific
b. begin with sense observations
c. are based upon empirical data
d. result in generalizations

7. Most psychologists start with observations of animals, children, clients, etc. and then form generalizations or principles which help to explain the phenomena they are observing. This process is:

a. inductive
b. deductive
c. is based on Descartes rather than Bacon
d. empirical rather than philosophical

Check your ANSWERS

6 or more correct GO TO MODULE 2.

Less than 6 - Instructor conference Return to table of contents for Unit 3