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Francis bacon's behavioral psychology

Macdonald, P.S. (2007) Francis bacon's behavioral psychology. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 43 (3). pp. 285-303.

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Francis Bacon offers two accounts of the nature and function of the human mind: one is a medical-physical account of the composition and operation of spirits specific to human beings, the other is a behavioral account of the character and activities of individual persons. The medical-physical account is a run-of-the-mill version of the late Renaissance model of elemental constituents and humoral temperaments. The other, less well-known, behavioral account represents an unusual position in early modern philosophy. This theory espouses a form of behavioral psychology according to which (a) supposed mental properties are "hidden forms" best described in dispositional terms, (b) the true character of an individual can be discovered in his observable behavior, and (c) an "informed" understanding of these properties permits the prediction and control of human behavior. Both of Bacon's theories of human nature fall under his general notion of systematic science: his medical-physical theory of vital spirits is theoretical natural philosophy and his behavioral theory of disposition and expression is operative natural philosophy. Because natural philosophy as a whole is "the inquiry of causes and the production of effects," knowledge of human nature falls under the same two-part definition. It is an inquisition of forms that pertains to the patterns of minute motions in the vital spirits and the production of effects that pertains both to the way these hidden motions produce behavioral effects and to the way in which a skillful agent is able to produce desired effects in other persons' behavior.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Publisher: John Wiley and Sons Inc
Copyright: © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc
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