How Has Psychology Evolved From A Philosophical Study Science And What Have Been Its Most Significant Developments?

How Psychology Evolved From A Philosophical Study Science

Prior to the 18th and 19th centuries, it was almost impossible to distinguish a philosopher from a scientist. Through science, the theories of philosophy could be empirically tested while the philosophy played a role in formulating the methods and formulas used in science. It is through philosophy that science is able to distinguish what it can test from what it cannot test. Science and its experiments thus could not exist without philosophy (Crawford and Krebs, 2013).

Psychology deals with the study of the brain, mind and behavior. The evolution accorded it independence in the 19th century when it was established that the mind and the associated products such as behavior could be studied and observations from experiments adduced to support or refute a given theory or law on human psychology. Further, development of brain sciences has given more light to the discipline as trends in behavior and brain functioning can be empirically established.

The evolution of the philosophy of science is closely associated with the ancient Greece. The comparison between the teachings of Plato and Aristotle marked the beginning of the evolution. Plato believed that human beings were born with an innate knowledge of everything and through their development stages they only unlocked these memories. He believed that empirical knowledge was a fallacy. Aristotle on the other hand saw that Plato’s approach was totally wrong. He believed that human beings gained knowledge by comparing what they experienced with what had already been ascertained empirically. These contrasting between the great philosophers marked the beginning of the evolution of philosophy (Crawford and Krebs, 2013).

In the 19th century, philosophers became convinced of the need for science to be empirical with observations and deductions being made. This move majorly affected the teachings of philosophy that had religious inclination as various grounds such as existence of god were brought into question. Science needed proof other than the normal believes to ascertain this assertion and as such met great resistance form the religious philosophers.

Karl Popper highlighted the philosophy of science by asserting that theories or laws about various phenomena should first be established then an experiment conducted upon which conclusions are made. Darwin’s theory of evolution is a clear example of the process meeting the threshold of this development. He first set up a theory then conducted experiments and collected data to ascertain the same or even refute some of his theories (Reichenbach, 1973).

Psychoanalysis presents a clear picture of the evolution. This entails the explanation and understanding of an act after it has been committed. Unlike predicting such an act, analyzing it after being committed is carried out when there is enough data to be collected form the same and prove a given theory or even probably refute the same. Psychoanalysis is capable of being narrowed down to testable hypothesis that can be scientifically tested (Smart, 2014).

The development of cognitive psychology further illustrates the role of science in psychology and by extension the evolution. Behaviors are observed and ascertained through scientific experiments that are based on hypothesis that are either confirmed or refuted. This module of understanding psychology science is prone to challenges of inconsistencies such as that of the environment, mental and biological influences but the fact that there exists an empirical support to the perceived theory is an indication of how philosophy has evolved from just mere opinions to assertions that are backed up with facts (Sternberg and Sternberg, 2016).

Psychology has evolved from being philosophical to be a science discipline on its own. The Greek philosophers are credited for kick starting the evolution of psychology. The function of the brain and mind which result in different behaviors can now be empirically ascertained.


Crawford, C., & Krebs, D. L. (Eds.). (2013). Handbook of evolutionary psychology: Ideas, issues, and applications. Psychology Press.

Reichenbach, H. (1973). The rise of scientific philosophy. Univ of California Press.

Smart, J. J. C. (2014). Philosophy and scientific realism. Routledge.

Sternberg, R. J., & Sternberg, K. (2016). Cognitive psychology. Nelson Education.

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