MODERNISM, POSTMODERNISM IN WESTERN PSYCHOLOGY AND BEYOND
2004, 36 (02):
This paper considered confrontations and conflicts between modernism and postmodernism in western psychology, describing the characteristics of modernist psychology and postmodern psychology, and searching the way to be beyond them. Almost all the schools of psychology, appearing after the establishment of Wundt” experimental psychology, except postmodern psychology, are belonged to modernism, including not only mainstream psychology, but also humanist approach in psychology. The characteristics of modernism in psychology are those: (1) it pays exclusively attention to the value of science and believes that we can uncover the objective truth about human psychology and behavior by scientific methods; (2) it accepts empiricism as its epistemological foundation and emphasizes observation and experimentation in psychological investigation; (3) it puts the individual in the center of its attention, and individual mind becomes the subject matter of psychology. In contrast, the postmodern approach in psychology demonstrates its characteristics as following: (1) postmodern approach deconstructs the modernist psychology by criticizing its foundationalism, essentialism and dualism, and shows itself as anti-realism and anti-scientism. (2) it takes social constructionism as its epistemological foundation, and explains knowledge, truth and meaning as a product of a social construction. (3) modernist psychology has typically regarded language as the passive vehicle for our thought and emotions, but from the point of view of postmodernism, language is more than simply a way of expressing ourselves. In addition, postmodern approach claims three other kinds of shift in the practices of psychology, that is, the shift from individual to relationships, from an objective world to a world of social construction, and from empiricist methodology to discourse analysis. In author’s opinion, although there are sharp differences between the two approaches, there are still some common places between them on which we may integrate them and beyond their opposites. We may take the scientific realism as the epistemological foundation for the integration. For the purpose of the integration, the attitude of the openness, co-operation and tolerance are needed.
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