A Relational and Embodied Perspective
on Resolving Psychology's Antinomies
Willis F. Overton
Throughout their histories, general psychology and developmental psychology have been captives of numerous fundamental antinomies. These have included mind-body, nature-nurture, biology-culture, intrapsychic-interpersonal, structure-function, stability-change, continuity-discontinuity, observation-reason, universal-particular, matter-ideas, unity-diversity, and individual-society. Operating from the base of a 19th-century empiricism and an early 20th-century neopositivism, the standard approach to resolving these and others has been to privilege the significance of one member of the antinomy pair and deny or marginalize the other. Jean Piaget's work stands virtually alone in the field of psychology in offering a systematic contemporary resolution to antinomies based on the recognition that seemingly contradictory pairs may be more profitably understood as co-equal and indissociable complementarities rather than exclusive alternatives. However, in the vast majority of Piaget's writings, the details of this resolution are embedded in his empirical, methodological, and theoretical concerns about the specific nature of knowing and development. The ultimate effect of this embeddedness has been that Piaget is often read in the context of the standard resolution rather than the co-equal complementarity resolution. This reading, in turn, has generated serious misunderstandings (see Lourenco & Machado, 1996) about Piaget's theory and empirical findings concerning the nature and development of mind, and human functioning generally.