Life-Span Developmental Psychology: Methodological Contributions

By Stanley H. Cohen; Hayne W. Reese | Go to book overview

tional models at work in psychology accept these pragmatic criteria and yet are different as models. Perhaps the issue here is only a "semantic" one and we are using "model" in related, but different senses. If so, then it is reminiscent of the early debates over Kuhn's term of art, "paradigm" (see the Postscript to 1970). Perhaps we only need Reese and Overton's own distinction between levels of models, in which higher ones determine lower ones: In developmental psychology, then, perhaps there is some very general model directing researchers to look for predictable and controllable theories about human psychological development; within this broader directive, then, two camps have gathered, focusing on two different forms of causation. If this is so, then I return again to my earlier question of whether a different model still is needed to capture our teleological-men­ talistic vocabulary, especially if this involves notions of human freedom. Finally, even if a different model is needed, depending on how human freedom is accounted for, it may be a general model where theoretical success is not a pragmatic matter of gaining better prediction and control.


CONCLUSION

We began this chapter considering Reese and Overton's thesis that no "common language" or shared "model" can exist for research in psychology (e.g., between behaviorists and cognitive psychologists). In the first group of questions, we explored the "incompatibility" of mechanistic and teleological explanations, noting in passing various forms of teleological explanation and description, the possibility of social causes, and the tricky philosophical issue of reducing the latter sorts of explanation to (even "eliminating" in favor of) material-mechanistic explanations. In the second group of questions, we "explored the implications of Reese and Overton's pragmatic "model"-metascience in light of recent debates about Scientific Realism and cognitive relativism. As we saw, at stake in both sets of questions is nothing less than the question of what it means to say we can know what sort of a creature we are. Thus, while we surely have not resolved the issue of a common language for research in psychology, at the very least we have become clearer about the underlying philosophical puzzles behind this debate.


REFERENCES

Bennett J. ( 1976). Linguistic behavior. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Block N. (Ed.). ( 1980/ 1981). Readings in the philosophy of psychology (Vols. I and 2). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Cohen D. ( 1983). Piaget: Critique and reassessment. New York: St. Martin's Press.

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