Twentieth Century Psychology: Recent Developments in Psychology

By Philip Lawrence Harriman | Go to book overview

TOWARD A PRACTICAL CONCEPT OF NEUROSIS

KNIGHT DUNLAP

University of California

One of the curses of psychology for more than 2,000 years has been the confusion of meanings of important terms. Terms with sliding meanings, such as: "unconscious," "sex," "personality," and "intelligence" have misled many laymen and pseudo- psychologists, and not a few psychologists. Terms which mean one thing at one moment and something else at another moment promote the concoction of theories of less ambiguity. These sliding terms, moreover, have been extremely helpful in the building up of rackets for the fleecing of the ovine public.1

Some of the terms which are widely used by psychologists and pseudo-psychologists have never had any definite meanings. One of these is the term "emotion." Certain other terms have had relatively precise meanings in the vernacular, if not in the dictionaries, but are becoming completely demoralized through the attacks of psychologists and others. "Motivation" appears to be one of these prostitute terms.

Behind this chaos of meanings, which is, in part, responsi-

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1
Rackets based on personality tests, vocational tests, and mental hygiene, which have given these names the characteristic ascribed by Heraclitus to ghosts in the underworld, are, like the psychoanalysis racket, based largely on the ambiguity of terms. Although intelligence testing has its honest aspects, it is no secret that the huge profits extracted from the sale of copy-righted tests has led to extensive racketeering. The most entertaining of the rackets, however, is based on the fact that the ambiguity of terms is a serious evil, together with the desuetude of formal logic. This racket is "General Semantics", which offers cures for everything from falling arches to war, without making any demands on the mental abilities of its clientele.

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