The Effort After Value and Meaning
The previous six chapters offer a perspective on behavior that is both novel and challenging. Taken together, they constitute nothing less than a can for a new psychology-- one that begins in a different way and that uses different concepts from all previous psychologies.
This is a tall order. Such a radical rethinking of the function and mechanisms of behavior will probably seem unnecessary to most behavioral scientists. Yet if my arguments are even partly correct, little less than such a radical alteration of psychology will suffice to bring our thinking into line with a truly Darwinian view of the evolutionary ecology of animals.
The purpose of the present chapter is to take stock. What are the main themes of this perhaps grandiose new psychology? Both those who have some sympathy with the above arguments and those who were not at all swayed by them have a right to see where this is all heading. What kind of psychology is this ecological approach going to give us? It is all very interesting to hear about habitats, affordances, and selective processes in the nervous system, but is there any psychology in all this?
I argue that the ecological psychology outlined here is full of implications for psychological theorizing. What is most radical of all in this ecological approach is its refusal to tear animals into physical mechanism and psychological states. All previous psychologies have done this (or, worse, simply focused on one or the other), and it has proved to be intellectually disastrous. To the extent that our psychologies ever deal with important issues of value or meaning, they are nonnaturalistic or even downright nonscientific. Conversely, to the extent that they have been scientific, our psychologies have had little or nothing to say about meaningful aspects of life.
The rationale for offering such a radically different kind of psychology is to make good on what should be psychology's contribution to civilization. I believe that ecological psychology can be both scientific and meaningful, that it can offer tough-minded naturalistic analyses of behavior without losing sight of the need to understand the meaning of experience. Insights about and analyses of the behavior of worms need to be developed with the same methods and concepts used to understand human beings-- without attempting to reduce humans to worms, or turn worms into miniature cylindrical human beings. People are animals evolved on our planet, just like all other animals. We are unique in that we have our own distinctive way of life--our own