[Solution]‘Why do ontology & epistemology matter in psychology?

As you all know from attending the lectures, this module has focussed on ‘ontology’ and ‘epistemology’ a great deal. Ontology refers to ‘the nature of…

As you all know from attending the lectures, this module has focussed on ‘ontology’ and ‘epistemology’ a great deal. Ontology refers to ‘the nature of a thing’ e.g. what is the nature of a mind, what is the nature of a bicycle, of a clinical disorder etc.? Ontology is very closely related to the issue of epistemology – ‘how is it possible to know/engage with/study this thing’. Taken together we can examine questions such as ‘given the nature of the mind, how can study/know/measure it’, or ‘given the nature of schizophrenia can we ever claim that diagnostic categories really exist’?

The ways in which ontology and epistemology (O&E) are crucial in psychology, and have shaped the discipline, have been discussed widely in this module. So far:

Wundt and Freud’s contrasting ontologies of the mind and how the resulting epistemic stances led to very contrasting methodologies.

Likewise with the Behaviourists and the cognitive scientists of the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

Science. We are all familiar with this term but what does it really mean when we talk about something being ‘scientific’? In this session I will focus on the ontology of science. Bound up with this is the epistemic issue of ‘how is it possible to ‘know’ things’. I will also examine how the autism spectrum might be giving rise to ontologically inappropriate epistemic stances.

I’ve gone through this list to highlight the fact that issues concerning O&E are everywhere in this module and, I think, within psychology. Hopefully this will help as a starting point with this coursework.

One final clarification – where the question refers to “at least two of the topics/lectures” it means that you need to include material from at least two different weeks. In other words, drawing on Wundt and Freud as your two topics would NOT be answering the question.

In this coursework the ‘introduction’ will be crucial and you must all do two things:

Explicitly engage with the question. In other words, clarify how you are interpreting the question and what your essay will argue (without giving away your conclusions).Clearly state the two (or more) areas / topics that your essay will focus on.
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