Chomsky’s quote

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However, these do not adhere fully to the empirical method relevant to scientific psychology; they may be deemed as pseudo-scientific, therefore not applicable to the argument. The core error of observation, the limited perception, does not impair novels portrayal of human personality, while scientific psychology is hampered by the strict research methods and the influence of current paradigm which makes it unable to explain knowledge of personality as broadly as novels. Even though the subjectivity of novels does not impair the clarity of how you learn about personality from it, it suffers from the problem of induction.

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The knowledge gained about the characters in a novel can be considered Zack Lindahl, 1291-037 flawed as the knowledge gained about the characters may not be applicable to the human race as a whole. Knowledge about the main character Halim in Ett i?? ga Ri?? tt does not automatically make you gain knowledge of Arabian immigrants in Stockholm as a whole. However, even though there is a problem when extending the knowledge gained from novels, one can gain the notion of culture through it.

My teacher in Swedish during my 9th year of schooling said that “behind every book is a man, behind the man is a culture, and behind the culture are the natural and social environments whose influence is unconsciously reflected in the work” and I too think that this is visible in most novels. So, by reading novels you can gain knowledge of factors that contribute to the behaviour of people in the author’s milieu. Specifically, my teacher wanted to explain the racist sentiments in Daniel Defoe’s The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe.

Inductive reasoning can then work, but only if looking on value judgements of novels that are of the same time period, but even then there can be large differences. However, the difference in value judgement can be counted towards knowledge of “human personality” and therefore contribute. Psychological surveys are more efficient when examining humanity as a whole. The objective aim and the large amount of surveys handed out can fulfil some parts of the holistic nature of knowledge of personality which is implied in Chomsky’s quote, but only then if the questions in the survey are numerous and possible answers extensive.

The main weakness of this research method is that it is impossible to gain knowledge of past civilizations as scientific psychology is relatively modern compared to fictional literature. Even though being somewhat crippled by being centralised around value judgements, novels can give a broader view of the long-time change of human behaviour whereas surveys can do so more accurately without being limited to value judgements. The trend seen in the discussion this far is that novels work broadly but diffusely in areas of knowledge, while psychology is limited and exact.

I can not think of any areas of knowledge where novels can not be a medium for, while psychology is related to about half. The most key phrase in Chomsky’s statement is “learn more” which denotes the amount of knowledge which can be gained. The breadth of novels would provide a much larger amount of knowledge than psychology. However, the different perspectives of psychology explain the ways Zack Lindahl, 1291-037 of knowing thoroughly. Here novels are lacking, as even though exploration of, for example, how perception change and the nature of emotions, it can only be description.

As psychology goes to more depth and tries to explain the ways of knowing, it should be deemed as part of the holistic view of “human life and personality”. So, while novels dominated the areas of knowledge, psychology explains the workings of the ways of knowing. This, of course, presumes that you are a literate. As novels transfer knowledge solely on written language, it easily falls when that part is taken away. However, most humans are amateur psychologist, with an understanding of human behaviour.

Through experience I have learned to predict the behaviour of others, detect personality types easily and grasp the workings of human society. While being illiterate, this knowledge can be transferred without written language, and therefore in some cultures be superior to novels, due to simple fact that no one would be able to learn from them, as they can not read. Amateur psychology is not scientific though, and therefore is excluded as psychology by Chomsky’s definition.

Fictional literature is a broad and most extensive medium and the problems of subjectivity, induction and language is in context with the quote inconsequential, or even beneficial. However, would Chomsky not have used the dire word “scientific” the discussion could have been entirely different. Psychology would then have a broader spectrum, and be able to cover much more personality aspects, and still retain some of its precision. That is not the case, and therefore I agree mostly with Chomsky, in that you can learn far more of almost any aspect of personality, with more nuances and difference with novels compared to scientific psychology.

Nevertheless I must digress that the weakness that the title has which ignores important innate abilities that are unconnected with written language is my main restriction for not being more favourable towards psychology.


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