Toward a New Psychology
Jonathan Doner, PhD
Nothing that matters is ever lost. But things that matter must change.
If what matters is lost, there can be no sustainability. But if what matters does not transform, it cannot be relevant to a changing world.
As a science, psychology must be about what is most fundamental to its domain. It must be about that which is at the heart of every single thing deemed psychological—that without which, psychology is inconceivable. There is one thing which certainly fits this criterion. It is at the heart of all things psychological, and it is impossible to conceive of psychological processes without tacitly assuming this thing’s existence. This “thing” is intelligence. It is not intelligence as a personality dimension, an IQ score, or an ensemble of cognitive functions. It is intelligence taken as a fundamental condition of all living organisms, and interpreted in a manner that is essentially objective and technical.
The foundation of intelligence is the efficacy of information. In physics, information has no efficacy. By physical law, information has no causal role in any process whatsoever. Entropy’s inevitable dissipation of existence as dictated by the 2nd law of thermodynamics is actually caused by energy-driven processes, not by the entropy per se. In all processes of life, however, such as growth and development or the organization and performance of species-typical behavior, information constantly plays a causal role.
How does information become causal? This is the central question, and its answer has far-reaching philosophical and theoretical ramifications. Philosophically, it brings an objective conception of intelligence to the forefront, not only when trying to understand psychological processes, but also processes from other domains such as biology. Theoretically, it furthers the development of a new, more objective, framework for understanding psychological processes.
(Presented at Meetings of the Society for Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, 2017; Paper in progress)
The two most fundamental processes in the evolution of life, other than the choices and actions of organisms, are the Darwinian conceptions of random mutation and natural selection. This paper argues that, although these principles can be shown to apply strictly to energy-driven systems, they do not strictly apply to the evolution of information-driven systems. In the present approach, information-driven systems are understood to operate within a linguistic context. This means information must be interpreted. The receiver must “speak the same language” as the transmitter. For systems governed by information, random mutation would thus result in changes that would be uninterpretable and consequently ignored. As such, these changes should have no impact on the system’s evolution. This creates a dilemma since, as argued, life is inherently an information-driven process. It should not, therefore, evolve according to Darwinian principles. Yet, of course, it does. This paper elaborates these arguments and discusses how the dilemma might be resolved. This resolution, in turn, has implications for understanding the evolution of complex information-driven processes such as neural and cultural systems.
(Abstract from Doner, 2017, in Sullivan, et al, Eds., Resistance and Renewal in Theoretical Psychology)
Religion seeks to understand the intelligence of the universe. It can do this through the postulation of the Absolute as Law, or as Being. In the postulation of Absolute as Law, intelligence will reside in the power of Law to create the universe—not once but continuously and sustainably. In the postulation of the Absolute as Being, intelligence resides in the ability of Being to know us individually. In other words, Law creates us, Being knows us. This work examines 1) how this bipartite Absolute is handled in modern major religious and contemplative traditions, 2) the expression of the bipartite Absolute in the various forms of transcendence, and 3) how science, particularly the psychology of religious experience, might shed light on the phenomenology of this interface.
(see Doner, 2015, and Doner, 2017, both in International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society)
Copyright Doner Projects/Doner Systems 2020