This paper was presented at
Psychology: The Indian Contribution
National Conference on
Indian Psychology, Yoga and Consciousness
organised by the Indian Council of Philosophical Research
at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education
Pondicherry, India, 10-13 December 2004

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Methodology and phenomena: The paradigm of causal understanding in modern psychology and Indian thought

Girishwar Misra — University of Delhi, Delhi.

In its century long disciplinary voyage, the modern science of psychology has been concerned with an attempt to build a knowledge base that may allow systematic description of psychological phenomena. The description is often inscribed in terms of a functional relationship between a set of causes (e.g., antecedents/independent variables/predictors) and a set of consequences (e.g., consequents/dependent variables/criteria) that are identifiable in the empirical world. In doing so, the strategy adopted mimics the methods followed in the natural sciences. This has led to continuous modification of the subject matter (consciousness/behavior/mental process/mind). Taking recourse to the strategies of objectification and reification psychological phenomena are naturalized. The underlying assumptions of individualism, universalism and determinism have informed the practices of much of contemporary psychological endeavors. These, in fact, serve as core ideas, which seem to be accepted as true beyond any doubt. A close scrutiny of psychological research shows that psychological phenomena are often separated from the context and this separation is quite exclusive. Also, psychological processes are taken more in the form of closed systems with emphasis on their assumed static nature. This presentation has three goals. First, it will analyze the treatment of causality in mainstream psychology in the context of methodology, and as a theme in itself in works related to attribution and cognitive development. Second, it will try to bring out the salient aspects of causality in Indian traditions like Vedanta, Nyaya and Samkhya. Finally, it will explore the implications of these views in fostering psychological research, and their relevance to everyday life.

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