Garth J. O. Fletcher (1994) The Missing Links. Psycoloquy: 5(74) Metapsychology (7)

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PSYCOLOQUY (ISSN 1055-0143) is sponsored by the American Psychological Association (APA).
Psycoloquy 5(74): The Missing Links

Book Review of Rakover on Metapsychology

Garth J. O. Fletcher
Department of Psychology
University of Canterbury
Christchurch New Zealand



Various strengths and weaknesses in Rakover's (1990) Metapsychology: Missing Links in Behavior, Mind, and Science are outlined. The missing links, referred to in the title of the book, remain missing in Rakover's analysis.


behavior, causality, experimentation, explanation, introspection, mind-body problem, observation, philosophy, psychology, reductionism, science, theory.
1. Most books dealing with the philosophy of psychology are written by philosophers (who dabble in psychology). This book (Rakover, 1990, 1993) is a rare animal, being written by a psychologist (who dabbles in philosophy). That Rakover is a serious dabbler in matters philosophical is obvious from the ambitious sweep and content of the book. In seven of the chapters, there is a richly detailed attempt to analyze the major philosophical theories of science and scientific development and to apply them to psychology. The remaining three chapters deal with the mind-body problem and some related issues (e.g., free will, introspection, functional models of the mind).

2. This book has several strengths. The first is that the philosophical material is supplemented by some detailed and well-informed case- studies from psychology. The second is that Rakover provides nice summaries of some of the major schools of thought in the philosophy of science and the mind-body problem, and unfailingly outlines some of the principal problems with every view that is considered.

3. The book's weaknesses, it seems to me, are related to the ways in which Rakover responds to the many problems he so conscientiously details. Let me give a few examples: (1) After detailing the difficulties inherent in four major approaches to scientific progress (inductivism, logical positivism, Popperian falsificationism, and holism), he concludes they can all be considered as useful tools within psychology. (2) With respect to the mind-body problem, after a detailed analysis of the major theories and their associated problems, Rakover concludes that the problem is well-nigh insoluble (at least he adds, inscrutably, "in our present culture" p. 227). (3) After discussing the question of whether teleological or reason explanations can be reduced to causal explanations, he concludes that the contest is a draw (p. 264).

4. In short, Rakover's approach is so ecumenical and fair minded that, as I read the book, I felt increasingly adrift in a sea of problems with little guidance as to which academic life raft to strike out for. Rakover does,, to be sure, offer a few solutions at various points, but these are only sketches and have a banal feel to them. For example, one of his principal original resolutions is something he terms the empirical problem-solving approach. This represents a combination of the four approaches to scientific progress listed previously and stresses the idea that science is a learning process. But this explication takes just over 6 pages (in a book of 448 pages), and does not even merit a mention in the Index.

5. I have no doubt that the kind of enterprise in which Rakover is involved is a valuable one, and he has done a useful job of explicating some of the important problems. The solutions, and the missing links referred to in the title, however, seem as remote as ever.


Rakover, S.S. (1990) Metapsychology: Missing Links in Behavior, Mind, and Science. New York: Solomon Press.

Rakover, S.S. (1993) Precis of Metapsychology: Missing Links in Behavior, Mind, and Science. PSYCOLOQUY 4(55) metapsychology.1.rakover.

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