Sam S. Rakover (1994) Metapsychology: Mind-body and Scientific Progress. Psycoloquy: 5(81) Metapsychology (8)

Volume: 5 (next, prev) Issue: 81 (next, prev) Article: 8 (next prev first) Alternate versions: ASCII Summary
PSYCOLOQUY (ISSN 1055-0143) is sponsored by the American Psychological Association (APA).
Psycoloquy 5(81): Metapsychology: Mind-body and Scientific Progress

Reply to Flaten, Hardcastle, Hyland, and Chow

Sam S. Rakover
Department of Psychology
Haifa University, Haifa
Israel 31905



Four reviewers of Metapsychology: Missing Links In Behavior, Mind and Science (Rakover, 1990, 1993) have commented on various issues. The following important topics have been selected for discussion: the mind-body problem, methodological introspection, reductionism, and empirical problem-solving as an approach to scientific progress.


behavior, causality, experimentation, explanation, introspection, mind-body problem, observation, philosophy, psychology, reductionism, science, theory.
1. Hyland and Kirsch (1994) agree with me "that the mind-body problem has not been solved and may not be solved" (par. 1), yet they propose a theoretical framework for integrating theories about minds and theories about bodies, which they call "methodological complementarity" (MC). Since their approach makes no ontological assumption regarding mind and body, they propose that it is consistent with my mind-body skepticism and with most of the mind-body positions (see pars. 1 and 3).

2. The basic idea of MC is that mind and body descriptions are complementary and may not be reducible to each other. In order to avoid linguistic inconsistency, mind states are identified with brain states and causality statements about mind and body interactions are to be formed in terms of physiological concepts.

3. My main concern with Hyland and Kirsch's approach is that it seems to generate contradictions. How is it possible to assume identity between brain states and mind states and at the same time to propose that MC is consistent with logical behaviorism, identity theory, functionalism, double aspect theory and parallelism, where, for example, identity theory contradicts parallelism? Furthermore, since these mind-body theories have been found incorrect, it follows that MC is consistent with false theories.

4. Chow (1994) criticizes my proposal of "methodological introspection" (MI) by pointing out that the concept of private behavior (PB) which refers to our sensations, feelings, thoughts, images, etc. is ambiguous, since it is viewed as an explanatory term and also as data to confirm and falsify a theory (see par. 3). Furthermore, he expresses skepticism regarding the methodological status of introspection as data for the unobservable PB (see par. 11).

5. It seems to me that Chow's critique blurs the distinction between PB as a general concept of our inner world, and introspections as verbal reports of PB. MI is a suggestion to "regard introspections as having a methodological status similar to observations made with respect to overt behavior" (Rakover, 1990, p. 215). If we accept this, then introspections can be attributed with the same properties as public observations, that is, data to be explained, data to test a theory, and data to be used for inducing theoretical concepts and generating hypotheses. Therefore, from these perspectives, there is no contradiction in attributing these different functions to introspection.

6. Can introspective reports provide us with reliable and valid information of PB? Any observation has to fulfill three criteria in order to be accepted scientifically. These criteria are: objectivity, public availability, and repeatability (see Rakover, 1990, ch. 4 and 6). In chapter 6, I discuss the question of whether introspections can fulfill these criteria, and come to the conclusion that there are a number of indirect methods for checking on the accuracy of introspective reports. These provide arguments against discounting introspections as properly belonging to the domain of sciences.

7. In chapter 8, I propose that neobehaviorism and cognitive psychology view PB as a theoretical term, which in many cases is to be explained and is an explanatory concept. Thus, for example, Hull's concept of "conditioned inhibition" demands an explanation and at the same time it is used as an explanation for the phenomenon of partial spontaneous recovery. Hence, there is no problem with using a theoretical concept in order to explain a given phenomenon and at the same time to wonder how to understand it. This is a legitimate procedure in science. Thus, for example, reductionism can be viewed as a procedure for explaining a given explanatory concept by appeal to a more basic and general theory.

8. Flaten (1994) seems to suggest that I do not view reductionism as a research strategy by which science progresses (pars. 2 and 5). This is incorrect. I made it clear in several places in my book "that one of the ways in which science progresses is by reduction" (p. 371). While I do not believe that, given the current state of scientific knowledge, PB can be reduced to neurophysiological states, I nevertheless propose that there is much to do in this regard. My proposal, called the "dimension of reduction schemes" (see ch. 10), discusses several ways by which theory and phenomena in psychology and in neurophysiology can be related to achieve a unified explanation.

9. Flaten discusses the finding that in classical conditioning, different conditioned responses (even within the same species) are accounted for by different neurophysiological mechanisms. He then asks whether this finding means that classical conditioning cannot be reduced to a neurophysiological mechanism, and proposes that either classical conditioning consists of more than one process or the concepts of classical conditioning need to be changed (see pars. 4 and 5).

10. I propose an alternative interpretation of Flaten's example. Like him, I do not view the above finding as a case against reductionism. The fact that different neurophysiological mechanisms are needed to account for different conditioned responses, which are produced by the same learning procedure and are accounted for by classical conditioning theory (CCT), does not mean that reduction cannot be achieved. One may develop a general neurophysiological theory (NT) which will encompass all these various neurophysiological mechanisms, and then reduce CCT to NT. The latter can be achieved by what I call "reduction through analogy". Accordingly, "a neurophysiological mechanism or process is proposed which (a) accounts for the input-output correlation explained by a relevant hypothetical psychological mechanism or process; and (b) is related to other physiological mechanisms or processes in a way similar to the relations obtained among the relevant psychological mechanisms or processes" (Rakover, 1990, p. 384).

11. Hardcastle (1994) criticises my theoretical sketch called "empirical problem-solving" (EPS) as an approach to scientific progress, pointing out that EPS is based on four incompatible methodologies of scientific development: the inductivist, the positivist, the falsificationist, and the holistic (pars. 8, 9 and 10). She was further puzzled by the fact that this incompatibility was, in fact, discussed by me.

12. One must distinguish between a "single-global" approach to science and a "multiple-actual" approach. According to the former, one is committed to the attempt to understand scientific endeavor from one encompassing point of view, such as the inductivist, or the falsificationist. Given the single-global approach, these four methodologies are incompatible and each encounters severe problems in accounting for scientific endeavor. According to the multiple-actual approach, however, one attempts to understand actual scientific endeavor by using these methodologies as working tools. One chooses from each methodology a basic procedure which is used in practice. Consistency among these selected procedures is preserved since one is not committed to the single-global approach and since there is an association between stages of actual research and the procedures. For example, there is no contradiction between using induction to propose an empirical generalization based on a given set of observations, and using falsification to test this generalization by making new observations. That is why I view inductivism, positivism, falsificationism and holism in EPS as methodological tools used for solving empirical problems.


Chow, S.L. (1994) Theory-Data Relations and Theory Acceptance. PSYCOLOQUY 5(25) metapsychology.5.chow.

Flaten, M.A. (1994) What Is Meant By "Reductionism"? PSYCOLOQUY 5(4) metapsychology.2.flaten.

Hardcastle, V.G. (1994). Metapsychology for the Masses? PSYCOLOQUY 5(14) metapsychology.3.hardcastle.

Hyland, M.E. and Kirsch, I. (1994). Methodological Complementarily and the Mind-Body Problem. PSYCOLOQUY 5(16) metapsychology.4.hyland.

Rakover, S.S. (1990). Metapsychology: Missing Links In Behavior, Mind and Science. New York: Paragon/Solomon.

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

Volume: 5 (next, prev) Issue: 81 (next, prev) Article: 8 (next prev first) Alternate versions: ASCII Summary