There is this book by Abraham Maslow that has been sitting on my reading list for two years now. I remember I started reading it when I was writing my PhD proposal. I lightly skimmed it, the fervent kind of reading of a not-so-well-read mind thinking grand thoughts (two years later, the mind is mostly the same, the thoughts not so much). I think I even quoted from the introduction for a text I was writing back then, but I never got to actually finishing the book . There were all these philosophers, historians, and sociologists I had to read - who had time for Maslow and his ruminations on the psychology of scientists?
Today I finally finished reading it. And of course, all kinds of thoughts are a-swarming, looking for form. I think I liked it, loved it even. It's a measured kind of love, not the blindsided exhilaration of discovery, of worlds being trashed and rebuilt; but that of recognition, of the feeling of brotherly communion - it makes me think of a poem by Tin Ujević, of the brotherhood of faces in the universe:
Do not fear! you are not alone! there are others like you
who unbeknownst to you live their lives
And all that you are, feel and dream
burns within them with the same passion, beauty and purity.
[Ne boj se! nisi sam! ima i drugih nego ti
koji nepoznati od tebe žive tvojim životom.
I ono sve što ti bje, ću i što sni
gori u njima istim žarom, ljepotom i čistotom.]
It is not that I identify with Maslow. The differences between us are too numerous to mention, but even with that, I can recognize in my own educational history the uneasiness that drove him to write this book. A professionally deformed kind of drive particular for some psychologists, if you will. Despite the distance that does not allow for identification, the very need to articulate a resistance to academic disciplining resonates with me without translation or interpretation. In a way, it is liberating, when read from the pages written by one of the most prominent psychologists of the 20th century.
Maslow reconstructs his own understanding of what science is, of what psychology as a science is, through what he does best - a psychotherapist's (a humanistic psychologist's) analysis of motives, the drives that set people to do whatever they're doing. In the case of Psychology of Science, it's the motives and the inner workings of scientists he feels kinship to. The book cannot be read out of context - the whole movement trying to humanize American psychology in the 1960s - but precisely that context is what makes it so interesting. Maslow tries to articulate his own philosophy of science, going against the totalizing positivism he feels exists, the one he was educated into and the one he is tilting at for the most of his mature career.
If I gave this text to the students I tutor in philosophy of science, they would immediately read it as an exposition of Reichenbach's context of discovery. There is a certain beautiful symmetry to it, for a psychologist to provide an exposition of his philosophy of science as the psychology of the scientist. Even with that, the students would probably trash and criticize it into oblivion, but that's just because they're so good at what they do.
For Maslow, it's a personal story of restlessness. The restlessness arises from the perceived inadequacy of the tools he was given through his training and education to solve the problems he is really interested in - the restlessness of a man who had to construe his own objective science because the one he had at his disposal would not do [from the preface]:
My restlessness with classical science became serious only when I started asking new questions about the higher reaches of human nature. Only then did the classical scientific model in which I had been trained fail me. It was then that I had to invent, ad hoc, new methods, new concepts, and new words in order to handle my data well. Before this, for me, Science had been One, and there was but One Science. But now it looked as if there were two Sciences for me, one for my new problems, and one for everything else. But more recently, perhaps ten or fifteen years ago, it began to appear that these two Sciences could be generalized into One Science again. This new Science looks different however; it promises to be more inclusive and more powerful than the One Science.
As he put it: When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
While reading it, the enthusiasm of a psychologist in me was sidelined by the excitement of the historian - this is an explicit articulation of a professional identity bound by disciplinary rules entering a crisis. And as an answer, Maslow provides his own understanding of the whole of science - this vision of what science is is painted through descriptions of scientists' personality traits, their pathological release valves in the ordering and structuring of reality, or on the other side, the creative self-actualization of what they are as humans in their work. While reading the twists and turns of Maslow's understanding of science, I thought of Lawrence Smith's Behaviorism and Logical Positivism. In it, Smith reassess the relationship between the philosophy of logical positivists and the behaviorist revolution that swept through American psychology in the first part of the twentieth century. His argument, in short, is that the behaviorists developed their idiosyncratic philosophies of science which arose from their own research programs, and that the influence of logical positivism was much less present than what was thought before.
A vivid example for what Smith is arguing is Edward Tolman and his rats - Tolman conducted research on rats in mazes, and at some point postulated that rats develop cognitive maps of the mazes that help them navigate the actual labyrinths in the laboratory. Tolman's understanding of the science he was developing was very much alike - the laws of behavior were the maze, and Tolman's theories the cognitive blueprint.
Maslow is, in this regard, the same. He uses his own humanistic psychology - b-values, creativity, self-actualization - as the vocabulary to describe the behavior and production of scientists. He applies it to psychologists and how they go about their business, but he peppers the text with Heisenbergs, chemists, and physicists for good measure. He has an opinion on construction of objectivity, reads Karl Polanyi and Thomas Kuhn, criticizes the social negotiation that results in expertise - for a historian of science, the text is a riveting exposé of Maslow's understanding of science.
The fact that I never read this book before and have never heard anybody talk about it or write about it is a damn shame. Hopefully, I'll have the opportunity to do something about this in the coming months.