Category: Social Sciences

Interfaith Declaration: Code of Ethics on International Business for Christians, Muslims, and Jews (1994)

The following description was written by Simon Webley, of the British-North American Research Association, who also worked on the text itself. INTRODUCTION A series of Interfaith consultations began in 1984 under the patronage of HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, and HRH Crown Prince Hassan Bin Talal of Jordan. Followers of the three monotheistic faiths Christianity, Islam and Judaism took part, under the auspices of St. George’s House, Windsor and the Al Albait Foundation and the Arab Thought Forum in Amman. More recently Sir Evelyn de Rothschild has joined Their Royal Highnesses as a patron in this endeavor. A group of...

Historical Timeline for Africa

The following historical timeline for Africa is adapted from: The African Experience. From “Lucy” to Mandela. By: Kenneth P. Vickery. Teaching Company, 2007. c. 4–3 million B.C Emergence of Australopithecus, possibly the first in the hominid line of evolution, culminating in modern humans in East/Southern Africa. c. 1.5 million B.C Emergence of Homo erectus in Africa, definitely a human ancestor. c. 100,000 B.C Emergence of Homo sapiens, “wise human,” in Africa. c. 40,000 B.C Emergence of Homo sapiens sapiens, fully modern humans, in Africa. c. 5000 B.C. to A.D. 1000 (depending on region) Closing of Late Stone Age, opening of...

Demographic Trends and Economic Prosperity

I am teaching  a class on the philosophy of environmental science and policy, and the question that comes up again and again is how the earth will cope with the tremendous population increase that we are experiencing since 1900. This is an ethical, political, humanitarian, and environmental problem of historic proportions. Less population growth is good, but on the other hand, population growth fuels economic growth. A shrinking population not only causes economic contraction, but it also shifts the median age upward. This means that fewer and fewer young people have to support an increasing number of old people, to...

The Roots of Religion

Thanks to modern science, we now know more about religious history than ever: Scientific archaeology began in the 18th century, and since then excavators have been discovering and interpreting evidence, ranging from tiny goddess figurines carved from mammoth ivory to entire sacred landscapes, such as at the Giza plateau in Egypt. The archeological evidence enhances and corrects our knowledge derived from books and other preserved objects. Ancient graves, statues, temples, stones, sacrificial offerings, or places of initiation – they all express the universal human search for spiritual power and understanding. Archaeology provides evidence that is very different from historical writings like the Bible or...

Rosenhan: On Being Sane In Insane Places

How do we know what constitutes “normality” or mental illness? Conventional wisdom suggests that specially trained professionals have the ability to make reasonably accurate diagnoses. In the research described below, however, David Rosenhan provides evidence to challenge this assumption. What is — or is not –“normal” may have much to do with the labels that are applied to people in particular settings. in 1973, Rosenhan conducted an experiment by sending eight pseudo-patients into psychiatric hospitals. Once admitted, they acted normal, but they were still treated as insane. He concludes that one cannot distinguish the sane from the insane in psychiatric hospitals. The experiment got...

Marx: Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (1844)

The 1844 Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts remained unpublished during Marx’s lifetime and did not surface until 1927, about 44 years after his death. These manuscripts illustrate the young Marx’s transition from philosophy to political economy. Marx’s emerging interest in the economy is apparent – an interest that distinguishes him from other followers of Hegel – but his writing in these texts is much more philosophical, abstract, and speculative than his later works. For example, the concept of a species, of what it means to belong to the human species, is essentially a philosophical question. He also develops a concept of alienation that is...

Psychology: 19th Century Timeline

  1801  Pinel writes text on Moral Therapy 1804  Immanuel Kant dies 1804  Napoleon crowns himself Emperor of France 1807  Hegel completes The Phenomenology of Spirit 1808  Reil coins term “psychiatry” 1810  Gall publishes the first volume of Anatomie et Physiologie du Systèm Nerveux 1811  Sir Charles Bell reports to associates at a dinner party the anatomical separation of sensory and motor function of spinal cord 1815  Napoleon surrenders at Waterloo; the Peace of Paris ends the Napoleonic Wars; the Congress of Vienna firms up the old European monarchies 1816  Johann Friedrich Herbart publishes Lehrbuch zur Psychologie. Herbart’s text introduces the concept of repression. 1819  Schopenhauer writes “The World as Will and Idea.” 1822  Francis Magendie publishes an article which postulates the separation...

Gestalt Psychology

WHAT IS GESTALT THEORY? Gestalt psychology (sometimes also “gestaltism”) is a theory of mind created by the Berlin School of Experimental Psychology in the first decades of the 20th century. The German word “Gestalt” means shape, or form. Gestalt psychology tries to understand the laws that govern the human ability to acquire and maintain perceptions of meaning in a chaotic world. Gestalt psychologists believe that the mind actively shapes perceptions, and aims to form units, or “gestalts.” For example, when we hear a melody we can remember it, and recognize it even if it is not played at the same...

Kurt Koffka: Principles of Gestalt Psychology. (1935)

Koffka wrote this book in 1935; I am reproducing the first chapter here. Why Psychology? AN INTRODUCTORY QUESTION When I first conceived the plan of writing this book I guessed, though I did not know, how much effort it would cost to carry it out, and what demands it would put on a potential reader. And I doubted, not rhetorically but very honestly and sincerely, whether such labour on the part of the author and the reader was justified. I was not so much troubled by the idea of writing another book on psychology in addition to the many books...

Wolfgang Metzger: Can the subject create his world? (1974)

In talking to younger psychologists, one finds that many of them seem to believe that perception is something at the surface of the mind, a kind of borderline problem, and that preoccupation with it is obsolete. They look with disdain at every psychological problem that does not at least deal with personality, motivation, or social intercourse. But when discussing problems in which simple facts of stimulus and reaction play a role, as for example in behavior therapy, they prove that they would have done well to occupy themselves a little more with the fundamentals of perception.

Max Wertheimer: What is Gestalt Theory? (1924) 

Wertheimer tried to answer this question in a lecture given before the Kant Society in Berlin, on December 7, 1924. It was first published in German in 1925: “Über Gestalttheorie.” The translation is by Willis Ellis, and was published in his “Source Book of Gestalt Psychology.” New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co, 1938. Here is the text of Wertheimers lecture:  What is Gestalt theory and what does it intend? Gestalt theory was the outcome of concrete investigations in psychology, logic, and epistemology. The prevailing situation at the time of its origin may be briefly sketched as follows. We go from the world of everyday events to that...

China: Charter 08

The Charter 08 was signed by over three hundred prominent Chinese citizens, and published in 2008. It was conceived and written in admiration of the 1977 Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia. The Chinese document calls not for reform of the current political system, but for an end to it. It wants to abolish one-party rule, and replace it with a system based on human rights and democracy. The publication day, December 10, 2008, was selected because it is the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948. The Declaration is reflected in the Charter because it outlines the vision of a...

Market Mechanism Explained

It seems to be fairly simple, but it raises many questions. To start with: Did Adam Smith describe a law of economics akin to a natural law, or is the market mechanism only a model or idealization that describes an optimal way to produce and distribute goods and services? When economists refer to price in a market, they try to keep considerations of fairness and justice out of the picture and, analyze price simply as an outcome of the forces of supply and demand. But what are these forces and what determines them? The following points describe the mechanism, a...

Martin Luther King: Letter from Birmingham Jail. 1963.

The letter argues for non-violent resistance. People have a moral responsibility to break unjust laws, because there is a deeper natural law that allows us to judge man-made laws.   16 April 1963 My Dear Fellow Clergymen: While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day,...

Patton’s speech to the Third Army.

General George Patton’s speech to the US Third Army was given in 1944, prior to the landing in the Normandy. Patton tried to motivate the inexperienced Third Army for its pending combat duty and terrible losses. He pushed his soldiers to do their duty regardless of personal fear, challenging them to be aggressive and engage in constant offensive action. The speech is laced with profanity, and was well-received with his men. It is another example of a classical speech when a General addresses his troops before the battles begin. Be seated. Men, all this stuff you hear about America not...

Thucydides: Pericles’ Funeral Oration

Pericles’ Funeral Oration is a famous speech from Thucydides’ book History of the Peloponnesian War. The speech was delivered by Pericles, an famous Athenian politician, at the end of the first year of the war, which lasted from 431 to 404 BC. It was a part of the annual public funeral for the war dead, and the speech defines the character of the Athenian democracy.  “Most of those who have spoken here before me have commended the lawgiver who added this oration to our other funeral customs. It seemed to them a worthy thing that such an honor should be given...

History of Human Rights

Which movements, ideas, and events have contributed to the history and development of the concept of human rights?  The following list is very selective; it shows some historical highlights that manifest the trend that runs through the Western legal and philosophical traditions. Traditional Religions all support idea that the human person has worth and value and should be treated with a measure of dignity and respect. This leads to the idea that there are enduring standards of morality and justice against which to evaluate people’s actions and the laws of communities. However, the emphasis in religion is on duties, not...

Milton Friedman: Stockholder Theory.

The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits Article by Milton Friedman (Quoted from: The New York Times Magazine, September 13, 1970.) When I hear businessmen speak eloquently about the “social responsibilities of business in a free-enterprise system,” I am reminded of the wonderful line about the Frenchman who discovered at the age of 70 that he had been speaking prose all his life. The businessmen believe that they are defending free enterprise when they declaim that business is not concerned “merely” with profit but also with promoting desirable “social” ends; that business has a “social conscience” and takes...

Claude Lévi-Strauss: Structural Anthropology. 1958

I am quoting some excerpts from this classic in anthropology. The source is “Structural Anthropology,” 1958. Published by Allen Lane, The Penguin Press. 1968. Chapter II: Structural Analysis in Linguistics and in Anthropology. LINGUISTICS OCCUPIES a special place among the social sciences, to whose ranks it unquestionably belongs. It is not merely a social science like the others, but, rather, the one in which by far the greatest progress has been made. It is probably the only one which can truly claim to be a science and which has achieved both the formulation of an empirical method and an understanding...