Humanistic psychology today stands at a turning point in its history. Plants are under way for a series of major conferences assessing the past, present, and future of the movement. The American Psychological Association (APA, 2000) is poised in at least one of its many study groups to recognize the legitimacy of the existential-humanistic approach in its “criteria” for psychotherapeutic guidelines. The prestigious American psychologist even has consented to publishing the existentialists’ call that we return to the romantic as a still-missing piece of the puzzle of what it means to be human (Schneider, 1998). Indeed, mainstream academic who have launched their own from of positive psychology have invited humanistic thinkers to publicly debate the issue. Is positive psychology, as many humanistic psychologists contend, a usurper of an already established venue? Or, is positive psychology, as many cognitive psychologist would have it, a more superior development to its humanistic forebears, given that this newer from is more experimental?
One easily could interpret these developments as destiny at the crossroads. Or, to put the question in another way, 40 years after its heyday, will humanistic psychology finally, and quietly, slip into oblivion by being absorbed into the mainstream-gone with nothing more than a whimper instead of a bang, its votaries once having been full of sound and fury but now signifying nothing? Or, is the long-awaited era of its maturity finally at hand, what has gone on in the past being but a prelude of what is to come?
The authors (Taylor, 1999a) are responding to the future of the humanistic movement with guarded optimism. Our only caveat is that humanistic psychology may be able to resurrect itself within the larger field of American academic psychology, but only under a set of specific conditions informed by its own history. Although the humanistic movement is generally associates with the field of psychology per se, over the past 50 years, it is has come to influence a variety of fields beyond the social sciences-medicine, law, dentistry, nursing, and business administration, to name but few. Recent historical scholarship, however, reaffirm what the founders already knew but many today forget-namely, that humanistic psychology did not just appear out of nowhere. It originally was an outgrowth of personality, social, abnormal, and motivation-those subfields of academic psychology long considered to be the so-called soft sciences (Taylor, 2000).
In our opinion, the single most important contribution that humanistic psychologists, have to make to modern psychology is to bring the attention of the experimentalists to focus on the phenomenology of the science-making process and, once the attention of the discipline is focused on that point, to articulate a phenomenological (rather than a positivistic) epistemology as the basis for a new experimental science.
Such a science is not new; we have heard a similar call in James’s radical empiricism and from depth psychologists such as Paul Tillich. Maslow (1966) pointed in that direction with his Psychology of Science, and it also was the basis for Giorgio’s (1970) interpretation of Husserl and Merleau Pointy in Psychology as a Human Science. It is also the foundation of Dignaga’s Buddhist theory of perception. At any rate, it is a scientific Psychology that would address the full range of human experience while at the same time accommodates non-Western epistemologies, two key conditions not presently fulfilled by con temporary positivistic epistemology. What implication such a new science would have for the social and behavioral sciences, and even for physics and biology, would remain to be worked out. But even established in its most primitive from, it would more than adequately fulfill the original agenda of those who founded humanistic psychology in the first place.
American Psychological Association, (2000, March). Criteria for evaluating treatment guidelines (draft, Template Implementation Work Group). Washington, DS: Author.
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