Freud started out OK, but then ….

It’s interesting that mechanism, which is the foundation of scientific thinking, was also the foundation for Freud’s theorizing, since Freud’s theories are about as unscientific as you can get. He starts off OK, considering mental life from the biological point of view. But in saying that the mind gets mental energies from physical energizes, he slips back into the non-material realm.

Just as there is no such thing as personality, there is no such thing as mind and, therefore, no such thing as mental energy. Terms like “mind” and “mental energy” are metaphors, sometimes-useful ways of talking about certain kinds of behavior. But terms like these, and the concepts they’re affiliated with, can’t be part of a scientific understanding of why we are the way we are and why we do the things we do.

Notice C&P say the mind can be viewed, alternatively to Freud’s view, as a different kind of system, such as an information system. But this would be just as much a metaphor. The mind is not an information system. It does not contain information. It is not any kind of system at all because there’s no such thing as mind. There is thinking and feeling and wanting and remembering and imagining and other kinds of covert behaviors. These are things people, and perhaps animals, do, and that a dead man can’t do. And they can be studied and, potentially, understood scientifically because they are real and they happen in the material world. But mind does not exist, so any attempt to explain these behaviors, and the differences between them among different people, cannot be a scientific attempt.

Welcome to Summer 2013!

I guess I should explain why I say there’s no such as personality. Just don’t expect a complete explanation in a single post.

It might be clearer to say there’s no such thing as personality. That is, there’s not any object or item or organ or any material thing whatsoever that the word, “personality,” names. It’s not something that exists in the way material things exist in the world. And as for non-material things? Well, to put it simply, there’s no such thing.

Neither is personality a substance, that is, the sort of thing that you can have more or less of. You can have more or less hair (I wish I had a little more), more or less money (what do you think?), more or less muscle, even more or less brain tissue. But you can’t have more or less personality nor more or less of any particular personality trait because … there’s no such thing as personality.

So what does that word mean? It’s a word that makes it easier for us to talk about some of the ways people are different from each other. People are different in all kinds of ways. Some are tall and some are short. Some are male and some are female. Some have lighter or darker skin. But that’s not what we’re talking about when we use the word, “personality.” Some people know more about certain things than other people do, and some people are better at doing certain kinds of things. But that’s usually not what we’re talking about when we use the word, “personality.” People also differ in the ways they’re most likely to behave in various kinds of circumstances. And by “behave” I don’t only mean overt, physical actions. Thinking is a kind of behavior, that is, it’s something that people do. Same thing with feeling. People think and they feel. Those are actions that live people perform (and that dead people don’t perform). In short, if a dead man can’t do it, it’s a behavior, and if a dead man can do it (like lying there, sitting, being still), then it’s not a behavior.

When we use the word, “personality,” we’re usually talking about the ways people differ in certain kinds of behaviors in certain kinds of situations. If you’re in a place with a lot of strangers, you might go up to someone and start a conversation, while I might hang back and just watch what’s going on. At a sporting event I might jump up and down and scream and you might sit there and roll your eyes. And somebody watching us behave in those different ways might say that our personalities are different or that we have different personality traits. But they don’t mean that literally because we don’t have personalities or personality traits. But talking as if we do makes it easier to communicate about some of the ways that we’re different or about our typical behavioral tendencies.

Stay tuned; there’s more.