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Psychology, Biology and Social Relations

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image of Journal of Critical Realism

Contemporary psychologists seem to pull in two theoretical directions, namely the reduction of mind to brain and the dissolution of mind in society. Against these dominant trends, this article employs the tools of critical realism to argue for the resuscitation in the discipline, psychology, of an ontologically distinct, psychological concept of mind. This 'mind' is conceived here as a real, ontologically emergent property. Its distinctive property is consciousness, generated in the first instance by unconscious, non-conscious and conscious psychological mechanisms. Nonetheless, it is emergent not only from psychological mechanisms, but also biological and social mechanisms, all of which act together in open systems. The article builds on various accounts of the hierarchy of the sciences and their objects to suggest that there is such a real psychological object. It seeks to refute trends in psychological theory that reduce mind either to neurophysiological and neurobiological properties on the one hand or to social relational and discursive properties on the other.


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