"I don't think Frankl fell short of providing a path toward meaning. I think that is somewhat a desecration of his message. He wrote a book of psychology, which is naturally a humanistic and subjective field, not an ethics or biblical commentary," a friend told me after reading my last blog critiquing logotherapy, Frankl's psychotherapeutic method of finding meaning.
She continued, "It would be unethical for a therapist to impose values… The nature of humanity is to be subjective and thankfully so. A universal code of morality cannot and should not exist!"
My friend made an interesting point, and she is in good company.
Establishing value judgments has been viewed by many psychologists and scientists as an offensive departure from the scientific method, to be shunned at all cost.
According to Thomas Harris, author of the best-selling I'm OK, You're OK, "Some of these people steadfastly insist that scientific inquiry cannot be applied to this field. 'That is a value judgment; therefore, we cannot examine it.' 'That is in the field of beliefs; therefore we cannot assemble plausible data.'"
Can—or should—values and scientific enquiry ever mix? Can the objective criteria of scientific thought and investigation be subjected to a system of values, beliefs or morals which are seemingly subjective?
Harris, whose book sold over 15 million copies and according to the Los Angeles Times "helped millions find the freedom to change" argues it can and must.
"What they [people who feel science and values don't mix] overlook is the fact that the scientific method is totally dependent on a moral value—the trustworthiness of the reporters of scientific observation… Why does a scientist tell the truth? Because he can prove in a laboratory that he should?"
Harris quotes Nathaniel Branden, another prominent member of the psychological community, who charges that psychiatrists and psychologists bear a grave moral responsibility if they declare that "philosophical and moral issues do not concern them, that science cannot pronounce moral judgments." Those that "shrug off their professional obligations with the assertion that a rational code of morality is impossible, by their silence, lend the sanction to spiritual murder." (Italics mine.)
For what motivates a psychologist or scientist to do research to make our world a better place? Isn’t he prompted by the conviction, strictly indemonstrable to science, that the universe has a direction?
How can a therapist hope to help his patient deal with his inner conflicts without believing in a human being's innate abilities? Frankl notes: "If we are to bring out the human potential at its best, we must first believe in its existence and presence. And in spite of our belief in the potential humanness of man, we must not close our eyes to the fact that humane humans are and probably will always remain a minority. But it is precisely for this reason that each of us is challenged to join the minority."
In fact, at the root of the existential movement is the belief that man has free choice to become responsible for his actions. In analyzing the existentialists' contribution to therapy, Rollo May writes: "Man is the being who can be conscious of, and therefore responsible for, his existence. It is the ability to become aware of his own being which distinguishes the human being from other beings. Binswanger speaks of 'Dasein choosing' this or that, meaning 'the person-who-is-responsible for his existence choosing…
"(Medard) Boss points out that a person feels guilt because 'he has locked up some essential potentialities in himself. Therefore he has guilt feelings. If you lock up potentialities you are guilty against what is given you in your origin, in your core.'"
Aren't these underlying principles of therapy value judgments? These statements affirm quite unscientifically that every being has a core value and essential potentialities that, if not used, the individual is guilty of abusing. And that man is distinguished among all other creations in his awareness of his responsibility towards himself and the world.
If these weren't members of the scientific community, many of these claims would almost sound like they originate from religious moralists.
Even Sigmund Freud, considered by many to be the demolisher of religious icons, made an unusually religious statement. When asked to summarize psychoanalytic theory in one sentence, he answered in seven words: where id was, there ego shall be. That is, psychoanalysis tries to explain the process where we can (or cannot) substitute choice for impulse.
If we were to summarize the moral thrust of the Torah, it would come out remarkably similar—don't do what you feel like doing; do what G‑d wants you to do.
So, can value judgments and scientific enquiry be compatible?
Perhaps a more basic question is: how can science be effective without morals and value judgments at its foundation?
But then the real dilemma, which becomes ever so complex, is how to define what these morals should be.
your comments are better than a book and Chana's article (as allways) is great as well :)
Petach Tikva, Israel
Now there is a difference between the science side and the belief one. The former is based on assumptions without these necessarily having to be true. With beliefs there is no place for discussion, the facts are accepted without any assumptions.
It is however my experience in social science, that when the arguements are good ones and the assumptions sound, then what comes out of the logical deductions are moral ways of behavour. But this does not prove that science and morals are one and the same thing at the start of the process of examination.
Petach Tikva, Israel
My Master, Yashayahu Leibowitz (Israël) who was a scientist (some doctorates) and also a Learned Rabbi told me with a smile, during a meeting at his home : "there are two sorts of sciences, accurate/exact sciences like mathematics, physics, chemistry, etc and on the other hand : Psychosomatic sciences like psychology, sociology, and of course economy. "
By the way Rav Leibowitz was a Psychiatrist and taught neurology at the Medecine school - University of Jerusalem. He was beloved by half Israël and hated by the other part. A great Rav, philosopher and scientist . I liked him.
Brussels , Belgium
Dear Chana, "don't do what you feel like doing,
do what G-d wants you to do" first you find
G-d in your heart and you can feel that in happyness so if you say do what G-d wants you to do it is to share happyness otherwise
it is schizophrenic