Graham Pemberton
2 min readOct 4, 2021

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What Does the Word ‘Psychology’ Mean?

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

I was listening to the radio yesterday evening. This featured an interview with a psychologist, at the start of which the presenter, somewhat to my surprise, asked her what the word psychology means. She replied that it was “the study of the mind and the brain, and their interactions”.

A few light-hearted and random thoughts:

  • I imagine that Carl Jung might have been turning in his grave, because what else can the word psychology mean other than the study of the psyche? The problem, of course, is that what he understood by that term is somewhat out of fashion in the modern ‘scientific’ climate.
  • What she probably meant by ‘mind’ was actually consciousness. The two words sometimes seem to be used interchangeably in the West, for no obvious reason apart from ignorance.
  • Mind is actually the faculty that humans use in order to think and solve problems: do arithmetic, play chess, solve crossword clues, and so on. While that is one important feature of the brain, that’s not the whole story.
  • I remember reading a long time ago, although unfortunately I can’t remember where, that there are/were as many as 22 different words for consciousness in Tibetan Buddhism, or perhaps Sanskrit, because of the appreciation of the subtle distinctions between different aspects¹. Perhaps Western psychologists would benefit from thinking more deeply about what they are studying.

Conclusion

Psychology in the West is very confused. Is it any surprise that we can’t resolve the Hard Problem?

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Footnote:

1. On a quick Google search today I could only find references to ten Sanskrit words, and eight words for consciousness in Buddhism. Still impressive compared with the sloppy language used by the West.

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Graham Pemberton

I am a singer/songwriter interested in spirituality, politics, psychology, science, and their interrelationships. grahampemberton.com spiritualityinpolitics.com