The Lost Millennium: Psychology During the Middle Ages

The Lost Millennium: Psychology During the Middle Ages

By Tracy B. Henley and B Michael Thorne

The Psychological Record, Vol. 55: Iss. 1 (2005)

Abstract: The medieval period – roughly the 1,000 years from the classical Greco-Roman age to the Renaissance and modern era has long been neglected in the history of psychology. Various reasons have been offered for why this period is treated so lightly, for example, that it was a Dark Age, or that it was dominated by antiintellectual Christian thought. This essay challenges such reasoning and, in conjunction with critiquing these obstacles to inquiry, provides a cursory sketch of some of the more interesting figures of this millennium to stimulate psychologists to reconsider this era.

Introduction: Most history of psychology textbooks cover the Ancient World in some detail. For example, such books often discuss the importance of rational medicine, the contributions of Plato to all subsequent conceptions of mind, and Aristotle’s thoughts on many topics covered in an introductory psychology course (associative learning, the causes of behavior, dreams, emotions, free will, language, memory, motivation, perception, reasoning, etc.).

As far as we know, all the history of psychology texts that begin with the “modern period” still cover the principal figures of the 16th and 17th centuries (e.g., Descartes, Leibniz, Locke). Understanding Wundt requires at least a cursory consideration of the various empirical, associative, faculty, and rational traditions that preceded him.

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