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Psyche (psychology)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In psychology, the psyche /ˈski/ is the totality of the human mind, conscious and unconscious. Psychology is the scientific or objective study of the psyche. The word has a long history of use in psychology and philosophy, dating back to ancient times, and represents one of the fundamental concepts for understanding human nature from a scientific point of view. The English word soul is sometimes used synonymously, especially in older texts.[1]


Etymology, the study of language, would not exist if the psyche did not exist. It’s goal is to move backwards through a “linguistic evolution” that can cause hypothesis, but never be proved. Psychology uses many words to describe personality and psyche. These are all found in the origins of the words they use. For example, when people feel anger, traces of it “can be found in the Latin angora, ‘strangling, bodily torture; also mental anguish.’” [2] While psychology and etymology may differ greatly, it’s easy to find similarities between them that could “point to a single origin”. [3] The basic meaning of the Greek word ψυχή (psyche) was "life" in the sense of "breath", formed from the verb ψύχω (psycho, "to blow"). Derived meanings included "spirit", "soul", "ghost", and ultimately "self" in the sense of "conscious personality" or "psyche".[4][5] The association of "spirit" and "breath" is not unique to Greek or western cultures. The Chinese character for "spirit", "soul" is 魂 (hún, simplified) which is the merging of 云 (yún) and 鬼 (guǐ). 云 is commonly used as "clouds" but also as "breath" in expressions such as 吞云吐雾 (smoking or vaping). 鬼 is simply "ghost" or "spirit". The linkages between "spirit" and "breath" were formed independently by ancient people who at the time did not have any real contact with one another.

Ancient psychology

The idea of the psyche is central to the philosophy of Plato. In his Phaedo, Plato has Socrates give four arguments for the immortality of the soul and life after death following the separation of the soul from the body.[6] Plato's Socrates also states that after death the Psyche is better able to achieve wisdom and experience the Platonic forms since it is unhindered by the body.[7]

The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote an influential treatise on the psyche, called in Greek Περὶ Ψυχῆς (Peri Psyches), in Latin De Anima and in English On the Soul. Aristotle's theory of the "three souls (psyches)" (vegetal, animal, and rational) would rule the field of psychology until the 19th century. Prior to Aristotle, a number of Greek writings used the term psyche in a less precise sense.[8] In late antiquity, Galenic medicine developed the idea of three "spirits" (pneuma) corresponding to Aristotle's three souls. The pneuma psychikon corresponded to the rational soul. The other two pneuma were the pneuma physicon and the pneuma zoticon.

Medieval psychology

The term psyche was Latinized to anima, which became one of the basic terms used in medieval psychology. Anima would have traditionally been rendered in English as "soul" but in modern usage the term "psyche" is preferable.[9]


Many psychologists played a part in forming Phenomenology, Franz Brentano, one of Sigmund Freud’s professors, being one of them. This phenomenon is any methodology that specializes in cognitive experience while it happens, while making sure not to reduce the experience to its alike parts, can take many forms, thus, anyone can study this topic without it being necessary to become a phenomenologist. With his discovery of phenomenology, Brentano guided the concept of psyche in  a more subjective direction. He represented intentionality within the phenomenon and urged everyone to consider that every cognitive thought intends something outside itself,[10] that it’s necessary to view certain things and events as objects of study.[11] This idea was crucial for the development of modern existentialism and how we see and live our lives. Brentano influenced psychologist, Edmund Husserl, to propose a second type of phenomenology that focused on cognitive activities that are separate from the physical world. This type of phenomenology was called pure phenomenology, it’s purpose being to uncover the core of our conscious experiences, the difference of two being the first one focusing on intentionality involves the person from the outside. The goal of this new phenomenology was the categorize our mental actions and processes by how we interact with everything around us like environmental stimuli. (Hergenhan, B.R., 2009). It kickstarted a new movement for philosophy in the first quarter of the 20th century.[11] Husserl believed that phenomenology should be exempt from any preconceptions, meaning that unlike Brentano, he thought phenomenology should go farther than intentionality. After pure phenomenology was created, it grew and soon became what we now know as modern existentialism. The unconscious experiences explained in each version of phenomenology can be anything from judgement, doubting, fearing or language as it is our psyches that have produced this language and without it, there would be no psyche[12].


In psychoanalysis and other forms of depth psychology, the psyche refers to the forces in an individual that influence thought, behavior and personality.[13] The science of the unconscious mind began in Sigmund Freud’s clinic practices when he began to become interested in mental illness, the causes and what the treatments could be. After Freud married in April of 1886, he became interested in the correct treatment of women. What Freud learned from Josef Breur regarding this topic essentially kickstarted psychoanalysis.[10]. Although it allows clinicians and anyone else interested to learn more about themselves and other people, psychoanalysis is a diminishing practice nowadays. [14]

Freudian school

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, believed that the psyche—he used the word Seele ('soul', but also 'psyche') throughout his writings—was composed of three components:[15]

  • The id, which represents the instinctual drives of an individual and remains largely unconscious.
  • The super-ego, which represents a person's conscience and their internalization of societal norms and morality.
  • The ego, which is conscious and serves to integrate the drives of the id with the prohibitions of the super-ego. Freud believed this conflict to be at the heart of neurosis.

Freud's original terms for the three components of the psyche, in German, were das Es (lit. the 'It'), das Ich (lit. the 'I'), and das Über-Ich (lit. the 'Over-I' or 'Upper-I'). According to Bruno Bettelheim, the Latin terms were proposed by Freud's English translators, probably to make them seem more 'medical' since, at the time, Latin was prevalent in medical terminology. Bettelheim deplores what he sees as pseudoscientific, Latin terms.[16]

Jungian school

Carl Jung wrote much of his work in German. Difficulties for translation arise because the German word Seele means both psyche and soul. Jung was careful to define what he meant by psyche and by soul.

I have been compelled, in my investigations into the structure of the unconscious, to make a conceptual distinction between soul and psyche. By psyche, I understand the totality of all psychic processes, conscious as well as unconscious. By soul, on the other hand, I understand a clearly demarcated functional complex that can best be described as a "personality". (Jung, 1971: Def. 48 par. 797)

[The translation of the German word Seele presents almost insuperable difficulties on account of the lack of a single English equivalent and because it combines the two words "psyche" and "soul" in a way not altogether familiar to the English reader. For this reason some comment by the Editors will not be out of place.]

[In previous translations, and in this one as well, psyche—for which Jung in the German original uses either Psyche or Seele—has been used with reference to the totality of all psychic processes (cf. Jung, Psychological Types, Def. 48); i.e., it is a comprehensive term. Soul, on the other hand, as used in the technical terminology of analytical psychology, is more restricted in meaning and refers to a "function complex" or partial personality and never to the whole psyche. It is often applied specifically to "anima" and "animus"; e.g., in this connection it is used in the composite word "soul-image" (Seelenbild). This conception of the soul is more primitive than the Christian one with which the reader is likely to be more familiar. In its Christian context it refers to "the transcendental energy in man" and "the spiritual part of man considered in its moral aspect or in relation to God." ... — Editors.] (Jung, 1968: note 2 par. 9)

Cognitive psychology

The word "mind" is preferred by cognitive scientists to "psyche". The mind is a set of cognitive faculties including consciousness, perception, thinking, judgement, language and memory. It is usually defined as the faculty of an entity's thoughts and consciousness. ["mind – definition of mind in English | Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford Dictionaries | English. Retrieved 2017-05-08] It holds the power of imagination, recognition, and appreciation, and is responsible for processing feelings and emotions, resulting in attitudes and actions Mind.

See also


  1. ^ Hillman J (T Moore, Ed.) (1989). A blue fire: Selected writings by James Hillman. New York, NY, USA: HarperPerennial. p. 20.
  2. ^ "CAS – Central Authentication Service". Retrieved 2019-12-08.
  3. ^ "CAS – Central Authentication Service". Retrieved 2019-12-08.
  4. ^ Henry George Liddell and Ridley Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon entry "psyche".
  5. ^ See p.187-197, 204 of François, Alexandre (2008), "Semantic maps and the typology of colexification: Intertwining polysemous networks across languages", in Vanhove, Martine (ed.), From Polysemy to Semantic change: Towards a Typology of Lexical Semantic Associations, Studies in Language Companion Series, 106, Amsterdam, New York: Benjamins, pp. 163–215.
  6. ^ Plato, Phaedo 69e-84b.
  7. ^ Plato, Phaedo 59c-69e
  8. ^ Cf. Rohde, Psyche, Chapters I and VII. Also see the myth of Eros and Psyche, where Psyche was the embodiment of the soul.
  9. ^ Simon Kemp, Medieval Psychology; Simon Kemp, Cognitive Psychology in the Middle Ages; Anthony Kenny Aquinas on Mind.
  10. ^ a b Henley, Tracy B., author. Hergenhahn's an introduction to the history of psychology. ISBN 978-1-337-56415-1. OCLC 1035399318.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ a b SILVERMAN, HUGH J. (1980). "Phenomenology". Social Research. 47 (4): 704–720. ISSN 0037-783X.
  12. ^ "CAS – Central Authentication Service". Retrieved 2019-12-08.
  13. ^ Cf. Reed, Edward S., 1998, on the narrowing of the study of the psyche into the study of the mind. Especially Preface, page xv.
  14. ^ "CAS – Central Authentication Service". Retrieved 2019-12-08.
  15. ^ Reber, Arthur S.; Reber, Emily S. (2001). Dictionary of Psychology. New York: Penguin Reference. ISBN 0-14-051451-1.
  16. ^ Freud and Man's Soul, Vintage Books, 1984, pp.52-62.


Further reading

This page was last edited on 8 December 2019, at 05:41
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