• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

We will always learn more about human life and human personality from novels than from scientific psychology. (Noam Chomsky) To what extent do you agree?

Extracts from this document...


"We will always learn more about human life and human personality from novels than from scientific psychology." (Noam Chomsky) To what extent do you agree? Noam Chomsky did not merely state that novels will offer a wider scope and insight into humanity as compared to scientific psychology, he also supported his reasoning with the fact that literature, novels in particular, focuses on exploring "the full human person"1. Both psychology and novels offer insights into human personality and behavior, but in different ways. Scientific psychology attempts to establish objectively a general pattern of human behavior. In contrast, novels explore the breadth and depth of human subjectivity; as Milan Kundera writes "all novels, of every age, are concerned with the enigma of the self."2 Novels and scientific psychology both contribute to our understanding of human life and personality; the former explores the isolated self, whereas the latter offers insight to the functioning of our brain. We cannot neglect one or the other as they are both important in understanding human behavior. The most significant difference between scientific psychology and novels is that they attempt to explore the human psyche through different ways of knowing. Literature is part of the arts, which uses emotion as a way of knowing. A novelist shares his knowledge and perception of the human world as he is writing his book. ...read more.


By looking at the way in which the novelist and the scientific psychologist treat the human emotion of fear, we can begin to understand the differences between the two. Fear is one of the most commonly felt emotions in the human world. Along with love, anger, and sadness, fear can be explained through the eyes of a scientific psychologist as a chemical and hormonal reaction, and in the eyes of a novelist as another significant human emotion to be explored. To a neurologist, the feeling of fear occurs when certain hormones are secreted by adrenal glands. Adrenaline is then synthesized and released into the bloodstream, along with noradrenalin. These two hormones are released in situations of fear or stress, causing other physical reactions. Adrenaline increases the body's heart rate, increases sweat production, dilates the pupils and widens the lung's bronchioles. To the psychologist, fear causes similar reactions in every human being. We all release the same hormone, adrenaline, which stimulates the same physical responses. In the eyes of a novelist, fear is different for everyone. This uniqueness we could call the subjective phenomenon of individual self-hood. Different people experience fear from different things, what triggers fear in all of us varies. Some fear darkness, others fear pain and death. Novelists have presented the different emotions that occur in the face of fear through their works. ...read more.


Although both scientific psychology and literature have provided insight and knowledge to human life and personality, both encompass slight flaws in their attempt to define human behavior. Scientific psychology generalizes: it concludes that results obtained from their population sample are applicable to the rest of the human population. It does not take into consideration the subjectivity and inconsistency that defines human nature. Human behavior is immeasurable, it is imprecise. Scientific psychologists only study the patterns of behavior that can be studied, such as conditioning, but not all behavior can be studied scientifically. Some of our actions are compelled by forces unknown to us. Novels explore the inconsistencies of human behavior. Why does Anna Karenina kill herself? Why does Hamlet feign madness? These actions, both in the novels and in real life, cannot be explained because humans will always encompass a particular uncertainty. Scientific psychology studies the measurable behavior of humans and the chemical reactions that occur in our body. Novels study the wide scope of human emotion and behavior, the perplexing nature of man. If we only studied psychology, we would not know the inconsistencies of mankind. If we only studied literature, we would not know why most of the times humans respond and behave in similar ways to certain situations. We need to take both of them into consideration. 1 Noam Chomsky 2 Milan Kundera "The Art of the Novel" 3 William Shakespeare "Hamlet" 4 258-260 John Fowles "The Collector" 5 2-4 Jos´┐Ż Saragamo "Blindness" ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge essays

  1. What similarities and differences are there between historical and scientific explanations?

    Thus it is impossible to deal with an event in its entirety. Even though both scientific and historical explanations can evolve through time as more observations are made, scientific explanations remain more empirical to the latter. However, as with all explanations there exist inaccuracies with both scientific and historical explanations.

  2. The extent and type of our language defines our knowledge of the world. Do ...

    However, since English speakers are do not require to think about gender when they talk about an object or since Chinese speakers do not think about time all the time, are their perceptions different than those who are oblige to think about gender for objects and time for moments?

  1. Capital Punishment and why it should be abolished, with particular regard to the Human ...

    Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty. That is too predictably violated by capital punishment and will be explained at a later stage.

  2. we will always learn more about human life and human personality from novels than ...

    But like I said earlier on, are these sources reliable to portray the human nature? Tu Bao : I'm not so sure myself, but, before getting into deciding whether novels and scientific psychology are reliable or not, we should verify what exactly personality is.

  1. TOK IB IA presentation. On what basis do spiritual beliefs rest? I have ...

    Boy 1: But which faculty of knowing do you consider superior? I am pretty sure knowledge by way of reason should be superior to knowledge by way of emotion or intuition? Boy 2: That's a good question. That depends on the area of knowledge in question.

  2. TOK Socrates Summary of Euthyphro, The Apology, and Crito. Applying This To ...

    I do have my phone out however, but only to listen to music. Looking at social media or texting never takes place. During this time period, a woman who works at the front desk comes in to check on me.

  1. Tok Art Assignment: My reactions on visiting the Art Gallery

    I used to think that the more famous the artist, the better the art, but I did not see that to be the case. If I had looked at the works of art without checking the artist, I would have not been able to tell the difference and decide which was at a higher level.

  2. The Language Instinct - theories of Pinker and Chomsky

    some change of blood flow in the brain, or a Chomskian (more on Chomsky below) "trace" in a sentence. The fact that humans build languages in certain ways does not show that they think things like "hmm, this is a topic-prominent language, so I'd better put the question word at the end."

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work