Date of Award
Dissertation - Restricted
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Curtis L. Carter
Michael G. Vater
Lee C. Rice
The principal aim of this dissertation is to show how theories of clinical psychology can be provided with access to the methods of a empirical science. As a contribution to the methodological foundations of psychopathology and psychotherapy, my effort throughout has been to articulate sound philosophical bases for rethinking the nature, origin, assessment and treatment of psychopathological dysfunctions. In recent decades the need for developing empirical frameworks in which to advance systematic theories of clinical psychology has, I think, been recognized with increasing urgency by theoretical psychologists and practicing clinicians alike; though faced with a burgeoning proliferation of apparently incommensurate therapeutic techniques and diagnostic formulae, researchers often lack even the rudiments of a conceptual apparatus adequate to compare and mutually assess rival theories. The effects of this methodological impoverishment are not, moreover, merely theoretical -- as I argue in Chapter II, they find derivative expression in varieties of clinical practice as well. My concern has accordingly been to attempt a thorough reformation of the conceptual bases from which this proliferation of contemporary psychological theories may be said to
In general terms, the position I shall advocate is that the methods of theory construction practiced within clinical psychology should be modelled on the methods of empirical investigation practiced in the natural sciences. The Introduction contains a defense of this position against several strands of Popperian analysis which combine to maintain a radical methodological divergence between natural and social science. My counter-argument consists essentially in the charge that this sort of view -- which I term Methodological Dualism -- misconceives the criteria of acceptability by which theoretical assertions in natural science are actually validated.
The cardinal advantage of translating models of empirical inquiry from natural science to clinical psychology is, I shall argue, the opportunity thus afforded to ensure the trans-theoretic evaluation of all theories purporting to explain the nature or genesis of psychopathological disorders. Since the possibility of implementing such evaluations has been challenged, even for theories in natural science, by those philosophers (such as Kuhn and Feyerabend) who understand divergent scientific theories as irretrievably incommensurate, I shall defend, in the third chapter, a version of scientific realism which I believe preserves the possibility of trans-theoretic evaluations without having to assume a correspondence theory of truth.
Chapter IV comprises a series of specific foundational recommendations for increasing the empirical adequacy of developing theories in clinical psychology. Basically, these recommendations focus on the provision of experimental constraints whereby lines of inductive inference from patient reports to theoretical generalizations may be regulated systematically. While the provision of such
constraints can, I think, help to ensure the development of more empirically adequate theories of psychopathology and psychotherapy, I shall further argue that the most fertile context currently available for, conducting trans-theoretic tests of psychological theories lies within the evolving science of artificial intelligence. The final chapter is devoted to an outline of the methodological benefits that may be anticipated from attempts to construct computational simulations of the explanatory models of human behavior found in contemporary clinical psychology.