May reminds his readers that every scientific method rests upon certain philosophical presuppositions. Hence, it is important for any therapist, no matter what type of therapy he/she is offering, to realize this salient point, as techniques of themselves are only tools which are based on deeper grounds. When the philosophical underpinnings of particular therapies have been ignored the inevitable result is that “science gets identified with methods of isolating factors and observing them from an allegedly detached base – a particular method which arose out of the split between the subject and object made in the seventeenth century in Western culture and then developed into its special compartmentalized form in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.” (The Discovery of Being, p. 46) (This May calls “methodolatry,” ibid., p.46)
Our erudite author advances the theory that the USA has long been preoccupied with techniques and methods because of its frontier history, that is, its desire to be more the pragmatic and practical doer than the reflective be-er. (Again, my terms as interpretive of May’s ideas.) Consequently, Americans, May opines, always had an optimistic, atavistic concern for helping and changing people.
He, then, quotes an interesting observation made by the psychologist Gordon Allport. This latter scholar suggested that both American and British psychology (as well as the general intellectual climate) had been Lockean, that is pragmatic – a tradition fitting behaviourism, stimulus and response systems, and animal psychology. The Lockean tradition, Allport points out, consists of an emphasis on the mind as tabula rasa on which experience writes all that is later to exist therein, whereas the Leibnitzian tradition views the mind as having a potentially active core of its own. The continental tradition in contrast has been Leibnitzian.
In short, America has tended to be a nation of practitioners, rather than a nation of theorists. Hence it’s practical and pragmatic bias and its easy acceptance of techniques over theories.
To be continued.