As has been demonstrated in the search for laws of human behavior in psychology, the way we think about ourselves can occlude self-understanding. Indeed, the choice of a description or a metaphor depends on what one is trying to explain – the question sets up the boundaries of the answer. It is the human ability to reflect upon our situation which enables these considerations and thus through an investigation of the creative uses of psychology, we have come to understand that reflexivity is an essential practice of thought and that psychology is the ideal medium for its enactment.
[1] Guenther, K. (2015). Localization and its discontents: A genealogy of psychoanalysis and the neurodisciplines. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press: 190.
In this series, I summarized major arguments in A Suspicious Science: The Uses of Psychology. My exploration of the uses of psychology has emphasized the explanatory roles it fulfills within broader cultural projects. Briefly, empirical psychology seeks mechanistic explanations which then filter into popular uses of psychology, and discursive clinical psychology enacts individualism through rituals of personhood such as exploration of the self and its traumas. In the final chapter, I describe Art and the Humanities as creative uses of psychology because they furnish us with reflexive knowledge, which allows for contemplation of norms, values, and meaning.[i] Self-knowledge is enabled in mimetic arts (drama and literature) as well as in arts of immanence (cinema and music). This is accomplished through engendering mimetic and transcendent sensible affective knowledge that is both analogical and discursive.
[4] Danziger, K. (1990). Constructing the subject: Historical origins of psychological research. Cambridge University Press.
Unlike empirical psychology, creative uses of psychology in the arts and humanities amplify idiographic factors; they are concerned above all with context and contingency. “(T)he humanities provide the most vigorous approach for understanding the world in its historical complexity and engendering empathy for other people within and outside our own culture.”[1]
[6] Geertz, ibid. Similarly, “epistemic access to the world is collective – it is always mediated by the social conditions under which groups of investigators work” (Danziger, 1990: 195). This does not mean that psychological knowledge is nothing but these conditions. See also Gergen, K. J. (1973). Social psychology as history. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 26(2), 309 320.

[3] Smith, (2013). Between the mind and nature: A history of psychology. UK: Reaktion books: 277.
Anthropology and historiography similarly consist of careful descriptions of difference, alterity, and metamorphosis. Clifford Geertz characterizes the expansionary possibilities of mimetic discourse: “(S)eeing ourselves amongst others, as a local example of the forms human life has locally taken, a case among cases, a world among worlds…this fugitive truth.”[2]
[2] Geertz, C. 1983. Local Knowledge. New York: Basic books: 16.
[5] Gabriel, 2013. Also, on the ritual game of having a self, see Goffman, E. (1967). Interaction ritual. New York: Doubleday.
Throughout the book, I argue that psychology can surmount the obstacles created by its origins in positivist and pragmatist motivations by developing multilevel interdisciplinary methodology. Creative uses of psychology take us some way towards this goal because the humanities present considerations of local context and reflection on culture per se. These forms of knowledge resemble techniques used in anthropology and allow for the emergence of connections between levels of environmental and social conditions and the ways humans adapt through thought and behavior. There may be causal mechanical stories about human behavior, perception, and thought in these sets of data, just like there are insights about humanity derivable from the study of history. The researcher would act reflexively so as to consider the context and historical roots of their own work.[3] This shift in the field’s social and cultural commitments would itself open the door to interdisciplinary work.[4]
Some general insights that arise from an analysis of context and reflexivity are that humans consistently engage in rituals of personhood and knowledge. The latter are embedded in the presentation of knowledge about the mind as empirical discoveries. The former consists of the political subjectivities of expressive individualism and voluntarist enlightenment humanism.[5] The kinds of truth attainable through psychology can then be hermeneutic; through creative uses of psychology in conjunction with methods from history and anthropology, the mind sciences can be seen to reflect our discourse with desire, belief, explanation, and our social constitution.[6] Knowledge is then a reflexive mimetic activity; the impulse to believe, the desire to know, and the feeling of immanence, or salience, spur the mind towards epistemic closure. This battle between the opacity of reality and the drive to understand reside at the core of what it means to be human.

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