Tuesday, 21 May 2019
Inbar Graiver: The Late Antique Roots of Introspection: Producing and Ordering Psychological Knowledge in Monastic Communities
The religious and cultural transformations of late antiquity gave rise to a new concept of the self. In particular, new theological concerns in Christianity culminated with the emergence of an increased interest in the inner world of the individual alongwith new investigative methods. These new lines of psychological investigation are at the center of this paper. In particular, it focuses on introspective methods for producing psychological knowledge which emerged in the Eastern monastic tradition of late antiquity. The introduction of introspective methods of data production, I suggest, was of central importance in the emergence of the theistic psychology of the monastic movement.Introspection was also of central importance in the emergence of modern psychology in the nineteenth century. Whereas modern historians of psychology have argued that introspection is a historically recent invention, this paper provides evidence suggesting that the Desert Fathers and their followers, especially Evagrius Ponticus, already employed introspection as a method for investigating the human mind. Yet, rather than arguing for a simple continuity between late antique and modern introspective procedures, a comparison between early monastic interpretations of evidence derived from introspection and those of the founders of the modern psychology reveals profound differences in the evaluation of introspective data. A juxtaposition of these alternative conceptualizations of psychological knowledge raises epistemological questions concerning the nature of such knowledge and the extent to which it is culturally constructed, which the second part of the paper addresses.