Stanley Fish At The NY Times: Psychology And Torture. Plato?

Full post here.

Fish points out that the American Psychological Association has finally voted to ban its members from being part of Guantanamo interrogations.  In other words; if you want to be a member of the American Psychological Association (professional recognition, respect, opportunity, connections etc…) this base ethical obligation must be met.

Fish points out that psychologists are paid for their services elsewhere:

“Law firms employ jury consultants to assess the psychological make-up of prospective jurists…”

“Large corporations employ psychological profilers to help make them make personnel decisions.”

“Sports teams hire “coaches” whose job it is to motivate players and make them more aggressive.”

So why is Gitmo any different?:

“…the moment psychological knowledge of causes and effects is put into strategic action is the moment when psychology ceases to be a science and becomes an extension of someone’s agenda”

Well, it isn’t, according to Fish, it’s simply a matter of degree.  In this case that degree has been determined by the AMA, which he points out has followed the American Medical Association’s and the American Psychiatric Association’s to ban its members from Gitmo interrogations a while back.  In fact:

“Applied psychology can never be clean.”

So, unless knowledge is pursued for its own sake within psychology (and in psychology’s case I”m assuming he means abstract laws derived in part from science and applied to the motivations and desires of people) psychology is always falling away from truth? 

Fish certainly seems like a Platonist, and as the comment section demonstrates, he’s stirred up a lot of debate.

Addition:  You can well argue the truth value of such a claim that ‘applied psychology is never clean,” but would we want to hold psychology and other professions (law and even science) to such a standard?  I think Fish wants to point out the flaws and debatable epistemological foundations of psychology as much as anything else.

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