Psychology, Personal and Subpersonal

Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2017)
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Abstract
Explanations in psychology are described as personal when they attribute psychological phenomena to the person, as when we attribute beliefs and thought processes to each other, for example. By contrast, explanations in psychology are described as subpersonal when they attribute psychological phenomena below the level of the person, as occurs when scientists describe parts of the brain as representing or evaluating, for example. The practice of subpersonal psychology raises a number of philosophical issues: whether it is acceptable to attribute psychological phenomena to parts of persons, for example, and whether such attributions can yield any explanatory benefit. Even those who endorse subpersonal psychology do not necessarily agree on what this entails: there are several distinct ways of understanding the relationship between subpersonal psychology and personal psychology, which depend in part on how the ontological commitments of subpersonal explanations are understood.
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