GUT: a little modesty, a firm defense
Sun, 23 Oct 94 22:29:38 EST

I'm pleased that so many listmembers took interest in my intent
to keep pursuing what I called a Grand Unified Theory in psychology.
But I'm somewhat dismayed that more than a few assumed that I plan
to create the entire theory myself. No, I don't flatter myself to
that degree---I'm only trying to make a contribution to a GUT,
working mostly in the areas of personality (especially traits) and
cognition. That's why I propose to set up an Internet area---more
than just a mailing list---to discuss work toward a GUT.
A few listmembers questioned the need for or usefulness of a GUT.
A full defense would take more than a list posting, but I will answer
some of the objections raised.
Even a Grand Unified Theory does not attempt to cover every facet of
a given science. The GUT being sought in physics involves only the 4
forces of subatomic particles. A GUT simply finds the commonality in
multiple areas that were previously thought unrelated. I hope the
GUT umbrella will cover a lot of area, but hope is not necessity.
Unified theories don't complexify, they simplify. When multiple
facts that had to be remembered and considered separately are shown to
be actually the same fact, life gets easier. If you want an example,
take a look at the intricacies of physics theory before Newton
streamlined physics down to a handful of very simple laws.
Nor is work toward a GUT mere hubris. The farther we stray from the
directly observable ("The cat is in the cupboard") the more we must
deal in theories that are more or less useful to our purposes rather
than "true" or "false". Psychology is far enough from mere observation
that any GUT should be called "truer" rather than "absolute truth".
Are separate styles of psychology commensurable? We had better
hope so, if the psychology is ever to be of much use to the other social
sciences, which are built on the notion that they can deal with a unity
called the human person, not a pile of psychic fragments. And a GUT
is the only way the advocates of holistic or integral psychology can
ever find a common ground with the rest of psychology.
Walter Alan Zintz at TEA LOVERS * * fax 510 945 6852
260 Marshall Drive, Walnut Creek, California 94598-2833, U.S.A.