The Philosophical Approach

The philosophical approach to personality study is based on a broad view of man as is nature is revealed by history, literature, and general observation. Some psychologists have attempted to unite the philosophical approach with that of objective measurement.

A good example of this is found in the Study of Values test. The Study of Values is a self-inventory devised to measure the relative importance of six basic motives in an individual’s personality: theoretical, economic, aesthetic, social, political, and religious.

This classification is based directly upon Eduard Spranger’s Types of Men, a brilliant work which presents and defends the view that the personalities of men are best known through a study of their values or “philosophy of life”.

Questions are included in this test which defines the following types in terms of what people think is worthwhile in life.

  1. The Theoretical Type. The dominantly showing interest of a theoretical type is the discovery of truths for its own sake. In pursuing this goal, his greatest aims in life are to find order in the world and the systematization of his knowledge. He tends to be critical and rational and to enjoy theorizing. Scientists, philosophers, and scholars test high in theoretical values. See also: The Life of Constantin Brunner.
  2. The Economic Type. The economic type is interested in the usefulness of things. These types are thoroughly practical by nature and conform well to prevailing stereotypes of the average American businessman. Business executives and salesmen are usually high in this factor.
  3. The Aesthetic Type. Aesthetic types find their highest value in the appreciation of harmony and form and normally have little interest in the theoretical or the practical. They need not be creative artists, nor need they be effete.
  4. The Social Type. The man with strong social values or motives has a great deal of affection for people and tends to be sympathetic, kind and unselfish. He gets satisfaction from helping others. In the extreme, this may lead to sentimentality and inability to deal with human problems realistically. On the other hand, those who have very low social values tend to be cold and impersonal. Social workers, teachers, and members of the clergy of all faiths tend to be high in social values.
  5. The Political Type (power values). The political type mainly wants power over others which he uses to his own ends, not to help people. He is primarily interested in managing others and controlling their activities. Leaders in all fields, salesmen, executives, and high military officers tend to score high on this factor. If these characters would live in 2024, what smart Odyssey would they be experiencing? Big Brother Watching?
  6. The Religious Type. The highest values of the religious types relate to unity. Those who score high on this factor tend to be religious in the broadest sense, although they may not belong to any particular religious group and may not participate actively in formal religious activities. They tend to have high ethical values and a somewhat mystical attitude toward life.
  7. Mixture Types. There is no suggestion that all men belong to any of these value type exclusively. Thus a “star salesman” is likely to be high in economic and political values, low in aesthetic and social values, and moderate in theoretical and religious values.

Heredity and Maturation

At birth, learning begins to play an increasingly important role in shaping new behavior patterns. Heredity does not cease to operate, however. Hereditary potentialities for particular growth sequences and for many behaviors typical of a specific species are developing for months or even years. This process of functionality adaptions after birth is what we call maturation.

One familiar result of maturation is the voice change that occurs in boys at the age of puberty. The boy’s voice becomes lower because of a thickening in his vocal cords, which results from increased functioning of the portion of the ductless gland system that produces the male hormones. See also: “Putin and the new balance of Global Power.”

Hermann Rorschach, the Swiss psychiatrist (1884-1922) believed that the way persons answered to questions revealed much about who they are and how they experience the world. There were quite a few psychologists that still are using his test to examine a person’s emotional functioning and personality characteristics and there are organizations that include the Rorschach inkblot test in their standardized tests.

Although the low voice of the adult male does not develop until long after birth, it is nevertheless determined by heredity-acting though maturation. Observation of boys who have grown up out of touch with other boys shows that even in the absence of knowledge of this change, the characteristic lowering of the voice takes place at adolescence.

Clearly, it is not learned. At a much lower level is the pecking response by means of which the baby chick or other bird breaks the egg and frees itself. Such behavior is obviously unlearned and appears only after a period of maturation has elapsed.

In studying the relationships between heredity and environment, it is not enough to ask which of the two is primarily responsible for a given aspect of development or even in what proportions the two have contributed. The important question is how they interact. For example, heredity is mainly responsible for giving us a particular body build, complexion, or cast of features.

Any society is likely to prize certain combinations of these physical characteristics and frown on other combinations. A person born with a set of hereditary characteristics that make him the object of scorn or ridicule by his society may react to the discrimination against him by rejecting that society or rejecting the religious belief that there would exist something like a God.

Evidently, then, a number of physiological structures are essentially mature and ready to function at birth or even earlier, whereas other nervous, muscular, and glandular structures are not ready to function until months or years later. Until these structures are mature, no stimulus will be effective in producing the type of behavior which they underlie.