Question 1. If psychology were to be an exact, or, to use Mill’s phrase, “a perfect” science, then specific human acts could be accurately predicted. Would a prediction be accurate if the person about to act becomes aware of the prediction prior to the act itself? Does the fact that a prediction can be known in advance disprove the possibility of predicting accurately or is that fact just one more antecedent condition? Explain your view.
John Stuart Mill in his book “A System of Logic” considered the development of different sciences, and traced how they evolved from non-exact to exact sciences. Mill believed that any facts could be the subject of a particular science (Archie & Archie, 2003). Therefore, according to his view, any science could potentially become a perfect science. At the same time, he described the study of the human nature in the following way: “the impressions and actions of human beings are not solely the result of their present circumstances, but the joint result of those circumstances and of the characters of the individuals; and the agencies which determine human character are so numerous and diversified, (nothing which has happened to the person throughout life being without its portion of influence,) that in the aggregate they are never in any two cases exactly similar” (Archie & Archie, 2003, p. 88). Therefore, according to Mill’s point of view, although the actions and decisions of a human being, like other natural phenomena, are conditioned by a set of circumstances, it would not be possible to make exact predictions regarding a particular human being, because for human beings all data would never be given.
If psychology were to be an exact science and all data necessary for predicting the actions of a human being would be given, then the prediction would be accurate even if the person about to act would become aware of the prediction; in that case, the prediction should be re-calculated taking into account the fact that the prediction was “revealed”. Using Mill’s approach, it is possible to state that in “perfect” science knowing the prediction in advance would simply be viewed as one more piece of data for the calculation. However, in reality it is not possible because all data will never be obtained. At the same time, Mill recognizes that it is possible to make approximate predictions of the behavior of human beings, and that these predictions are sufficient for social and political sciences.
Archie, L. & Archie, J.G. (2003). Introduction to Ethical Studies: An Open Source Reader. Retrieved from http://philosophy.lander.edu/ethics/ethicsbook.pdf