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Economics as an Ideal

Much of human life is concerned with the striving of humans to meet our needs and fulfill our desires. The study of the conditions and systems in which and through which humans seek to satisfy their needs and fulfill their desires is economics. Most social institutions can be understood much more deeply if we understand them in relationship to economic forces. Much of what happens in human life is a product of economic forces. Wars and depressions often result from economic conditions. Starvation and plenty result from economic conditions. Many, if not most, of the large decisions made by human groups are based on their perception of economic realities. Many of the cruelties and atrocities in the world are highly influenced by economic realities. Money, and all of those goods into which money can be transformed, are crucial determinants of human life. If we do not study and understand economic reality, we are likely to suffer as a result.

Psychology as an Ideal

The nature and operations of the human mind are a central determinant in human life. The scientific study of the mind, therefore, can enable us to maximize our control over our own mental health. We can identify the pathologies of the mind in a way parallel to the way we identify the pathologies of the body. We can study causes and consequences of human mental health and disease. We can train practitioners to use the professional knowledge that psychological research collects in counseling and therapy, thereby helping individuals who are in need of mental assistance. With our professional knowledge, we can assist the courts in determining what prisoners are mentally safe to parole, which persons are of sound mind, and which parents are fit or unfit to rear children. We can advise lawmakers on which deviant social practices are mentally healthy and which are not. In general, psychology contributes to the mental health and optimal mental functioning of humans.

Test the Idea
The Social Sciences and You

Choose one of the social professions you have studied (history, sociology, anthropology, economics, or psychology). Read the above description of the promised aim of the profession. Then assess the extent to which your learning approached that ideal. What is your reasoning is based on?

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