Philosophy, Psychology, and “Integration”


I met a therapist in town and told her I teach philosophy.

“I do intellectual therapy”, I said.

She laughed, “How’s that?”

“Cultivating our minds is essential to mental health.” I responded.

“Yes, that’s true.”

Encouraged, I continued: “I’ve been in therapy a while, and wrote my master’s thesis on Socrates-as-therapist, so I practice therapeutic techniques in dialogue. For example, I dialogue with students and reflect back to them their own thoughts. I get them to articulate their mental ‘commentary’ and to change it. I challenge their insecurities and encourage them to take risks. In the end, I don’t think psychology and philosophy can be neatly divided.”

“I agree,” she said. “It’s all about integration.”

The conversation ended naturally. But upon reflection, I think this therapist was wrong. It’s not all about “integration.”

To integrate two things assumes the two are already divided. What I was asserting is that the two words refer to one thing.

You don’t “integrate” hydrogen and oxygen to create water. Water is already composed of hydrogen and oxygen. Bread doesn’t require the “integration” of flour and water and yeast. Bread is by definition composed of these things. You don’t integrate them, you bake them in.

Likewise, the pursuit of truth takes many forms but all aim at the truth. We use empirical methods for material realities and formal methods for abstract realities. The pursuit of self-actualization, health, wholeness, holiness, or virtue takes many forms but all depend on the truth. That doesn’t mean science and philosophy need to be “integrated.” That means the pursuit of truth and wholeness already has both “baked in.”

To separate the flour from the water, after the bread has been made is to destroy the bread. The separation of science and philosophy destroys the pursuit of truth.

You can read more about psychological counseling and philosophy here.