New epistemological foundations for cultural psychology: from an atomistic to a self-organizing view of living systems



An epistemological foundation for cultural psychology is essential to neuro- and behavioural sciences for the challenge psychological sciences must currently face: searching  for an explanation of how a brain can become a mind and how individuals assign a sense  to the world and their life. Biological systems are very likely determined by physical and  chemical laws of spontaneous self-organization and endogenous constraints but, even if  the major result of the Darwinian revolution is “the discovery that living species are their story”, the modern synthesis of the evolution theory adopted only continuist and gradualist hypotheses. This nourished the analogy between the theory of natural selection and  the theory of operant conditioning, thereby supporting empiricist associationism and the  methodological positivism of behavioural and “classical” cognitive psychologists. Current  scientific contributions provide evidence to the need for psychotherapy and psychopathology of a new epistemological approach in order to connect research stemming from  animal models, up to the most abstract levels of personal meaning. The complex system  oriented approach, here described, called “post-rationalism”, shaped by a change initiated  by evolutionary epistemology. The regulation of emotions initially develops within interpersonal relationships and evolves during both phylogeny and ontogeny, according to  complex self-organization processes, leading to the acquisition of Self-organizing abilities and the construction of personal meaning. Endorsing the epistemological similarities  of neo-Darwinism and behaviourism, and differentiating from this, the above mentioned  approach, emphasises the fact that clinical and psycho-therapeutical practice must be  founded on the laws of biological organisation: the ongoing activity of neurobiological  systems, including the more abstract domains of thought and language.

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Adele De Pascale

How to Cite
De Pascale, A. (2014). New epistemological foundations for cultural psychology: from an atomistic to a self-organizing view of living systems. Annali dell’Istituto Superiore Di Sanità, 50(3), 268–277. Retrieved from
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