Logo Utrecht University

Philosophy of the Arts

Philosophy

Practices and Institutions (and psychology)

If we want to understand why people do good, or how we can make them do good, we must look at their psychologies.

Practices work because participants are dedicated to contribute to them in favourable manner. We may set up institutions to insure that people do good in practices, i.e. to regulate practices. But you cannot regulate human behaviour in every detail, so there will remain a point for every rule where someone’s dedication does not solely depend on their fear for the consequences of their failing to comply to an institutional rule.

The law, too, can only regulate so much—but at the least it will give us directives. Religion may jump in. Yet religion too tends to become an institution, and institutions can only regulate so much. Lastly, laws are instruments of politics, and politics is a practice. (Now start at the beginning, again.)

So how does looking at psychology help here? We must decide which type of psychological theory is going to make things clear. Not cognitive neuroscience, because causal processes in or outside of the brain only tell us so much.

What we need is an understanding of the minds of people. We have no clue what part our brains play in our minds. What motivates us to do good, to contribute in positive manner to our practices, and so on. Psycho-analysis shows the way for mapping this territory, I think.