The Human Science orientation of the doctoral clinical program at Pacifica offers an alternative to the Natural Science model that dominates much of main stream psychology. The notion of Human Science as distinct from Natural Science can be traced back the late 19th century, German philosopher Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911) (Coppin and Nelson, 2005). Natural Science endeavors to explain (German, erklarüng) facts by way of experimental demonstration of quantifiable causes—a powerful and completely reasonable approach to the natural world including, to an extent, human beings.

While recognizing the validity of Natural Science on its own terms, Human Science argues that distinctive features of human beings elude causal explanation but nonetheless can be understood in a rigorous and methodical, that is, scientific manner (Giorgi, 1970). Human Science seeks to understanding (German, verstehen) meanings by way of qualitative methods of description and interpretation. Human Science research embraces an array of empirical and theoretical approaches that share a qualitative orientation and this concern for meaning. Empirical methods include phenomenological, case study, heuristic, grounded-theory, and narrative. Theoretical research employs methods arising from hermeneutic, depth psychological, critical, feminist, and cultural theory orientations.

For the Human Sciences, “meaning” refers to how things matter, their significance and import which is neither private nor merely subjective. The meanings that inform our individual experience, while uniquely “ours,” are in the first place public and shared, appearing within the context of our culture and history (Gergen and Gergen, 2003). It is such concrete meanings that we individually take-up as we fashion the psychological reality of our lives. In place of the Natural Science endeavor of quantification and causal explanation, Human Science generates careful, qualitative descriptions leading to the recognition of structures or configurations of meaning that inform human experience, the articulation of which provide insight into individual behaviors and cognitions.

  • Coppin, J. & Nelson, E. (2005) The art of Inquiry: A depth psychological perspective. Second, revised edition. Putnam, CT: Spring Publications, Inc.
  • Gergen, K. & Gergen, M. (2003). Narratives of the gendered body in popular autobiography. In J. Holstein & J. Gubrium (Eds.) Inner lives and social worlds: Readings in social psychology (pp. 304-316). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Giorgi, A. (1970). Psychology as a human science: A phenomenologically based approach. New York: Harper and Row Publishers.