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This assignment requires you to write essays in response to each of the following:

1. Respecting evolution, compare and contrast the perspectives of Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer.  

2. Outline Chomsky’s Influence on Behaviorism and Psycholinguistics.  

3. Describe and explain Witmer’s contribution to the field of clinical psychology.

William of Ockham's contribution to psychology

The paper aims to discuss the history of psychology and the contribution of William of Ockham to it. In addition, the essay aims to provide an overview of Thomas Hobbes’ laws of social life. In doing so, the essay will first provide a brief overview William of Ockham, his life and teachings and then his contribution to the history of psychology. Then, the essay will talk about Thomas Hobbes, his contribution to the social life. Lastly, the essay will provide a discussion on the romantic revolt. In addition, it will discuss its influence on psychology.

William of Ockham was born in Ockham, Surrey and hence the name. He was an English Franciscan friar apart from being a scholastic philosopher (Brower-Toland, 2014). William of Ockham was a controversial figure in the 14th century for his intellectual and political thoughts. He is mostly known for Ockham’s razor, the practical principle that has his name and for his works on theology, physics and logic (Charalampous, 2013).

Psychology emerged from the philosophical interest that theorists began to show on the human mind. To understand Ockham’s contribution to psychology, it is important to know that psychology was once a branch of philosophy and it only developed as a separate branch after the 1870s (Osborne Jr, 2014). Hence, it is clear that Ockham’s works on philosophy made massive contributions to the field of psychology, especially moral psychology. Ockham viewed Aristotelians’ teachings about the human nature, their will or want, to act in order to achieve the ultimate goal of happiness or goodness. Aristotelian view was that although humans are free to choose against or for the end but they are free to choose any means to reach that end.  As opposed to this view, he argued that humans are free not only to choose any means to reach their ultimate goal but they are also free to choose that goal. For instance, if humans choose evil as their ultimate goal, they are free to do so. This makes humans morally accountable for their actions.

The above discussion demonstrates Ockham’s thoughts on the moral psychology although during his time, this view was more related to philosophy. He was of the view that people could trust their senses to tell them what the world around them is like and this, they can know directly without worrying what the world beyond their experience would be like. Ockham believed that the mind normally responds to similar objects in a similar way and this is the way, it classifies experience.

Thomas Hobbes' Laws of Social Life

Thomas Hobbes, an English philosopher born during the 16th century, is considered one of the pioneers of modern philosophy especially political philosophy. He is most renowned for his social contract theory in which, he had laid down the laws of nature. According to the social contract theory, humans should give up some of their freedom to the political power in order to gain security and protection of their rights and freedom.

In chapter 14 of the Leviathan, the most famous book where the theory first appeared, Hobbes introduced his laws of nature (Watkins, 2017). Although there were nineteen laws in all described by Hobbes, the first two hold the most prominence. As per the first law, each individual must endeavor peace when it is possible but she or he must engage in war if there is absence of peace. The second law states that people should be willing to shift their natural right to all effects in the nature’s position to an autonomous power. This is the law that formed the basis of the social contract theory. The law further states that the people should give up their rights to the sovereign power when others too are willing to do it, for the sake of their protection and peace.  

Later in chapter 15, Hobbes lays down the other laws of nature. One law states that people should keep their contract within their own power until there is one common power to enforce these contracts (Strauss, 2017). Another law instructs that people must pardon the past offences or mistakes of others who repent those mistakes or offences. As per another law stated by Hobbes, people must treat others without any bias while they judge any dispute or wrongdoing. All these laws put forth by Hobbes were of much debate and controversy especially in the coming years because as time passed, the powers of the sovereign were challenged by the powers of the people.

The Romantic revolt came around as a rejection of the texts during the Age of Reason that were burdened with instructions for the readers to follow in terms of living their lives, thinking, acting and behaving (Cranston, & Cranston, 1994). The revolt was a literary movement during the Romantic period when works like Common Sense by Thomas Paine spoke openly about freedom for the thirteen British colonies during the 1770s. The Romantics were unhappy being instructed what to think and their works reflected this thought. They encouraged feeling and intuition, the significance of imagination and influence of natural elements through their works.

The Romantic Revolt's influence on psychology

Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, the two significant poets of the Romantic period wrote poems that highlighted the importance of intuition and imagination. The Romantics, in general, revolted against the stress on rationality and reason and instead, gave importance to emotions (Gerhardt, 2014).

This clearly shows that the Romantic revolt put emphasis on human psychology more than on rationality and practicality. The revolt in fact revived psychology by giving prominence to human emotions. As Fruchtman (2018) puts it, “the romantic conception of existence gave new rise to a variety of theoretical and methodological positions in psychology”. This shows the influence of the Romantic revolt on psychology.

To conclude, it could be stated that while William of Ockham and Thomas Hobbes instructed people on the way to behave, act, or think, the Romantic revolt gave them the freedom to be what they are. The essay provided an elaborate discussion on the works of William of Ockham, Thomas Hobbes and the Romantic revolt. The influence of Ockham on psychology’s history was crucial as it laid the foundation for further research on the human mind. Hobbes’ laws of social life provided an insight on the development of sovereign power and denouncement of human emotions. The Romantic revolt analysis demonstrated the importance of emotions, intuitions and imagination.

The essay aims to provide a thorough discussion on three important topics that include, the concept of evolution, behaviorism and psycholinguistics, and clinical psychology. For the first topic, the essay will compare and contrast Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer’s perspectives. The second topic will outline the influence of Chomsky on both the concepts, and for the third topic, the essay will provide discussion on Witmer’s contribution to clinical psychology. All the three topics are important in understand the evolution, growth and problems of the humans.

Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer both have made exceptional contributions to the theory of evolution. While Darwin’s science of evolution became the milestone from which further theories developed, Spencer’s all-embracing evolution perspective became the foundation for later philosophers (Taylor, 2015). Darwin’s perspectives on evolution and especially his most popular work on evolution, On the Origin of Species, influenced Spencer. He then published his own work in 1864 titled Principles of Biology, in which he had coined the expression, “survival of the fittest” (Behrens & Robert?Nicoud, 2014).

Darwin’s theory of evolution, known also as Darwinism, is entirely concerned with biological evolution. The theory dealt mainly with “natural selection” meaning disparate reproduction and survival of individuals owing to differences in phenotype (Ingold, 2016). In Spencer’s theory, the focus is on the social evolution rather than biological evolution. Darwinism stated that only creatures who are capable of making effective adjustment with changing circumstance, survive in the fight for existence. Likewise, Spencer’s social evolution theory stated that every structure in the universe develops from a plain, undifferentiated, homogeneity to a composite, distinguished heterogeneity (Ingold, 2016).  Spencer however, added that this is applicable not only to the biological beings but also to the universe and the galaxy, not only to the human mind but also to the human social organization.

Comparing and Contrasting Darwin and Spencer

While Darwin claimed that biological creatures including animals needed to preserve their species in order to survive, Spencer stated that this struggle encompassed the whole of life and not just one aspect. He developed two theories of social evolution. The first is that movement goes from simple to complex and the second is, it goes from homogenous to heterogeneous. Similar to biological evolution, social evolution also involves movement from simple to complex and homogenous to heterogeneous.  In addition, he also stated that like biological evolution, cultures also survive that are capable of adjusting with the changing situations. Understanding this perspective of Spencer, one can find both similarities and differences between Darwin and Spencer’s perspectives with respect to evolution.

Noam Chomsky is the modern philosopher, cognitive scientist and linguist born in America in 1928 who had an immense contribution to psychology. He is often known as the “father of modern linguistics”. He believed that a person’s capability to comprehend and interpret “mere utterances” came from the influence of formal grammar (Goldsmith & Huck, 2013).

Behaviorism is that field of psychology, which believes that learning comes entirely from the way human beings are shaped by their external environment. In addition, the behaviorists believed that learning is largely a permanent change in human behavior. This notion of behaviorism could be said to be a counter argument to Chomsky’s ideas on innate learning. According to him, humans and animals both are able to understand similar things when exposed to particular linguistic information but humans are only capable of continuing the development of these abilities (Chomsky, 2014). Behaviorists, on the other hand argued that language acquisition and development results from a set of habits and denied any innate knowledge.

Chomsky’s ideas about innate learning led to the development of Psycholinguistics, the study of the relation between linguistic behavior and processes of psychology. This includes the language acquisition process as well. Chomsky introduced the term “language acquisition device or LAD” referring to the ability of humans to develop linguistic information. Form this, one could find evidence of Chomsky’s influence on psycholinguistics. He argued that certain basic language structures for every human tongue is innate and universal. He provides instance that children develop competent language use despite being exposed to inaccurate and incomplete grammar due to their innate ability (Goldsmith & Huck, 2013). This argument has also been influential in shaping the psychological development of humans in terms of their language acquisition or linguistics. It is however important to note that many later linguists have argued against the adoption of Chomsky’s linguistic model into psychology. Nonetheless, no one could deny the immeasurable influence of Chomsky in both behaviorism and psycholinguistics.

Chomsky's Influence on Behaviorism and Psycholinguistics

Lightner Witmer, born in 1867 in America, was a prominent psychologist who is known for introducing and expanding clinical psychology (Bardon, 2017). Clinical psychology refers to that branch of psychology, which deals with finding solutions to psychologically based dysfunction or distress though integrating clinical knowledge, science and theory.

The 1896 American Psychological Association (APA) paper is thought to be the first instance of Witmer’s use of the term ‘clinical psychology’ and its explanation. It was in this paper that Witmer had outlined the four chief goals of this new discipline (Bardon, 2017). The first was to focus on investigating moral and mental retardation through statistical and clinical techniques. Second was to build increased numbers of hospitals and psychological clinics particularly for children suffering retardation. Third, it aimed at focusing on exploring opportunities for professionals in other disciplines such as teaching, medical and social work to be able to work with retarded children (Gluckman, 2017). The fourth goal was to provide training to more psychologists to be experts in working with morally and mentally retarded clients.

As evident from the above goals, Witmer’s contribution to clinical psychology has been immense. Owing to his works on clinical psychology, today, there is a separate branch of study wholly dedicated to clinical psychology (Bardon, 2017). In addition, the academic institutions provide special training for teachers to teach psychologically retarded students. Witmer’s emphasis on providing post treatment help to clients made it possible for psychologists to establish strong bond with their clients and look after their overall wellbeing.


Therefore, as evident from the above discussion, all the four personalities – Charles Darwin, Herbert Spencer, Noam Chomsky and Lightner Witmer – had made visible contributions to psychology and human life. The essay first discussed the works of Darwin and Spencer by comparing and contrasting their theories of evolution and found that Darwin’s theory focused on biological evolution while Spencer’s theory was about social evolution. Then, the essay highlighted Chomsky’s influence on behaviorism and psycholinguistics, which revealed that both fields of study had acquired his linguistic development theories. Lastly, the essay discussed Witmer’s contribution to clinical psychology by focusing on his four goals that helped develop the field more exponentially.


Brower-Toland, S. (2014). William Ockham on the scope and limits of consciousness. Vivarium, 52(3-4), 197-219.

Charalampous, C. (2013). William of Ockham's Mind/Body Dualism and Its transmission to Early Modern Thinkers. Intellectual History Review, 23(4), 537-563.

Cranston, M. W., & Cranston. (1994). The romantic movement (p. 169). Oxford: Blackwell.

Fruchtman, J. (2018). Nature and Revolution in Paine’s Common Sense. In Thomas Paine (pp. 81-98). Routledge.

Gerhardt, C. (2014). A Place for Humility: Whitman, Dickinson, and the Natural World. University of Iowa Press.

Osborne Jr, T. M. (2014). Human Action in Thomas Aquinas, John Duns Scotus, and William of Ockham. CUA Press.

Strauss, L. (2017). On the spirit of Hobbes’s political philosophy. In Thomas Hobbes (pp. 77-106). Routledge.

Watkins, J. W. (2017). Philosophy and Politics In Hobbes 1. In Thomas Hobbes (pp. 107-128). Routledge.

Bardon, J. I. (2017). The school psychologist as an applied educational psychologist. In The school psychologist in nontraditional settings (pp. 1-32). Routledge.

Behrens, K., & Robert?Nicoud, F. (2014). Survival of the fittest in cities: Urbanisation and inequality. The Economic Journal, 124(581), 1371-1400.

Chomsky, N. (2014). Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (Vol. 11). MIT press.

Gluckman, M. (2017). Clinical psychology: The study of personality and behavior. Routledge.

Goldsmith, J. A., & Huck, G. J. (2013). Ideology and linguistic theory: Noam Chomsky and the deep structure debates. Routledge.

Ingold, T. (2016). Evolution and social life. Routledge.

Taylor, N. M. W. (2015). Herbert Spencer and the metaphysical roots of evolutionary naturalism. In The Age of Scientific Naturalism (pp. 87-104). Routledge.

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