Critique of

Existentialism in general and Mays psychology in particular have been criticized as being anti-intellectual and antitheoretical. May acknowledged the claim that his views did not conform to the traditional concept of theory, but he staunchly defended his psychology against the charge of being anti-intellectual or antiscientific. He pointed to the sterility of conventional scientific methods and then inability to unlock the ontological character of willing, caring, and acting human beings.

May held that a new scientific psychology must recognize such human characteristics as uniqueness, personal freedom, destiny, phenomenological experiences, and especially our capacity to relate to ourselves as both object and subject. A new science of humans must also include ethics. "The actions of living, self-aware human beings are never automatic, but involve some weighing of consequences, some potentiality for good or ill" (May, 1967, p. 199).

Until this new science acquires greater maturity, we must evaluate Mays views by the same criteria used for each of the other personality theorists. First, have Mays ideas generated scientific research? May did not formulate his views in a theoretical structure, and a paucity of hypotheses is suggested by his writings. Some research, such as Jeff Greenberg and associates' investigations on terror management, relates generally to existential psychology, but these studies do not specifically flow from May's theory. On this first criterion of a useful theory, therefore, May's existential psychology receives a very low score.

Second, can May's ideas be verified or falsified1. Again, existential psychology in general and May's theory in particular must be rated very low on this criterion. The theory is too amorphous to suggest specific hypotheses that could either confirm or disconfirm its major concepts.

Third, does May's philosophically oriented psychology help organize what is currently blown about human nature? On this criterion, May would receive an average rating. Compared with most theorists discussed in this book, May has more closely followed Gordon Allport's dictum, "Do not forget what you have decided to neglect" (Allport, 1968, p. 23). May did not forget that he excluded discourses on developmental stages, basic motivational forces, and other factors that tend to segment the human experience. May's philosophical writings have reached deep into the far recesses of the human experience and have explored aspects of humanity not examined by other personality theorists. His popularity has been due in part to his ability to touch individual readers, to connect with then humanity. Although his ideas may affect people in ways that other theorists do not, his use of certain concepts were at times inconsistent and confusing. Moreover, he decided to neglect several important topics in human personality: for example, development, cognition, learning, and motivation.

366 Part III Humanistic/Existential Theories

As a practical guide to action, Mays theory is quite weak. Although he possessed a keen understanding of human personality, May gathered his views more from philosophical than from scientific sources. In fact, he had no objection to bemg called a philosopher and frequently referred to himself as a philosopher-therapist.

On the criterion of internal consistency, Mays existential psychology again falls short. He offered a variety of definitions for such concepts as anxiety, guilt, in-tentionality, will, and destiny. Unfortunately, he never presented operational definitions of these terms. This imprecise terminology has contributed to the lack of research on Mays ideas.

The final criterion of a useful theory is parsimony and on this standard, Mays psychology receives a moderate ratmg. His writings at times were cumbersome and awkward, but to his credit, he dealt with complex issues and did not attempt to oversimplify human personality.

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Getting to Know Anxiety

Getting to Know Anxiety

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