PSYC 410 – Humanism and Humanistic Psychology

  • Discipline(s): Psychology

  • Credits: 3

  • Available: spring semester 2025

  • Instructor: Eugenio Bacchini

  • Taught in: English

Course Description and Objectives

Florence was one of the most important centers of Renaissance Humanism. Florence was also the birthplace to one of the most important theories of Humanistic Psychology: Psychosynthesis.

Both Renaissance Humanism and Humanistic Psychology focus on free will, human motivation, and enhancing individual growth.

Renaissance Humanism is a way of thinking and living that emphasizes the actions of human beings. Renaissance Humanism stresses the fact that human beings are capable of changing the world.

Similarly, Humanistic Psychology is a psychological perspective that arose in the mid-20th century in response to two theories: Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis and B. F. Skinner’s behaviorism. Abraham Maslow argued that there was a need for a “third force” in psychology. 

Humanistic Psychology is a perspective that emphasizes examining the whole person, and the uniqueness of each individual. Humanistic psychology begins with the existential assumptions that people have free will and are motivated to achieve their potential and self-actualize.

Psychosynthesis, which is a part of Humanistic Psychology, is an original theory and a model of the psyche developed in Florence, Italy. As an inclusive approach to human growth, Psychosynthesis dates from 1911 and the early work of Italian psychiatrist Roberto Assagioli. Even though he was one of the pioneers of psychoanalysis in Italy, Assagioli maintained that Freud had not given sufficient weight to the “higher” aspects of the human personality. He thus recognized the need for a more inclusive concept of humanity. In his eyes, psychoanalysis is an ongoing task; as such, it will never end. Consequently, Psychosynthesis is —  by its very nature — always open to new approaches to human development.

General Purpose and Objectives

A student who successfully completes this course is expected to:

  • be able to grasp the similarities between the periods leading to Renaissance Humanism and Humanistic Psychology (change of paradigm, need for a new worldview and new notion of the individual’s place in it);
  • understand the humanistic approach to psychology, which focuses on the whole person. A person is “in the process of becoming,” which places the conscious human experience as the nucleus of psychological growth;
  • have learned the theories of the major Humanistic Psychologists (Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, Viktor Frankl, and Roberto Assagioli);
  • have learned the theory and methods of Psychosynthesis (the most important school of Italian humanistic psychology) and its founder Roberto Assagioli.
  • have learned the new tendencies of recent research in humanistic psychology (transpersonal psychology, mindfulness etc.).

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