Empiricism and Conceptual Psychology: Psychophysics and Philology

  • Katherine Arens
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 113)


Within fifty years of the time that Kant and Herbart opened the way to a conceptual psychology dealing with the workings of the mind, its historicity, and its contents, several attempts were made to incorporate these advances into the foundations of humanistic disciplines.


Conceptual Psychology Group Consciousness Individual Mind Individual Consciousness Mental Construct 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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  1. 1.
    Gustav Theodor Fechner, Elemente der Psychophysik, 3. Auf. (Leipzig: Breitkopf und Hartel, 1907 [1859/60, 1888]) [= E1P in text].Google Scholar
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    Wilhelm Wundt, An older translation exists, which was not used due to limited availability: Elements of Folk Psychology: Outline of a Psychological History of the Development of Mankind, trans. Edward Leroy Schaub (London: George Allen and Unwin; New York: MacMillan, 1916).Google Scholar
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    For a translation of the Outlines of Psychology, see C.H. Judd, trans. (Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelman, 1897; New York: Steckert, 1897). This is but one of a series of textbooks that Wundt published in his career.Google Scholar
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    See also “Gustav Theodor Fechner: Rede zur Feier seines 100-jährigen Geburtstages,” given by Wilhelm Wundt (Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann, 1901).Google Scholar
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    Charles Finley Sanders (New York: MacMillan, 1931 [1912]), although not in his Modern Philosophers, trans. Alfred C. Mason (London: MacMillan & Co., 1915 [1902]), which stresses Wundt instead. For more modern treatments of Fechner.Google Scholar
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    This is not Darwinism, because survival values include group decisions. The term as used today was nowhere near as well-defined in the nineteenth century. See Peter J. Bowler, The Eclipse of Darwin: Anti-Darwinian Evolution Theories in the Decades around 1900 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983), for an outline of variants available.Google Scholar
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    see J.C. Flügel, A Hundred Years of Psychology, esp. III.8 and III.11. For an introduction into Wundt, see Wolfgang G. Bringmann, William D.G. Balance, and Rand B. Evens, “Wilhelm Wundt 1832–1920: A Brief Biographical Sketch,” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 11, No. 3 (July 1975): 287–97.Google Scholar
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    Mitchell G. Ash, in “Wilhelm Wundt and Oswald Külpe on the Institutional Status of Psychology: An Academic Controversy in Historical Context,” Wundt Studies, eds. W.G. Bringmann and Ryan D. Tweney, (Toronto: Hogrefe, 1980): 396–421, explains some of the institutional problems that have arisen in considering Wundt’s contribution. Arthur L. Blumenthal attributes Titchener with turning Wundt into an introspectionist (“Wilhelm Wundt — Problems of Interpretation,” Wundt Studies: 435–45); he also asserts that Wundt was much more the cultural psychologist than is normally asserted, in part due to the mistranslations of central Wundtian terms (“Wilhelm Wundt: Psychology as the Propaedeutic Science,” 19–50 in Bruxton, op. cit.), and stresses the Grundriß as the core of cultural psychology, as will be done here.Google Scholar
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    Richard J. Anderson echoes the attribution of Titchener as the one who altered Wundt’s image: “The Untranslated Content of Wundt’s Grundzüge der physiologischen PsychologieJournal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 11, No. 4 (Oct. 1975): 381–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Kurt Danziger has led in placing Wundt in a broader historical context, including Kant, Herbart, Leibniz, Fechner, and historical linguists such as Herder and Steinthal. See: “The History of Introspection Reconsidered,” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 16, No. 3 (July 1980): 241–262; “Origins and Basic Principles of Wundt’s Völkerpsychologie,” British Journal of Social Psychiatry, 22 (1983): 303–313; “The Positivist Repudiation of Wundt,” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 15, No. 3 (July 1979): 205–230; “Wilhelm Wundt and the Emergence of Experimental Psychology,” Companion to the History of Modern Science, eds. G.N. Carter, J.R.R. Christie, MJ.S. Hodge, and R.C. Olby (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1987).Google Scholar
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    In this context, see also David E. Leary, “Wundt and After: Psychology’s Shifting Relations with the Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, and Philosophy,” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 15 (1979): 231–41, who argues for Wundt’s work as a hybrid of natural and social sciences. For a description of one of Wundt’s chief innovationsCrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    see Thomas H. Leahey, “Something Old, Something New: Attention in Wundt and Modern Cognitive Psychology,” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 15, No. 3 (July 1979): 242–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    For “A Bibliography of the Scientific Writings of Wilhelm Wundt” up to 1905, see E.B. Titchener and L.R. Geissler, American Journal of Psychology, 19 (October 1908): 541–556. For essays and bibliographies on not only Wundt, but also Kant, Herbart, and Brentano.Google Scholar
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    see Benjamin B. Wolman, ed., Historical Roots of Contemporary Psychology (New York: Harper and Row, 1968). Early overviews of Wundt’s work are: Edmund König, Wilhelm Wundt als Psycholog und als Philosoph (Stuttgart: Fr. Fromanns Verlag (E. Hauff), 1902); Willi Nef, Die Philosophie Wilhelm Wundts (Leipzig: Felix Meiner, 1923).Google Scholar
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    and Arthur Hoffmann-Erfurt, ed., Wilhelm Wundt: Eine Würdigung (Erfurt: Kurt Stenger, 1924).Google Scholar
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    For the centennial of the founding of his laboratory, a series of publications about Wundt were published: R.W. Rieber, ed., Wilhelm Wundt and the Making of a Scientific Psychology (New York and London: Plenum Press, 1980).Google Scholar
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    Alfred Arnold, Wilhelm Wundt: Sein philosophisches System (Berlin: Akademie, 1980).Google Scholar
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    and Daniel N. Robinson, Toward a Science of Human Nature: Essays on the Psychologies of Mill, Hegel, Wundt, and James (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982).Google Scholar
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    Alternate translations of “Völkerpsychologie” are “folk psychology” and “the psychology of culture.” The objections to the first of these are obvious; the second alternative sounds too much like empiricism, and so we will retain the coinage “psychology of peoples.” This will avoid associations of Wundt’s work with strict physiology or empiricism, such as it is represented in “Scientific and Philosophical Psychology: A Historical Introduction,” by Theodore Mischel, in Human Action: Conceptual and Empirical Issues, ed. Mischel (New York: Academic Press, 1969): 1–40; this essay tends to ignore the reciprocal effects between the environment and the group that my coinage is intended to suggest.Google Scholar
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    See again Danziger, especially “Origins and Basic Principles of Wundt’s Völkerpsychologie,” op. cit., and the article by James in R.W. Rieber, op. cit.Google Scholar
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    Secondary literature on Paul outside of the realm of philology is rare. One early evidence of his influence is H. A. Strong, W. S. Logeman, and B. I. Wheeler, Introduction to the Study of the History of Language (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1891).Google Scholar
  38. 24a.
    The best introduction to the Neogrammarians is Winfred P. Lehmann, ed., A Reader in Nineteenth-Century Historical Indo-European Linguistics (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1967), which includes introductions and translations of important texts. Hans Arens, Sprachwissenschaft (op. cit.), does the same thing (with alternate selections) in German. The selections included in Arthur L. Blumenthal, Language and Psychology: Historical Aspects of Psycholinguistics (op. cit.), introduce Paul as a disciple of Wundt, which unfortunately does not correspond to the chains of influence in philology in the second half of the nineteenth century.Google Scholar
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    For a discussion of the interrelations of philology and psychology in the latter nineteenth century, see Elizabeth Knoll, “The Science of Language and the Evolution of Mind: Max Müller’s Quarrel with Darwinism,” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 22 (January 1986): 3–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    This parallels the definition of language as a means for social communication found in George H. Mead, Mind, Self and Society from the Standpoint of a Social Behaviorist (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1934), esp. pp. 14 ff. In Movements of Thought in the Nineteenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1936), Mead draws in this definition of society as a set of individuals in communication, relying indirectly on the Neogrammarians. In both cases, however, Mead is not interested in the feedback between individuals and culture, but only in the link of individual minds the group.Google Scholar
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    Wundt’s work still had academic recognition, in the organismic school at Leipzig, well into the twentieth century. The vector was Felix Krüger; see Ulfried Geuter, Die Professionalisierung der deutschen Psychologie im National-Sozialismus (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1984). This school, however, did not pursue Wundt’s cultural work in a way which significantly effected the humanities.Google Scholar
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    See, particularly, the article by William R. Woodward in The Problematic Science, op. citGoogle Scholar
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    For an account of de Saussure’s position in the development of nineteenth-century philology, see E.F.K. Koerner, Ferdinand de Saussure: Origin and Development of his Linguistic Theory in Western Studies of Language (diss. Vancouver, B.C.: Simon Fraser University, 1971).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine Arens
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Germanic LanguagesUniversity of TexasAustinUSA

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