The October 2015 issue of History of the Human Sciences is now online. Articles in this issue explore participant observation in a sleep laboratory (right), publications on psychiatric topics in Penguin Books, and social scientific representations of consumer debt. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“On a not so chance encounter of neurophilosophy and science studies in a sleep laboratory,” by Nicolas Langlitz. The abstract reads,
This article was inspired by participant observation of a contemporary collaboration between empirically oriented philosophers of mind and neuroscientists. An encounter between this anthropologist of science and neurophilosophers in a Finnish sleep laboratory led to the following philosophical exploration of the intellectual space shared by neurophilosophy and science studies. Since these fields emerged in the 1970s, scholars from both sides have been visiting brain research facilities, but engaged with neuroscientists very differently and passionately fought with each other over the reduction of mind to brain. As a case in point, this article looks at the philosophical controversy over the dreaming brain. It serves as a window on the problem space opened up by the demise of positivist conceptions of science, now inhabited by both neurophilosophy and science studies. Both fields face the problem of how to bridge the gap between empirical research and conceptual work. At a time when ontological speculation has made a comeback in these areas of research, studies on how epistemic objects manifest themselves in the material culture of neuroscience could help neurophilosophers to become better materialists. In the sleep laboratory, however, the materiality of dreams continues to be elusive. In dreaming science studies and neurophilosophy encounter a phenomenon that – at least in 2015 – still invites a positivist rather than a materialist attitude.
FYI, the American Historical Association’s website includes a handy dandy calendar tool that provides a chronology of wide-ranging relevant content for those interested in the happenings of the historical discipline more broadly. Included are meetings and seminars, exhibitions and interpretive resources, as well as awards and fellowships.
Titled ‘Care in Context: Becoming an STS Researcher,’ the authors forward a contextualized approach to the definition of care with emphasis on how it can inform research in science and technology studies. The abstract is as follows, and find the text here:
This collaborative article, written by graduate students who attended the Politics of Care in Technoscience Workshop, brings the themes in this volume to bear on their own developing science and technology study projects and research practices. Exploring the contours of five specific moments where questions of care have arisen in the course of their everyday research, they do not find a single or untroubled definition of care; instead, care is often a site of ambivalence, tension, and puzzlement. However, despite this uneasiness, they argue that taking the time to reflect on the multiple, sometimes conflicting, forms and definitions of care within a specific research context can inform the way that science and technology studies scholars envision and conduct their work.
Melissa Atkinson-Graham: Department of Anthropology, York University
Martha Kenney: Women and Gender Studies Department, San Francisco State University
Kelly Ladd, Cameron Michael Murray, Emily Astra-Jean Simmonds: Department of Science and Technology Studies, York University
“Hall’s developmental theory and Haeckel’s recapitulationism,” by Christopher D. Green. The abstract reads,
G. Stanley Hall was one of the leading American psychologists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. He is best known today for his administrative accomplishments—founding the first psychology research laboratory in the US, launching the American Journal of Psychology and other journals, presiding over Clark University, and assembling the American Psychological Association, among other things. In his time, though, he was also well known for his pioneering work in what came to be called developmental psychology. The theoretical foundation of this research was the recapitulationist evolutionary theory of his contemporary, Ernst Haeckel. Whereas Haeckel proposed that the embryonic development of each organism follows the evolutionary history of its species, Hall argued that the postnatal developmental path of the child’s mind and behaviour follows the evolutionary path of the human species as a whole. Thus, according to Hall, children are psychologically similar to “primitive” humans, and “primitive” humans are psychologically akin to our children of today. This article explores the relationship between Hall’s work and Haeckel’s.
Over the past few decades, a large literature has emerged on the question of how one might unify all or most of psychology under a single, coherent, rigorous framework, in a manner similar to that which unified physics under Newton’s Laws, or biology under Darwin’s theory of natural selection. It is argued here that this is a highly unlikely scenario in psychology given the contingent and opportunistic character of the processes that brought its original topics together into a new discipline, and the nearly continuous institutional, social, and even political negotiating and horse-trading that has determined psychology’s “boundaries” in the 14 decades since. Psychology, as the field currently stands, does not have the intellectual coherence to be brought together by any set of principles that would enable its phenomena to be captured and explained as rigorous products of those principles. If there is a kind of unification in psychology’s future, it is more likely to be one that, paradoxically, sees it broken up into a number of large “super subdisciplines,” each of which exhibits more internal coherence than does the current sprawling and heterogeneous whole.
AHP readers may be interested in a forthcoming article in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A. The article, now available online, explores Scottish philosopher Thomas Brown’s associationism and recasts the associationist tradition in psychology. Full details follow below.
“Associationism without associative links: Thomas Brown and the associationist project,” by Mike Dacey. The abstract reads,
There are two roles that association played in 18th–19th century associationism. The first dominates modern understanding of the history of the concept: association is a causal link posited to explain why ideas come in the sequence they do. The second has been ignored: association is merely regularity in the trains of thought, and the target of explanation. The view of association as regularity arose in several forms throughout the tradition, but Thomas Brown (1778–1820) makes the distinction explicit. He argues that there is no associative link, and association is mere sequence. I trace this view of association through the tradition, and consider its implications: Brown’s views, in particular, motivate a rethinking of the associationist tradition in psychology. Associationism was a project united by a shared explanandum phenomenon, rather than a theory united by a shared theoretical posit.
The Constitution of Man by George Combe (1828) was probably the most influential phrenological work of the nineteenth century. It not only offered an exposition of the phrenological theory of the mind, but also presented Combe’s vision of universal human progress through the inheritance of acquired mental attributes. In the decades before the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species, the Constitution was probably the single most important vehicle for the dissemination of naturalistic progressivism in the English-speaking world. Although there is a significant literature on the social and cultural context of phrenology, the role of heredity in Combe’s thought has been less thoroughly explored, although both John van Wyhe and Victor L. Hilts have linked Combe’s views on heredity with the transformist theories of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. In this paper I examine the origin, nature and significance of his ideas and argue that Combe’s hereditarianism was not directly related to Lamarckian transformism but formed part of a wider discourse on heredity in the early nineteenth century.
The September issue of Science in Context includes an article by Henning Schmidgen as part of a topical section on “Surfaces in the History of Modern Science: Inscribing, Separating, Enclosing.” In his piece Schmidgen explores the importance of Hermann Helmholtz’s graphic recordings of the speed of nerve transmissions. Full details follow below.
“Leviathan and the Myograph: Hermann Helmholtz’s “Second Note” on the Propagation Speed of Nervous Stimulations,” by Henning Schmidgen. The abstract reads,
In the winter of 1849–1850 in Königsberg, German physiologist Hermann von Helmholtz (1821–1894) conducted pioneering measurements concerning the propagation speed of stimulations in the living nerve. While recent historians of science have paid considerable attention to Helmholtz’s uses of the graphic method, in particular his construction of an instrument called “myographion,” this paper draws attention to the inscription surfaces that he used in effective ways for capturing and transmitting his findings. Against the background of recent archival findings, I show that Helmholtz used isinglass copies of his graphical recordings in order to communicate the basic principle of previous measurements to the academic public. As the correspondence with his Berlin-based friend and colleague Emil du Bois-Reymond (1818–1896) and the subsequent development of the myographion make clear, these curves were not meant as measurements but functioned as demonstrations. In other words, Helmholtz’s curves did provide “images of precision” (Olesko and Holmes 1993) – but they were not precise images.
In our introduction to this special issue on the histories of feminism, gender, sexuality, and the psy-disciplines, we propose the tripartite framework of “feminism and/in/as psychology” to conceptualize the dynamics of their conjoined trajectories and relationship to gender and sexuality from the late 19th through the late 20th centuries. “Feminism and psychology” highlights the tensions between a political movement and a scientific discipline and the efforts of participants in each to problematize the other. “Feminism in psychology” refers to those historical moments when self-identified feminists intervened in psychology to alter its content, methodologies, and populations. We propose, as have others, that these interventions predate the 1970s, the period most commonly associated with the “founding” of feminist psychology. Finally, “feminism as psychology/psychology as feminism” explores the shared ground between psychology and feminism—the conceptual, methodological, and (more rarely) epistemological moments when psychology and feminism made common cause. We suggest that the traffic between feminism and psychology has been persistent, continuous, and productive, despite taking different historically and geographically contingent forms.
Full titles, authors, and abstracts for articles in this special issue follow below.
The September 2015 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Among the articles in this issue are ones on Carl Jung (above) and his investigation of his cousin’s mediumship, the epistemological problems of incorporating possession into the DSM, a case study of a museum of mental health care history, and much more. Full titles, authors, and abstract follow below.
“The epistemological significance of possession entering the DSM,” by Craig Stephenson. The abstract reads,
The discourse of the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM reflects the inherently dialogic or contradictory nature of its stated mandate to demonstrate both ‘nosological completeness’ and cultural ‘inclusiveness’. Psychiatry employs the dialogic discourse of the DSM in a one-sided, positivistic manner by identifying what it considers universal mental disease entities stripped of their cultural context. In 1992 the editors of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders proposed to introduce possession into their revisions. A survey of the discussions about introducing ‘possession’ as a dissociative disorder to be listed in the DSM-IV indicates a missed epistemological break. Subsequently the editors of the DSM-5 politically ‘recuperated’ possession into its official discourse, without acknowledging the anarchic challenges that possession presents to psychiatry as a cultural practice.