New HoP Program: Interview w/ Saulo de Freitas Araujo

The Department of Psychology at the Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora (Department of Psychology, Federal University of Juiz de Fora) recently began a new History and Philosophy of Psychology graduate program. Faculty member Saulo de Freitas Araujo, who recently published a book on Wilhelm Wundt’s psychology (left), was nice enough to grant AHP an interview. In this interview Araujo addresses the program’s faculty and student composition, its aims, and its future plans. The full text of the interview follows below.

AHP: Can you tell AHP’s readers about the new history of psychology program at the Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora? What is the aim of the new program and when did it begin?

SFA: First of all, we created, in 2010, the NUHFIP (Center for the History and Philosophy of Psychology), which inaugurated a new space for doing research on history and philosophy of psychology in Brazil. Then in 2011, the Graduate Program in Psychology at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora created a new area, namely, History and Philosophy of Psychology. It is the first psychology graduate program in Brazil to offer an official program in this area, including specific training in disciplines like history of science and psychology, philosophy of science and psychology, etc. In the two year program, the students have to attend courses in some of these disciplines and to defend a master thesis at the end. Our main purpose is to encourage and support investigations and discussions on the historical and philosophical foundations of psychology, which can contribute to a better understanding of contemporary psychological theory and practice. With that goal in mind, we expect to receive three kinds of students: a) those who want to become scholars in the field; b) those who want to teach history and philosophy of psychology in undergraduate courses; c) those who have practical interests and are looking for a better understanding of his or her own professional activity. For the moment, we can only offer a Master degree, but we will soon be able to offer a PhD, too.

AHP: In addition to yourself, who are the faculty members associated with the new program and what are their research interests or current projects?

SFA: Our new program has four faculty members. Three of them belong to the Psychology Department (Saulo de Freitas Araujo, Fátima Caropreso and Richard Simanke) and one to Philosophy Department (Gustavo Castañon). Our research interests can be summarized as follows: Saulo Araujo (historiography of psychology; conceptions of scientific psychology in different traditions); Fátima Caropreso (philosophy of psychoanalysis); Gustavo Castañon (philosophical foundations of cognitive psychology); Richard Simanke (historical and philosophical issues in phenomenology and contemporary psychology). All our current projects are related to these areas.

AHP: How many students are currently in the program and what kind of interests in the history of psychology do they have?

SFA: We already have two master theses defended and 11 students currently working under supervision. Here you have some examples of projects being developed by these students: “Christian Wolff’s conception of psychology in the ‘German Metaphysics’ (1720)”; “Wundt and Titchener on the subject matter and method of psychology”; “The problem of technique in the correspondence between Freud and Ferenczi”; “The concept of personality in Beck’s cognitive therapy”. There are new ones, but this gives you an idea of what kind of work we are doing.

AHP: What are the program’s future plans? What can we expect to see in the future?

SFA: We have been receiving much support from the university. Not only have our colleagues in the department, but also the general administration has encouraged us to go further. In this sense, we have established three main plans for the future. The first one is to begin offering the PhD, so that we can fully develop our program and expand the possibilities of training new students. The second one is to promote the international integration with other programs and research centers around the world. This would include bilateral agreements, exchanges of students, inviting visiting professors, etc. In doing so, we also expect to attract students from abroad. The third one is to expand the program’s library to include more specific titles and materials in general. Prof. William Woodward donated us his entire private library (ca. 3000 titles), which was a very important acquisition. Since then, we have been able to buy new titles and also to receive new small donations. But we still have much work to do.

AHP: Is there anything else you would like to tell AHP’s readers about the history of psychology program at the Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora, or about the field of history of psychology in Brazil more generally?

SFA: In Brazil, the field of history of psychology has grown rapid in recent years. There are now different research groups in different universities throughout the country. The distinctive feature of our program is that we are trying to integrate history and philosophy of psychology, although this is not an easy task. But since all of us have a double training (psychology and philosophy), we believe that this integration is not only possible, but also very important for understanding some issues in the historical development and current situation of psychology. That would be the main contribution we expect to bring to the field in Brazil.

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About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a doctoral student in the History and Theory of Psychology program at York University. Her dissertation explores the early history of questionnaires in American psychology.

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