The Demise of Dutch Phenomenological Psych

van HezewijkIn a recent issue of History of Psychology, 11(3), René van Hezewijk (pictured left) and Hank Stam chart the rise and fall of the Utrecht school of phenomenological psychology.

Before and after World War II, a loose movement within Dutch psychology solidified as a nascent phenomenological psychology. Dutch phenomenological psychologists attempted to generate an understanding of psychology that was based on Husserlian interpretations of phenomenological philosophy. This movement came to a halt in the 1960s, even though it had been exported to North America and elsewhere as “phenomenological psychology.” Frequently referred to as the “Utrecht school,” most of the activity of the group was centered at Utrecht University. In this article, the authors examine the role played by Johannes Linschoten in both aspects of the development of a phenomenological psychology: its rise in North America and Europe, and its institutional demise. By the time of his early death in 1964, Linschoten had cast considerable doubt on the possibilities of a purely phenomenological psychology. Nonetheless, his own empirical work, especially his 1956 dissertation published in German, can be seen to be a form of empiricism inspired by phenomenology but that clearly distanced itself from the more elitist and esoteric aspects of Dutch phenomenological psychology.

This essay updates an earlier paper delivered at ESHHS in 2001 by van Hezewijk, Stam, and Panhuysen — “Existential questions: no, one, or two Utrecht schools?” — available for download at HTP Prints (PDF).

About Jeremy Burman

Jeremy Trevelyan Burman is a senior doctoral student in York University’s Department of Psychology, specializing in the history of developmental psychology and its theory (especially that pertaining to Jean Piaget). Prior to returning to academia, he was a producer at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.