New Issue: History of the Human Sciences

A new issue of the History of the Human Sciences has just been released online. Included in the issue are articles on Freud, French sociology, and situational realism in Australian psychology. The article titles and abstracts are listed below.

Freud’s dreams of reason: the Kantian structure of psychoanalysis, by Alfred I Tauber of the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University. The abstract reads:

Freud (and later commentators) have failed to explain how the origins of psychoanalytical theory began with a positivist investment without recognizing a dual epistemological commitment: simply, Freud engaged positivism because he believed it generally equated with empiricism, which he valued, and he rejected ‘philosophy’, and, more specifically, Kantianism, because of the associated transcendental qualities of its epistemology. But this simple dismissal belies a deep investment in Kant’s formulation of human reason, in which rationality escapes natural cause and thereby bestows humans with cognitive and moral autonomy. Freud also segregated human rationality: he divided the mind between (1) an unconscious grounded in the biological and thus subject to its own laws, and (2) a faculty of autonomous reason, lodged in consciousness and free of natural forces to become the repository of interpretation and free will. Psychoanalysis thus rests upon a basic Kantian construction, whereby reason, through the aid of analytic techniques, provides a detached scrutiny of the natural world, i.e. the unconscious mental domain. Further, sovereign reason becomes the instrument of self-knowing in the pursuit of human perfection. Herein lies the philosophical foundation of psychoanalytic theory, a beguiling paradox in which natural cause and autonomous reason — determinism and freedom — are conjoined despite their apparent logical exclusion.

Sociology and positivism in 19th-century France: the vicissitudes of the Société de Sociologie (1872—4), by Johan Heilbron of the Centre de Sociologie Européenne. The abstract reads:

Little is known about the world’s first sociological society, Émile Littré’s Société de Sociologie (1872—4). This article, based on prosopographic research, offers an interpretation of the foundation, political-intellectual orientation and early demise of the society. As indicated by recruitment and texts by its founding members, the Société de Sociologie was in fact conceived more as a political club than a learned society. Guided in this by Littré’s heterodox positivism and the redefinition of sociology he proposed around 1870, the Société de Sociologie was intended first and foremost to accompany intellectually the political changes that Littré considered imperative in the early years of the Third Republic (1870— 1940). This expectation found little echo among the members of the society, and it seems possible that Littré himself and his closest associates were the ones to interrupt the society’s meetings. Some of its members’ general studies on the status of the social sciences and their main divisions were continued in the framework of the journal La Philosophie positive (1867—83), but the authors most committed to those studies were on the margins of the Littré network. Neither the dominant positivist republicanism, centered around Littré and Dubost, nor the general sociology of the more peripheral members of the network (Mesmer, Roberty, Vitry) represented an important intellectual contribution to the formation of academic sociology in France. Given that the Société de Sociologie did contribute to diffuse the project of a sociological science and developed forms of sociology coherent enough to be rejected by the pioneers of university sociology, the group constitutes a significant case of failure in the history of the discipline.

John Anderson’s development of (situational) realism and its bearing on psychology today, by Fiona J. Hibberd of the School of Psychology at the University of Sydney. The abstract reads:

In 1927, the Scottish philosopher John Anderson arrived in Australia to take up the chair of Philosophy at the University of Sydney. By the late 1930s, the ‘macrostructure’ of his realist system was in place. It includes a theory of process and a substantial metaphysics, one that opposes positivism, linguistic philosophy and all forms of idealism. However, beyond Australia it remains largely unknown, despite its bearing on a number of current issues in psychology and the social sciences generally. This article outlines Anderson’s transition from Hegelian idealism to realism, describes aspects of his ontology and epistemology, compares some of Anderson’s ideas with Dewey’s pragmatism and explains their relevance to present-day psychology.

Movement as utopia, by Philippe Couton and José Julián López of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Ottawa. The abstract reads:

Opposition to utopianism on ontological and political grounds has seemingly relegated it to a potentially dangerous form of antiquated idealism. This conclusion is based on a restrictive view of utopia as excessively ordered panoptic discursive constructions. This overlooks the fact that, from its inception, movement has been central to the utopian tradition. The power of utopianism indeed resides in its ability to instantiate the tension between movement and place that has marked social transformations in the modern era. This tension continues in contemporary discussions of movement-based social processes, particularly international migration and related identity formations, such as open borders transnationalism and cosmopolitanism. Understood as such, utopia remains an ongoing and powerful, albeit problematic instrument of social and political imagination.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.