Why was Wundt’s journal titled *Philosophical* Studies?

Wilhelm Wundt is best known as the founder of first laboratory dedicated specifically to experimental psychology. But he titled the journal that published his famous laboratory’s research Philosophische Studien (Philosophical Studies). Why was that? If his aim was to distinguish between the old philosophical psychology and the new experimental psychology, why confuse the matter by associating himself so closely with philosophy?

First, Wundt was not opposed to philosophical psychology. He just thought that philosophy could be enhanced by adding experimental methods to its toolbox. His Leipzig professorship was, after all, in philosophy, and he wrote a number of treatises on philosophical problems far removed from his experimental work. But still, why didn’t he title his journal something like Psychologische Studien (Psychological Studies), since it reported the psychological research of his students and himself?

The answer is that there was already a journal in Germany entitled Psychische Studien (Psychical Studies) that published work on spiritualism and paranormal phenomena. Wundt regarded this as unscholarly nonsense, and he did not want his own work to be confused with it in the public mind, so he went with the “Queen of the Sciences” instead: philosophy.

Andreas Sommer has just retweeted an excellent little 2013 article on that “other” journal at his blog, “Forbidden Histories.” You can read it here.

About Christopher Green

Professor of Psychology at York University (Toronto). Former editor of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. Creator of the "Classics in the History of Psychology" website and of the "This Week in the History of Psychology" podcast series.

1 thought on “Why was Wundt’s journal titled *Philosophical* Studies?

  1. Andreas Sommer writes about this matter: “The claim regarding Wundt was made by Bringmann, Bringmann & Ungerer (in the 1980 Wundt Studies volume, p. 146, though they get the journal’s name slightly wrong). However, even though Wundt was doubtless aware of Psychische Studien (not Psychologische Studien, as in Bringmann et al.) and not happy about it I don’t think there is any concrete evidence to base the claim on. Philosophische Studien, after all, was an apt and even programmatic choice since Wundt didn’t insist on a separation of psychology from philosophy, far from it. I might be wrong though, and if anybody is aware of additional sources supporting Bringmann et al. I’d be keen to hear of them.

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