New era over at Theory & Psychology

After a quarter century of publication, there is a new editor at the helm of the journal Theory & Psychology. Founding editor Henderikus Stam (of the University of Calgary’s theory and clinical psychology programs) has passed his position to Kieran O’Doherty (of the University of Guelph’s applied social psychology program).

In his incoming editorial, O’Doherty celebrates the contributions of his predecessor:

…the journal has showcased the work of leaders in theoretical scholarship in psychology and has been a central vehicle for the development of theoretical psychology as we now know the field. Without Hank’s dedication, it is not at all clear how theoretical psychology would look today, or whether it would have the strength and international scope it does now.

Also in this inaugural issue, O’Doherty hosts a lively discussion, the “next round” of the perennial debate about the historiography of psychology as a discipline, this time focusing  the value and limitations of the social turn and the ‘New History’ movement, and how the effects of those have led to contemporary concerns regarding the role and relationship between contextual and intellectual historical orientations and methods. The relevant abstracts read as follows, after the jump.

João Paulo Watrin: The “new history of psychology” and the uses and abuses of dichotomies

Over the past decades, some historians have proposed that a “new history of psychology” emerged in symmetrical opposition to the “old.” This article presents a critique of this rhetoric. To this purpose, it first evaluates how proponents of the “new history” have misused dichotomies in light of criticisms raised against them. An analysis then follows of the implications thereof for the actual critical historiography and for the history of psychology as a whole. It is argued that this dichotomization presents inconsistencies and produces undesirable implications for both fields. It is also suggested that this rhetoric should be replaced by a more balanced view of dichotomies and an emphasis on critical reflection rather than on simple prescriptions and prohibitions.

Saulo de Freitas Araujo: Toward a philosophical history of psychology: An alternative path for the future

Recent transformations in the history of science and the philosophy of science have led historians of psychology to raise questions about the future development of their historiography. Although there is a dominant tendency among them to view their discipline as related to the social turn in the history of science, there is no consensus over how to approach the history of psychology methodologically. The aim of this article is to address the issue of the future of the historiography of psychology by proposing an alternative but complementary path for the field, which I call a philosophical history of psychology. In order to achieve this goal, I will first present and discuss the emergence of the social turn in the history of psychology, showing some of its problems. I will then introduce the contemporary debate about the integration of the history of science and the philosophy of science as an alternative model for the history of psychology. Finally, I will propose general guidelines for a philosophical history of psychology, discussing some of its possible advantages and limitations.

Adrian C. Brock: Alternative path for the future or a return to the past? Araujo’s “philosophical” history of psychology

Araujo begins by criticising what he calls the “social turn” in the history of psychology. He singles out the work of Kurt Danziger for special criticism in this regard. He then outlines the emergence of an allegedly new field called “History and Philosophy of Science” (HPS) and calls for a different approach which he labels a “philosophical” history of psychology. Here I examine his criticism of Danziger’s work and suggest that it is unjustified. I also point out that there is nothing new about the field of HPS and nothing original about the idea of relating history and philosophy of psychology. I conclude by suggesting that, although Araujo’s criticism is unjustified, it can give some insight into where his alternative path for the future will lead. It is an attempt to excise the sociology of knowledge from historical discourse and to return to a more traditional history of ideas.

Jeremy Trevelyan Burman: Philosophical histories can be contextual without being sociological: Comment on Araujo’s historiography

The future of the History of Psychology is bright, and the recent historiographical debates in this journal play an important role in that. Yet Araujo’s recent contribution could be misunderstood: ignoring context is not the way to do a philosophical history. Instead, philosophical assumptions can be presented as part of the context that informed an historical subject. Hence the necessity, here, of a response: the History of Psychology is becoming disciplined, but slowly. There are still plenty of non-specialists who will misunderstand Araujo’s contribution as a step forward in its rhetoric (many of whom teach the history course in their department). And because even specialists also sometimes dismiss methods-talk as a false step toward methodolatry, there is a danger in leaving such misunderstandings unaddressed. Simply put, then, ideas are never only lights in the attic: as the historian looks in, we must always remember that—at the time— someone was looking out.

Find the full issue here.