From Völkerpsychologie to the Sociology of Knowledge

AHP readers may be interested in a new piece forthcoming in HOPOS: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science: “From Völkerpsychologie to the Sociology of Knowledge,” by Martin Paul Heinrich Kusch. Abstract:

This paper focuses on two developments in nineteenth-century (philosophy of) social science: Moritz Lazarus’ and Heymann Steinthal’s Völkerpsychologie, and Georg Simmel’s early sociology of knowledge. The paper defends the following theses. First, Lazarus and Steinthal wavered between a “strong” and a “weak” programme for Völkerpsychologie. Ingredients for the strong programme included: methodological neutrality and symmetry; causal explanation of beliefs based on causal laws; a focus on groups, interests, tradition, culture, or materiality; determinism; and a self-referential model of social institutions. Second, elements of the weak programme were: the blurring of explanatory and normative interests; an emphasis on freedom of the will; anti-relativism and anti-materialism. Third, later research projects keeping the label “Völkerpsychologie” followed the weak programme. Fourth, in the 1880s and ‘90s, Simmel tried to build on some of the elements of the strong programme. Finally, and fifth, part of the explanation for why Simmel did not succeed in his attempt had to do with the social-political situation of German academia around 1900.

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.