HOPOS: Wundt and “Higher Cognition”, Descriptive Psychology, and Völkerpsychologie

Several articles forthcoming in HOPOS: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science may be of interest to AHP readers:

Wundt and “Higher Cognition”: Elements, Association, Apperception, and Experiment,” by Gary Hatfield. Abstract:

Throughout his career, Wundt recognized Völkerpsychologie (VP) as (at first) ancillary to experimental psychology or (later) as its required complement. New scholarship from around 1979 highlighted this fact while claiming to correct a picture of Wundt as a pure associationist, attributed to Boring’s History of Experimental Psychology, by instead emphasizing apperception in Wundt’s scheme (sec. 2). The criticisms of Boring, summarized by Blumenthal in 1980, overshot the mark. Boring’s Wundt was no pure associationist. Both Boring and the seventy-niner historians emphasized psychic activity in Wundt. Section 3 considers Wundt’s endorsements of mental chemistry, elements, association, and psychological explanation via combinations of elements. Section 4 follows Wundt’s changing conceptions of VP; looks into the relations between VP and experiment, especially as regards “higher” mental processes; examines the (sometimes cooperative) interactions between individual (including experimental) psychology and VP; and considers how method, not type of mental process, distinguishes the two branches of psychology. Finally, section 5 acknowledges Wundt’s unification of VP and individual psychology and concludes that although he objected to the Würzburgers’ experimental methods in treating higher mental processes, he did not generally exclude the latter from experimental investigation, contrary to the seventy-niner narrative, which has been widely adopted.

What Is Descriptive Psychology?: Ebbinghaus’s 1896 Criticism of Dilthey Revisited
Ebbinghaus’s 1896 Criticism of Dilthey Revisited
,” by Christian Damböck. Abstract:

This article reevaluates Hermann Ebbinghaus’s famous criticisms of Wilhelm Dilthey’s 1894 essay “Ideas for a Descriptive and Analytic Psychology,” to determine how Dilthey’s diverse approaches toward philosophy and the human sciences are related to experimental psychology and to hypothetico-deductive science. It turns out that Ebbinghaus falsely accuses Dilthey of rejecting experimental psychology overall, while, in fact, Dilthey rejects only a specific misuse of experimental psychology: as a way to provide a foundation for the humanities. At the same time, Dilthey recognizes several ways in which philosophy and the human sciences might benefit from experimental psychology. Although it clearly rules out experimental psychology, Dilthey’s descriptive psychology involves a hypothetico-deductive standpoint that intermediates, with some success, between modern social science and nineteenth-century hermeneutics.

“From Völkerpsychologie to Cultural Anthropology: Erich Rothacker’s Philosophy of Culture,” by Johannes Steizinger. Abstract:

Erich Rothacker (1888–1965) was a key figure in early twentieth-century philosophy in Germany. In this article, I examine the development of Rothacker’s philosophy of culture from 1907 to 1945. Rothacker began his philosophical career with a “völkerpsychological” dissertation on history, outlining his early biologistic conception of culture (1907–13). In his midcareer work, he then turned to Wilhelm Dilthey’s (1833–1911) Lebensphilosophie (philosophy of life), advancing a hermeneutic approach to culture (1919–28). In his later work (1929–45), Rothacker developed a cultural anthropology. I will argue that Rothacker’s later theory of culture retained key motifs of his earlier works. In this way, I trace central aspects of Rothacker’s reception of both Völkerpsychologie and Lebensphilosophie. The article focuses on two aspects of Rothacker’s philosophical development that deserve more attention than they have received to date: his reception of Völkerpsychologie and the political character of his theories of culture. Rothacker’s theoretical work was closely connected to his political conservatism, which culminated in his engagement with National Socialism. The article unearths problematic aspects of the legacy of Völkerpsychologie and Lebensphilosophie in early twentieth-century German thought.

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.