The November issue of History of Psychology has just been released. Included in this issue are pieces marking the centenary of William James’ death and the 150th anniversary of Gustav Fechner’s Psychophysics (previous discussed on AHP here, here, and here). In additional articles, James Goodwin describe Knight Dunlap’s (right) vision of a national laboratory of psychology, while Peter Lamont explores the inherently reflexive nature psychological knowledge through the case of mesmerism. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Reaching beyond Uncle William: A century of William James in theory and in life,” by Paul J. Croce. The abstract reads,
During the hundred years since his death, James’s works have developed a reputation for literary flair and personal appeal, but also for inconsistency and lack of rigor; this has contributed to more admiration than influence. He had a talent rare among intellectuals for popularization of complex ideas. Meanwhile, his difficult coming of age and his compelling personality have contributed to an iconic status as a kind of uncle figure in philosophy, psychology, religious studies, and more fields that he influenced, and in American intellectual life in general, rather than as a major philosopher and scholar. Often reflecting these ways of depicting James, his biographies have gone through three phases: in the early-to-middle twentieth century, emphasis on his development of theories as solutions to personal problems; since the 1960s, increased scrutiny of deep troubles in his private life; and recently renewed attention to intellectual factors especially as amplified by greater appreciation of James’s theories in the last generation. Now, with so much knowledge and insight achieved for understanding his personal life and his contributions to many fields, a next frontier for biographical work will be in synthesis of these strands of the life of William James. Recent and prospective work offers the promise of finding deeper meaning and implications in his work beyond, and even through, his informal style, and with integration of his apparent inconsistencies.
“The 1928 Carlisle conference: Knight Dunlap and a national laboratory for psychology,” by James C. Goodwin. The abstract reads, Continue reading November issue of HoP
The just released December 2010 special issue of the British Psychological Society‘s general interest publication, The Psychologist, is dedicated to 150 years of experimental psychology, as this year marks the 150th anniversary of Gustav Fechner’s Psychophysics (see AHP‘s previous post on this anniversary here). Included in this issue are a number of short pieces by prominent scholars in the history of psychology, as well an interview with AHP‘s own Christopher Green. Authors, titles, and abstracts follow below.
“The experimental psychologist’s fallacy.” Geoff Bunn introduces a special issue marking the 150th Anniversary of Gustav Fechner’s Elements of Psychophysics. The abstract reads:
Considered by some psychologists to be the ‘founding father’ of experimental psychology, Gustav Fechner (1801–1887) was, to some extent, an uncompromisingly hardnosed materialist. Yet there was also a more conciliatory and spiritual side to his thinking. In 1835, for example, in his Little Book on Life After Death, Fechner argued that consciousness can be sustained by different ontological systems. The work of many of the great psychologists has subsequently incorporated similarly antagonistic dualisms. But these ineradicable tensions are ultimately a function not of the idiosyncrasies of individual biography but of the highly ambiguous nature of psychological knowledge itself. Continue reading History of Psychology in The Psychologist
October 22nd is Fechner Day, marking the anniversary of Gustav Theodor Fechner’s formulation of psychophysics on the morning of October 22nd, 1860. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of psychophysics, AHP brings you a sneak peak into the forthcoming November issue of History of Psychology (HoP), via an interview with Fechner authority David Robinson (left).
AHP: The forthcoming November issue of History of Psychology, features a special section celebrating the 150th anniversary of the publication of Gustav Theodor Fechner’s (1801-1887) Elemente der Psychophysik or Elements of Psychophysics. As guest co-editor of this section, can you briefly summarize the importance of this work in the history of psychology?
DR: Fechner was a prominent German physicist, when eye injury (and apparently mental collapse) forced him to retire from experimental physics at Leipzig University. As he slowly recovered from illness, he indulged his naturphilosophisch, pantheistic inclinations and sought to establish firm quantitative relationships between stimuli and sensation (or perhaps better, perception), indeed between matter and spirit. This was the 1850s, and several other physicists and sensory physiologists were making inroads in empirical and quantitative studies of perception. Fechner’s long two-volume book, Elemente, did not please them all, but it is fair to say that he successfully coined the term, psychophysics, and gave those studies and experimental psychology a lot of early momentum. Indeed Fechner was still there in Leipzig, when Wilhelm Wundt founded the Institute of Experimental Psychology in 1879. Continue reading Fechner Day Interview with David Robinson