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[Xmca-l] Re: Peter Jones bookmarked a fascinating article by Craig Brandist on Academia.edu.
The volker psychology of the 19th Century is very much a part of the issue
of "the two psychologies" that get discussed in the various crises tracts
of the 1920's. Here is part of what I wrote about these issues in the
introduction to *Cultural Psychology. *
*hit delete now if not interested! *
*The Völkerpsychologie movement*. Mill's ideas, along with those of von
Humboldt, were seized upon by Moritz Lazarus and Heymann Steinthal, two
German scholars. In 1860 Lazarus and Steinthal began to publish the
fur Völkerpsychologie und Sprachwissenshaft* (Journal of Cultural
Psychology and Philology), a journal which presented itself as a forum for
reconciling the natural and cultural/historical sciences (Jahoda, 1992;
Jahoda and Krewer, 1991; Whitman, 1984). They were strongly influenced by
von Humboldt and explicitly noted the similarity between their version of
Völkerpsychologie and Mill's concept of Ethology. The pages of the
*Zeitschrift* contained articles by leading historical, philological and
anthropological scholars of the day. These contributions provided
analyses of language ("Exclamation, question and negation in the Semitic
languages") myth ("On the relation between myth and religion"), and other
cultural phenomena (arithmetic systems, proverbs, calendrical devices, folk
medicine, etc.). All were intended to contribute to explaining differences
in "Völksgeist" in a manner that was simultaneously scientific and
Lazarus and Steinthal's effort to reconcile the schism between the natural
and cultural sciences was heavily criticized because they ignored the idea
of mental chemistry and began to claim that it is possible to apply data
obtained from the study of individual minds to the formulation of strict
explanatory laws of culture and historical phenomena, precisely the move
that Mill had shown to be flawed.
*Descriptive Psychology*. Wilhelm Dilthey, whose work continues to
influence a vast range of contemporary scholarship in what can be broadly
characterized as cultural studies, sought to reconcile the natural and
cultural sciences. Psychology, he believed, should serve as the
foundational science for all of the human sciences (philosophy,
linguistics, history, law, art, literature, etc). Without such a
foundational science, he claimed, the human sciences could not be a true
system (Dilthey, 1923/1988, 1977).
Early in his career, Dilthey considered the possibility that
experimental psychology might provide such a foundation science. However,
he gradually came to reject this possibility because he felt that in
attempting to satisfy the requirements of the *Naturwissenshaften* for
formulating cause‑effect laws between mental elements, psychologists had
stripped mental processes of the real‑life relationships between people
that gave meaning to their elements. He did not mince words in his attack
on the academic psychology of the late 19th century:
Contemporary psychology is an expanded doctrine of sensation and
association. The fundamental power of mental life falls outside the scope
of psychology. Psychology has become only a doctrine of the forms of
psychic processes; thus it grasps only a part of that which we actually
experience as mental life (quoted in Ermath, 1978, p. 148)
Dilthey proposed a different approach to the study of psychology, one which
harks back to Vico's prescriptions for the study of human nature as an
historically contingent phenomenon. Dilthey believed that since it
encompasses only a part of mental life, explanatory psychology must be
subordinated to a historical-social approach that studies individuals in
relation to their cultural systems and communities (Dilthey, 1894/1977). He
called this approach *descriptive psychology*. It was to be based on an
analysis of real‑life mental processes in real‑life situations, including
both the reciprocal processes between people and individuals' thoughts. As
methods for carrying out this kind of analysis, Dilthey suggested the close
study of the writings of such "life‑philosophers" as Augustine, Montaigne,
and Pascal, because they contained a deep understanding of full
*Wundt's compromise*. The system of psychology proposed by Wundt adopted
the strategy proposed by Mill: recognize the fact that two different order
of reality are involved, and create two psychologies, one appropriate to
each. On the one hand there is "physiological psychology," the experimental
study of immediate experience. The goal of this half of the discipline was
to explicate the laws by which elementary sensations arise in consciousness
and the universal laws by which the elements of consciousness combine. The
label "physiological" for this half of Wundt's enterprise is somewhat
misleading because experiments carried out in its name rarely involved
physiological measurement. Rather, it was believed that the verbal reports
of subjects who were carefully trained in methods of self‑ observation
(introspection) would yield results that could eventually be traced to
physiological processes. Experiments conducted with this goal in mind
concentrated on *elementary* psychological functions, meaning the qualities
of sensory experience and the components of simple reactions.
On the other hand, Wundt initiated a mammoth investigation of *higher*
psychological functions, functions resulting from the fusing and
concatenation of elementary functions. Higher functions include processes
such as deliberate remembering, reasoning, and language. Wundt, following
von Humboldt, called this second branch of psychology, *Völkerpsychologie*.
He argued that *Völkerpsychologie* could not be studied using laboratory
methods of trained introspection that focus on the contents of
consciousness because the higher psychological functions extend beyond
individual human consciousness. So, for example, one could not understand
the psychology of language use because
A language can never be created by an individual. True, individuals have
invented Esperanto and other artificial languages. Unless, however,
language had already existed, these inventions would have been impossible.
Moreover, none of these has been able to maintain itself, and most of them
owe their existence solely to elements borrowed from natural languages.
(Wundt, 1921, p. 3)
According to this view, higher psychological functions had to be studied by
the methods of the descriptive sciences, such as ethnography, folklore, and
linguistics. His volumes on this topic are full of data derived from a
broad range of the historical and anthropological accounts about the
languages and customs of the world's cultures (Jahoda, 1992; Wundt, 1921).
This branch of psychology, he wrote, was supposed to combine
into a unified whole the various results concerning the mental development
of many as severally viewed by language, religion, and custom (Wundt, 1921,
Wundt believed that the two enterprises, physiological
psychology and Völkerpsychologie must supplement each other; only through a
synthesis of their respective insights could a full psychology be achieved.
To those who would claim that Völkerpsychologie could be entirely subsumed
under experimental psychology Wundt replied
Its problem relates to those mental products which are created by a
community of human life and are, therefore, inexplicable in terms merely of
individual consciousness, since they presuppose the reciprocal action of
Individual consciousness is wholly incapable of giving us a history of the
development of human thought, for it is conditioned by an earlier history
concerning which it cannot of itself give us any knowledge. (Wundt, 1921,
In this connection, Wundt makes an additional methodological claim which is
central to the history and current practice of the study of culture in
mind: Völkerpsychologie is, in an important sense of the word, genetic
psychology (p. 3); that is, the study of higher psychological functions
requires the use a developmental/historical methodology . For this reason
he believed that Völkerpsychologie must involve the methods of ethnology,
conceived of as "the science of the origins of peoples."
Wundt himself did not study ontogeny (the genesis of an individual life),
sticking instead to the study of cultural history, so he had little to say
about how these two levels of genetic analysis are related to each other.
But he believed that the results of such historical research would yield
evidence about "the various stages of mental development still exhibited by
mankind" (p.4). In reaching such conclusions, Wundt was inheriting the
German tradition of cultural-historical philosophy. Völkerpsychologie, he
declared, would "reveal well‑defined primitive conditions, with transitions
leading through an almost continuous series of intermediate steps to the
more developed and higher civilizations (p.4)."
Wundt adopted a cultural, not racial, theory of the perceived inequalities
in mental products separating primitive and civilized peoples. He was
convinced *both* of the superiority of European culture *and* that the
intellectual endowment of primitive peoples is equal to that of Europeans.
Like Spencer, Wundt believed that it is not intellectual endowment that
differentiates primitive and civilized people, but the range of world
experiences ("Primitive man merely exercises his ability in a more
restricted field"). This narrow range of experiences coincided in Wundt's
mind with the image of the primitive person living in the tropics where
there is food and fun always at hand, so that the native peoples were not
motivated to move outside of "a state of nature."
 I am indebted to Bernd Krewer and Gustav Jahoda (1990) for their
summary of the contents and context of the work of Lazarus and Steinthal.
My discussion is derived from their work (See also Jahoda, 1993).
On Mon, Sep 26, 2016 at 11:11 AM, Greg Thompson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Volkerpsychologie also has a substantial influence with the field of
> anthropology proper - esp. in the early to mid- 20th century emphasis on
> Culture and Personality (e.g., Ruth Benedict, Margaret Mead, Gregory
> Bateson, G. Gorer, Abram Kardiner, etc.). By some accounts this may have
> been taking up the less productive side of volkerpsychologie (i.e. the one
> that leads to stereotypes), but it was nonetheless a BIG part of 20th
> century anthropology. (and I suspect with some small tweaks, we could
> recover much of the work that was done in this vein).
> Here is another nice resource I found that might be helpful for recovering
> It traces volkerpsychologie back to the origins in Lazarus and Steinthal,
> and forward through Wundt, Simmel, Durkheim, and Boas. It also engages with
> the question of anti-semitism that plagued volkerpsychologie (since it got
> associated with the third reich).
> Thanks Larry!
> On Mon, Sep 26, 2016 at 11:27 AM, mike cole <email@example.com> wrote:
> > Hi Larry --
> > I also recommend the article to which you point xmcaers. At an earlier
> > time, exploration of volkerpsychologie in seeking to understand
> > cultural-historical psychology origins was a living theme at LCHC. For
> > those who want to know more about this line of work, which remains
> > as Larry notes, I recommend the special issue of the LCHC Newsletter for
> > 1990. It does not substitute for the article Larry is pointing to.
> > it provides an account of volkepsycholgie within the context of
> > methodologies for the study of the role of culture in development.
> > It is available here.
> > http://lchc.ucsd.edu/Histarch/ja90v12n1.PDF
> > mike
> > On Sun, Sep 25, 2016 at 7:48 PM, <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> > >
> > > Today, I was alerted to a fascinating article that I believe may be
> > > interesting to others on this site. On the site academia.edu I
> > > Peter Jones and he bookmarked this article written by Craig
> Brandist. I
> > > downloaded this article and spent the day learning about the rise of
> > Soviet
> > > Sociolinguistics from the ashes of Volkerpsychologie.
> > > As I was reading the article I was also reflecting on how
> > > volkerpsychologie also travelled to North America and influenced the
> > > Pragmatists.
> > > This article generates a context for the emergence of “objective
> > > psychology* as a response to the *back and forth* of themes that are
> > > continuing to be explored today.
> > > I recommend reading this paper.
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > Sent from Mail for Windows 10
> > >
> > >
> > --
> > It is the dilemma of psychology to deal as a natural science with an
> > that creates history. Ernst Boesch
> Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
> Assistant Professor
> Department of Anthropology
> 880 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
> Brigham Young University
> Provo, UT 84602
It is the dilemma of psychology to deal as a natural science with an object
that creates history. Ernst Boesch