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1. Life And Times
Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt was born on August 16, 1832 in Neckarau, Germany. From 1844, he attended secondary schools in Bruchsal and Heidelberg. He enrolled at Tubingen for medical study in 1851, then went to Heidelberg, where he earned his doctorate in 1856 with a work ‘On the Behavior of Nerves in Inﬂamed and Degenerated Organs.’ In Heidelberg, neuroanatomist Friedrich Arnold and the clinician and pathologist Ewald Hasse guided his interest toward neuroanatomical and neurophysiological problems. During the summer of 1856, he worked under Emil Du Bois-Reymond (1818–96) at the famous physiological laboratory founded in Berlin by Johannes Peter Muller (1801–56). Returning to Heidelberg, he became Hasse’s assistant. He completed postgraduate work in physiology in 1857.
In 1858, Hermann Helmholtz (1821–94) was made professor at Heidelberg. Wundt was made professor of Anthropology and Medical Psychology in 1864. For 16 years, he worked alongside Helmholtz at the Physiological Institute in Heidelberg. During this period, his orientation shifted from experimental physiology to physiological psychology, and ﬁnally to philosophy. From 1864 to 1868 he was a representative to parliament in the state of Baden, where he advocated social integration for workers. He was appointed professor of Inductive Philosophy (philosophy of science) in Zurich, Switzerland in 1874. On October 18, 1875 he accepted a professorship in Leipzig in Philosophy (‘with a natural scientiﬁc orientation’). In Leipzig, he founded the world’s ﬁrst Institute for Experimental Psychology, which soon attained international renown. Students came to Leipzig from many countries, including Bulgaria, the UK, Japan, Canada, Poland, Romania, Russia, and Hungary, and especially from the USA. Many students went on to establish institutes in their home countries, using the Leipzig Institute and its course of study as their model. In 1881, Wundt founded one of the world’s ﬁrst journals of psychology, Philosophical Studies. Wundt died on August 31, 1920 in Großbothen near Leipzig, and was buried in the professors’ section of the South Cemetery in Leipzig.
What kind of an era did Wundt live in? In the year of his birth (1832), the celebrated writer of German classical literature Johann Wolfgang von Goethe died. In 1848, the revolution that sought to achieve democratic process in Germany failed. In 1871, the Second German Reich was born after the violence of Prussia’s wars against Denmark (1864), Austria (1866) and France (1870–1), and Austria was excluded from the German states’ centuries-long common political development. By the time Wundt died (1920), the Second German Reich had lost World War I in 1918 and the Weimar Republic had been established. Looking back, Wundt wrote in his memoirs: ‘Lived experience is the most immediate of what the gods have bestowed, but knowledge is the better portion of what he has been granted’ (Wundt 1920, p. iv).
2. Work And Inﬂuence
2.1 An Overview
Early in his career, Wundt focused on the experimental analysis of physiological and then psychophysiological problems. Somewhat later, he attempted to provide a philosophical foundation for his experimental work. The titles of his works published in Heidelberg vividly illustrate his path: Contributions to the Science of Muscle Movements (1858), Contributions to the Theory of Sense Perception’ (1859–62), Lectures on the Mind of Humans and Animals (1863), Textbook of Physiology (1864), Physical Axioms (1866), Handbook of Medical Physics (1867), and Principles of Physiological Psychology (1874). In 1902, one of his ﬁrst biographers summarized: ‘Evidently, it was involvement with questions of sensory physiology that ﬁrst awakened in Wundt the need for a philosophical orientation’ (Konig 1902, p. 23).
In Heidelberg, Wundt also developed the fundamentals of his ethnopsychology (Volkerpsychologie), stimulated by the work of Moritz Lazarus (1824–1903) and Hajim Steinthal (1823–99) in their Journal for Ethnopsychology and Linguistics published from 1859. Decades later in Leipzig, Wundt elaborated these fundamentals into a ‘general psychology’ and a ‘general developmental psychology.’ After 1875, he wrote the works that would bring him world renown as a methodologist, experimental psychologist, and ethnopsychologist. This progression, too, can be traced in the titles of his books: System of Philosophy (1889), Logic: An Investigation of the Principles of Knowledge and Methods of Scientiﬁc Research (ﬁnally a three-volume work, 1906–8), Introduction to Philosophy (1901), and the 10-volume work Ethnopsychology (1900–20). Between 1908 and 1911, he also expanded Principles of Physiological Psychology, his standard work on experimental individual psychology,’ to three volumes. His students in Leipzig carried out the psychological experiments that would ﬁll the 20 volumes of his Philosophical Studies and those of the subsequent Psychological Studies.
2.2 Wundt’s Major Work—Individual Psychology And Ethnopsychology
Wundt’s major work was devoted to psychology, which was for him the basis of philosophy. His psychology had a twofold basis, consisting of a scientiﬁcally oriented experimental ‘individual psychology’ and a humanistically oriented comparative ‘ethnopsychology.’ About his individual psychology, he wrote, ‘The concept of individual psychology covers investigations whose subject are the psychological processes of individual human consciousness, inasmuch as these possess a typical, generally valid signiﬁcance for normal consciousness’ (Wundt 1908, p. 162). He added, with regard to methodology, ‘In truth, there are … for individual psychology … two aids available: casual self-observation and experimental method. The former assumes both a preparatory and a supplementary function; the latter, however, is the sole tool for analysis of elementary psychological processes’ (Wundt 1908, p. 163). ‘Ethnopsychology,’ in contrast, had ‘… the task of complementing individual psychology with information about the general mental products of social life’ (Wundt 1908, p. 163). ‘The principle domains of ethnopsychology … are: language, art, myth and customs. They signify for the consciousness of cultures what imagination, feeling, and will signify for individual consciousness’ (Wundt 1908, p. 232). Clarifying the main aspects of ethnopsychology he continues, ‘So the psychological value of language consists primarily in expressing laws of thought, therefore various forms of language correspond to speciﬁc steps in the development of this basic mental function. In the same way, myth is intimately connected with the activities of fantasy in art’ (Wundt 1908, p. 232). Finally, he describes the psychological value of (social) customs, writing, ‘As myth does for art and religion, so do customs possess a central signiﬁcance in their relation to two other important areas of life’ (Wundt 1908, p. 233). ‘One of these areas is society … It is society that ﬁrst makes possible the formation of customs, the prevailing embodiments of norms of will within a society … The other area deriving from customs is law’ (Wundt 1908, p. 234). He adds ﬁnally: ‘Language, art, myth and customs are thus not the sole objects of ethno- psychology, but they are the ones that from the beginning express social life’ (Wundt 1908, p. 234). On methodology in ethnopsychology, he wrote, ‘The fundamental method of ethnopsychology … is … comparison in the ways it is generally used in the humanities’ (Wundt 1908, p. 240). And he adds, ‘… ethnopsychology … is conducted … by assembling for comparison a collection of facts about psychological viewpoints, and through this close and direct connection to psychological analysis, comparison itself leads to the establishment of psychological laws … In this manner, the correct use of the comparative method here gains a signiﬁcance similar to that of experimental procedure in individual psychology’ (Wundt 1908, p. 240).
With these ideas, Wundt created a conceptual framework that would have great consequence in the history of psychology: a scientiﬁc psychology of elementary psychological phenomena and a humanistic psychology of higher psychological phenomena. Scientiﬁc psychology is an ‘individual psychology’ since it gets its data from the experimental investigation of individuals. Humanistic ‘ethnopsychology’ is a ‘general psychology,’ since it examines general psychological objects. As such, it is also a ‘general developmental psychology’ since those objects also develop throughout history. Methodologically, ethnopsychology gets its data from the ethnological analysis of historically developed products of mind (i.e., language, art forms, myths, customs). From these, conclusions can be drawn about the psychological processes involved in their emergence. Such processes include thinking, feeling, or willing. The view that a methodical humanistic approach was the only way to study higher psychological processes was momentous in the history of psychology. According to this concept, there could be no experimental psychology of thinking, emotion, or volition. From today’s standpoint it should be noted that Wundt did recognize that psychological methodology could not be solely experimental. It must also be a quasiexperimental and historical methodology. On the other hand, his view that higher psychological processes were inaccessible to experimentation proved to be false. Wundt’s methodological quarrel at the beginning of the twentieth century with members of the Wurzburg school around Oswald Kulpe (1862– 1915), which concerned the role of experimentation in the psychology of thinking, had already shown that his critique of their method as ‘interrogation experiments’ was untenable.
3. Wundt And The Genesis Of The Discipline Of Modern Psychology
Wundt made fundamental contributions to the genesis of the discipline of modern psychology in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, in Germany and beyond. This genesis may be described generally in terms of six phases and their corresponding developmental features.
First, Wundt had a lasting impact on the development of the subject matter and methods of empirical psychology since the beginning of the nineteenth century with his ‘individual psychology.’ This is also true to a certain extent for his ‘ethnopsychology’, if historically developed products of mind are regarded as historical empirical experience.
Second, Wundt was inﬂuential in institutionalization, that is, founding institutes for experimental psychology and anchoring them in the university system, as well as other forms of institutionalization, such as the founding of scholarly journals and scholarly societies. Active in scientiﬁc policy making, Wundt made a deﬁnitive contribution to institutionalization by founding the world’s ﬁrst psychological laboratory, the Institute for Experimental Psychology at the University of Leipzig in 1879. He also founded one of the ﬁrst experimental journals in psychology, Philosophical Studies in 1881.
Third, Wundt can be said to have contributed to the temporary division into major schools during the period between about1890 and 1940, inasmuch as his institute became a model for psychological institutes in many countries. But he did not found an actual school in the strict sense of the Berlin school of Gestalt psychology, the Wurzburg school of cognitive psychology, or the Vienna school of psychoanalysis.
The fourth phase is the development of applied psychology, that is, through the inclusion and development of ﬁelds of praxis outside the universities and higher education after about 1890. Wundt had an ambivalent, rather negative relationship to the development of applied psychology. In his opinion, psychology should attempt a transition to practical applications only after its foundation has been systematically constructed (Wundt 1913).
Fifth, with his twofold psychology and with numerous students from many countries, Wundt made a deﬁnitive contribution to the development of a pluralistic system of psychology and to the gradual integration of the major schools after about 1930.
The ﬁnal phase is professionalization, that is, the establishment, social anchoring, and state certiﬁcation of standards for academically educated psychologists active outside of the university system around the time of World War I. With his early work in developing a curriculum for the education and training of psychologists, Wundt contributed indirectly to professionalization. This curriculum, with further contributions from other psychologists, was adopted in 1941 in the form of the ﬁrst state diploma examination regulations in Germany.
The genesis of the discipline described above was initially, in the nineteenth century, determined primarily by experimental psychology. This constituted the ﬁrst phase of methodological development in which experimental methods, the technical apparatus and the mathematics of experimental physics and of experimental physiology were transferred to psychology. Wundt’s ‘individual psychology’ is an expression of this development. It thus becomes understandable why many of the ‘pioneers’ of modern psychology, Wundt’s contemporaries in nineteenth century Germany, were trained as experimental physicists or experimental physiologists. They include Ernst Heinrich Weber (1795–1878), anatomist and physiologist, Gustav Theodor Fechner (1801–87), doctor and physicist, and Hermann von Helmholtz (1821–94), physiologist and physicist.
During the second half of the nineteenth century a second phase of methodological development began. More or less standardized nonexperimental methods were added step by step to the experimental procedures. These methods were initially analytical documentary procedures that Wundt called methods of ‘comparison’ within his ‘ethnopsychology.’ Later they also included the preexperimental empirical methods based on the paradigms of assessment, achievement, arrangement, and interpretation. These methods contributed signiﬁcantly to the development of psychodiagnostic procedures. Both groups of nonexperimental procedures today constitute elements of ‘historiographic’ and ‘quasi-experimental’ methodology in psychology. Wundt’s work and its inﬂuence may be categorized within these two phases of nineteenth-century methodological development: his experimental ‘individual psychology’ falls within the ﬁrst phase and his nonexperimental ‘ethnopsychology’ within the second.
4. Review And Outlook—What Was Transitory, What Endures
Four achievements of Wundt’s life’s work must be especially emphasized. First, he contributed, in the politics of science, to the genesis of the discipline of modern psychology, that is, to its independence as an empirical psychology with its own subject matter and methods. Second, he constructed a system of psychology as an experimental ‘individual psychology’ and as a humanistic ‘ethnopsychology.’ Third, he founded the world’s ﬁrst Institute for Experimental Psychology, which gave impetus to the institutionalization of psychology and fourth, he founded one of the ﬁrst scientiﬁc journals for psychology, Philosophical Studies.
Critically it should be noted that Wundt’s concept of the experimental inaccessibility of higher psychological processes played a limited role for a time in the discipline’s development. However, even some of his contemporaries did not share this idea. They included Gustav Theodor Fechner (1801–87), Carl Stumpf (1848–1936), Hermann Ebbinghaus (1850–1909), Georg Elias Muller (1850–1934) and Oswald Kulpe (1862–1915). Nor did many experimental psychologists of the next generation, such as Narziß Ach (1871–1946), Karl Buhler (1879–1963), Max Wertheimer (1880–1943) or Otto Selz (1881–1944), share Wundt’s view.
Wundt’s writings and activities attained worldwide inﬂuence, especially because of his many students. It was them, most of all, who spread the tradition of experimental ‘individual psychology.’ Granville Stanley Hall (1844–1924), who established the second psychological laboratory in the USA at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in 1883 and in 1887 founded the American Journal of Psychology, was a prime example. Another was James McKeen Cattell (1860–1944), Wundt’s ﬁrst assistant in Leipzig, who occupied the ﬁrst chair in psychology in the USA at the University of Pennsylvania in 1887. He became known primarily as the cofounder of the ﬁeld of psychological diagnostic testing. Edward Bradford Titchener (1867–1927) who left Oxford, England in 1890, spent two years in Leipzig and went on to promulgate Wundt’s teachings as structuralism at Cornell University in the USA. Another student was Dimitrij Nikolaevich Uznadze (1887–1950), founder of the Georgian school of psychology and known for his theory of set. Notable among Wundt’s German students were Emil Kraepelin (1856–1926), one of the founders of modern psychiatry, psychopharmacology, and experimental psychodiagnostics; Ernst Meumann (1862–1915), founder of experimental pedagogy; Theodor Lipps (1851–1914), an exponent of experimental esthetics; Hugo Munsterberg (1863–1916), founder of industrial psychology and cofounder of applied psychology (‘psychotechnics’); and Karl Marbe (1869–1953), one of the founders of forensic psychology.
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