What is in a name? Psychological Humanities and the logic of presentism

Saulo de Freitas Araujo, Lisa Osbeck


Abstract: The recent proliferation of the term “Psychological Humanities” (PH) raises many questions, not least of which is the wide variety of ways in which the term is employed. After noting some of this variety, we focus on a related question that has been insufficiently discussed: the extent to which PH represents a genuinely new contribution and approach, and to what extent it represents a renaming. To address this question, we examine examples of past efforts to theorize the relation between psychology and the humanities. We explore Dilthey’s argument in favor of “two sciences” and C.S. Snow’s description of “two cultures”, which offer somewhat different models of the relations between science and the humanities. We then discuss the application of these models to the discipline of psychology, first by Dilthey himself and later by Sigmund Koch, noting similarities to descriptions of the project for PH as currently described. We question the need for a renaming of the project and call attention to the risk of PH exhibiting its own form of presentism while critiquing the presentism of (in) “mainstream” psychological science.

Keywords: Psychological Humanities; Wilhelm Dilthey; C.P. Snow; Sigmund Koch; Philosophical and Theoretical Psychology


Cosa c’è in un nome? Le Psychological Humanities e la logica del presentismo

Riassunto: L’uso crescente del lemma Psychological Humanities solleva diversi problemi, non ultimo l’ampia varietà di modi in cui questo è impiegato. Dopo aver portato l’attenzione su alcuni usi di questo lemma, ci concentreremo su una questione collegata, fin qui trattata in maniera insoddisfacente: fino a che punto le Psychological Humanities rappresentano un contributo e un approccio davvero innovativo e in che misura sono solo una nuova denominazione. Per affrontare questo problema, prenderemo in esame alcuni tentativi compiuti in passato per trattare il rapporto tra psicologia e discipline umanistiche. Prenderemo in considerazione l’argomento di Dilthey in favore delle “due scienze” e la posizione di C.S. Snow circa l’esistenza delle “due culture”, che offrono modelli leggermente diversi rispetto alla relazione tra scienza e discipline umanistiche. Discuteremo poi l’applicazione di questi modelli alla psicologia, seguendo dapprima lo stesso Dilthey per poi considerare il modello di Sigmund Koch, mettendo in risalto le loro affinità con le descrizioni correnti del progetto delle Psychological Humanities. Discuteremo poi la necessità di una nuova denominazione per questo progetto per richiamare l’attenzione sul rischio che le Psychological Humanities possano esibire una propria forma di presentismo mentre criticano il presentismo della scienza psicologica “mainstream”.

Parole chiave: Psychological Humanities; Wilhelm Dilthey; C.P. Snow; Sigmund Koch; Psicologia filosofica e teoretica

Parole chiave

Psychological Humanities; Wilhelm Dilthey; C.P. Snow; Sigmund Koch; Philosophical and Theoretical Psychology

Full Text


Riferimenti bibliografici

ARAUJO, S.F. (2019). A role for the history of psychology in theoretical and philosophical psychology. In: T. TEO (ed.), Re-envisioning theoretical psychology, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, pp 111-129.

BELTZ, A., WRIGHT, A., SPRAGE, B., MOLENAAR, P. (2016). Bridging the nomothetic and idiographic approaches to the analysis of clinical data. In: «Assessment», vol. XXIII, n. 4, pp. 447-458.

BRONOWSKI, J. (1956). Science and human values, Julian Messner, New York.

BUTTERFIELD, H. (1931). The Whig interpretation of history, G. Bell & Sons, London.

CHANG, H. (2021). Presentist history for pluralist science. In: «Journal for General Philosophy of Science», vol. LII, n. 1, pp. 97-114.

COLLINI, (2012). Introduction. In: C.P. SNOW, The two cultures, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. vii-lxxiii.

DIEMER, A. (1974). Geisteswissenschaften. In: J. RITTER (Hrsg.), Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie, Band III, Schwabe, Basel, pp. 211-215.

DIERSE, U. (2003). Das Begriffspaar Naturwissenschaften – Geisteswissenschaften bis zu Dilthey. In: G. KÜHNE-BETRAM, H.-U. LESSING, V. STEENBLOCK (Hrsg.), Kultur verstehen. Zur Geschichte und Theorie der Geisteswissenschaften, Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg, pp. 15-33.

DILTHEY, W. (1977a). Ideas concerning a descriptive and analytic psychology. In: W. DILTHEY, Descriptive psychology and historical understanding, translated by R.M. ZANER, Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, pp. 21-120 (Original edition: Ideen über eine beschreibende und zergliedernde Psychologie, Verlag der Königlischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin 1894).

DILTHEY, W. (1977b). The understanding of other persons and their expressions of life. In: W. DILTHEY, Descriptive psychology and historical understanding, translated by K.L. HEIGES, Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, pp. 121-144 (Original edition: Das Verstehen anderer Personen und ihre Lebensäusserungen (1910). In: W. DILTHEY, Gesammelte Schriften, Bd. VII: Der Aufbau der geschichtlichen Welt in den Geisteswissenschaften, hrsg. von B. GROETHUYSEN, Teubner, Leipzig/Berlin 1927, pp. 205-227).

DILTHEY, W. (1989). Introduction to the human sciences. In: R. MAKKREEL F. RODI (eds.), Wilhelm Dilthey: Selected works, vol. I, translated by M. NEVILLE, Princeton University Press, Princeton (NJ) (Original edition: Einleitung in die Gesteswissenschaften, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1883).

EBBINGHAUS, H. (1896). Über erklärende und beschreibende Psychologie. In: «Zeitschrift für Psychologie und Physiologie der Sinnesorgane», Bd. IX, pp. 161-205.

FREEMAN, M. (2020). Psychology as literature: Narrative knowing and the project of the psychological humanities. In: J. SUGARMAN, J. MARTIN (eds.), A humanities approach to the psychology of personhood, Routledge, London/New York, pp. 30-48.

FREEMAN, M. (2024). Toward the psychological humanities: A modest manifesto for the future of psychology, Routledge, London/New York.

HACKING, I. (2002). Historical ontology, Harvard University Press, Cambridge (MA).

HAMANN, J. (2014). Die Bildung der Geisteswissenschaften. Zur Genese einer sozialen Konstruktion zwischen Diskurs und Feld, UVK Verlagsgesellschaft, Kon-stanz/München.

HELD, B. (2021). Taking the humanities seriously. In: «Review of General Psychology», vol. XXV, n. 2, pp. 119-133.

JARDINE, N. (2000). Uses and abuses of anachronism in the history of the sciences. In: «History of Science», vol. XXXVIII, pp. 251-270.

KIRSCHNER, S. (2020). Challenges for a psychological humanities. In: J. SUGARMAN, J. MARTIN (eds.), A humanities approach to the psychology of personhood, Routledge, London/New York, pp. 101-118.

KOCH, S. (1959a). Psychology. A study of a science, 3 voll., McGraw-Hill, New York.

KOCH, S. (1959b). Epilogue to study I. In: S. KOCH (ed.), Psychology: A study of a science, vol. III, McGraw-Hill, New York, pp. 729-288.

KOCH, S. (1961). Psychological science versus the science-humanism antinomy: Intimations on a significant science of man. In: «American Psychologist», vol. XVI, n. 10, pp. 629-639.

KOCH, S. (1973). The image of man in encounter groups. In: «The American Scholar», vol. XLII, n. 4, pp. 636-652.

KOCH, S. (1992). POSTSCRIPT. In: S. KOCH, D. LEARY (eds.), A century of psychology as a science, APA Press, Washington (DC), pp. 951-968.

KOCH, S. (1993). “Psychology” or “The Psychological Studies”?. In: «American Psychologist», vol. XLVIII, n. 8, pp. 902-904.

KOCH, S. (1999). The allures of a meaning in modern psychology. In: S. KOCH, Psychology in human context, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 233-266.

KUHN, T. (1962). The structure of scientific revolutions, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

LAMIELL, J. (1998). “Nomothetic” and “Idiographic”: Contrasting Windelband’s understanding with contemporary usage. In: «Theory & Psychology», vol. VIII, n. 1, pp. 23-28.

LESSING, H.-U. (1984). Die Idee einer Kritik der historischen Vernunft, Karl Alber, München.

LESSING, H.-U. (2001). Wilhelm Diltheys „Einleitung in die Geisteswissenschaften“, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt.

LOISON, L. (2016). Forms of presentism in the history of science. Rethinking the project of historical epistemology. In: «Studies in History and Philosophy of Science», vol. LX, pp. 29-37.

MALICH, L., KELLER, D. (2020). Die Psychological Humanities als reflexives Moment der Psychologie. In: V. BALZ, L. MALICH (Hrsg.), Psychologie und Kritik. Formen der Psychologisierung nach 1945, Springer, Cham, pp. 87-113.

MAKKREEL, R. (1977). Introduction. In: W. DILTHEY, Descriptive psychology and historical understanding, Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, pp. 1-20.

MAKKREEL, R. (2012). The emergence of the human sciences from the moral sciences. In: A. WOOD, S.S. HAHN (eds.), The Cambridge history of philosophy in the nineteenth century (1790-1870), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 293-322.

MAKKREEL, R., RODI, F. (1989). Preface to all volumes. In: R. MAKKREEL, F. RODI (eds.), Wilhelm Dilthey: Selected works, vol. I, Princeton University Press, Princeton, pp. xiii-xv.

MARTIN, J. (2017). Carl Rogers’ and B. F. Skinner’s approaches to personal and societal improvement: A study in the psychological humanities. In: «Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology», vol. XXXVII, n. 4, pp. 214-229.

MARTIN, J. (2020a). A proposal for a general psychology of persons and their lives. In: «Review of General Psychology», vol. XXIV, n. 2, pp. 110-117.

MARTIN, J. (2020b). Methods of life writing for a psychology of persons. In: J. SUGARMAN, J. MARTIN (eds.), A humanities approach to the psychology of personhood, Routledge, London/New York, pp. 49-64.

MÜNSTERBERG, H. (1899). Psychology and history. In: «Psychological Review», vol. VI, n. 1, pp. 1-31.

ORESKES, N. (2013). Why I am a presentist. In: «Science in Context», vol. XXVI, n. 4, pp. 595-609.

ORTOLANO, G. (2008). The literature and the science of “two cultures” historiography. In: «Studies in History and Philosophy of Science», vol. XXXIX, pp. 143-150.

POLANYI, M. (1958). Personal knowledge, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London.

RICKMAN, H.P. (1976). Introduction. In: P.H. RICKMAN (ed.), W. Dilthey: Selected writings, University of California Press, Berkeley/Los Angeles, pp. 1-31.

RIEDEL, M. (1995). Geisteswissenschaften. In: J. MITTEL-STRASS (Hrsg.), Enzyklopädie Philosophie und Wissenschaftstheorie, Band I, J.B. Metzler Verlag, Stuttgart/Weimar, pp. 724-728.

ROSS, S. (1962). Scientist: The story of a word. In: «Annals of Science», vol. XVIII, pp. 65-85.

SALVATORE, S., VALSINER, J. (2010). Between the general and the unique: Overcoming the nomothetic versus idiographic opposition. In: «Theory & Psychology», vol. XX, n. 6, pp. 817-833.

SMITH, R. (1988). Does the history of psychology have a subject?. In: «History of the Human Sciences», vol. I, n. 2, pp. 147-177.

SNOW, C.P. (1956). The two cultures. In: «The New Stateman», 6 October, 1956, p. 413.

SNOW, C.P. (2012a). The Rede lecture. In: C.P. SNOW, The two cultures, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 1-51 (First edition 1959).

SNOW, C.P. (2012b). The two cultures: A second look. In: C.P. SNOW, The two cultures, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 53-100 (First edition 1963).

SUGARMAN, J. (2020). Historical ontology: Exemplifying a psychological humanities of personhood. In: J. SUGARMAN, J. MARTIN (eds.), A humanities approach to the psychology of personhood, Routledge, London/New York, pp. 84-100.

TEICHERT, D. (2011). Geisteswissenschaften. In: H. REINALTER, P. BRENNER (Hrsg.), Lexikon der Geisteswissenschaften. Sachbegriffe – Disziplinen – Personen, Böhlau Verlag, Wien/Köln/Weimar, pp. 250-256.

TEO, T. (2017). From psychological science to the psychological humanities: Building a general theory of subjectivity. In: «Review of General Psychology», vol. XXI, n. 4, pp. 281-291.

TEO, T. (2020). Foreword. In: J. SUGARMAN, J. MARTIN (eds.), A humanities approach to the psychology of personhood, Routledge, London/New York, pp. vii-x.

THOMAE, H. (1999). The nomothetic-idiographic issue: Some roots and recent trends. In: «International Journal of Group Tensions», vol. XXVIII, n. 1-2, pp. 187-215.

WAITZ, T. (1849). Lehrbuch der Psychologie als Naturwissenschaft, Vieweg, Braunschweig.

WILLIAMS, R. (1999). A history of Division 24 (Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology). In: D. DEWSBURY (ed.), Unification through division: Histories of the Divisions of the American Psychological Association, vol. IV, APA Press, Washington (DC), pp. 65-89.

WINDELBAND, W. (1894). Geschichte und Naturwissenschaft. Rede zum Antritt des Rectorats der Kaiser-Wilhelms-Universität Strassburg, Heitz & Mündel, Strassburg.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.4453/rifp.2024.0003

Copyright (c) 2024 Saulo de Freitas Araujo

URLdella licenza: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Rivista internazionale di Filosofia e Psicologia - ISSN: 2039-4667 (print) - E-ISSN: 2239-2629 (online)

Registrazione al Tribunale di Milano n. 634 del 26-11-2010 - Direttore Responsabile: Aurelia Delfino

Web provider Aruba spa - Loc. Palazzetto, 4 - 52011 Bibbiena (AR) - P.IVA 01573850516 - C.F. e R.I./AR 04552920482

Licenza Creative Commons
Dove non diversamente specificato, i contenuti di Rivista Internazionale di Filosofia e Psicologia sono distribuiti con Licenza Creative Commons Attribuzione 4.0 Internazionale.