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Reflections on the Status and Direction of Psychology: An External Historical Perspective

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AbstractWhenever one reads internal histories of psychology what is covered is the establishment of a lab by Wundt in 1879 as the initiating act and then the breakaway movements of the 20th Century are discussed: Behaviorism, Gestalt Theory, Psychoanalysis, and most recently the Cognitive revival. However, Aron Gurwitsch described a perspective noted by Cassirer and first developed by Malebranche, which dates the founding of psychology at the same time as that of physics in the 17th Century. This external perspective shows the dependency of psychology upon the concepts, methods and procedures of physics and the natural sciences in general up until the present time. Gurwitsch argues that this approach has blocked the growth of psychology and has assured its status as a minor science. He argued that the everyday Lifeworld achievements of subjectivity are the true subject matter of psychology and that a phenomenological approach to subjectivity could give psychology the authenticity it has been forever seeking but never finding as a naturalistic science. Some clarifying thoughts concerning this phenomenologically grounded psychology are offered, especially the role of desire. The assumption of an external perspective toward the history of psychology fostered the insights about psychology’s scientific role.

Affiliations: 1: Saybrook University


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