Wilhelm Wundt

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Last updated: April 6, 2019

Wilhelm Maximiliam Wundt stands as a historical figure in the development and propagation of experimental psychology. He is known as the founding father of the first laboratory for psychology. He was born in Neckarau, German in 1832 and died in 1920. He was born to Titchener who was a minister in Lutheran.

When he was aged six, his family vacated to Heidensheim at Baden. Wundt grew as a young precocious boy under the pupilage of Friedrich Muller who was an assistant to his father. He studied at Heidelberg and Gymnasiem before joining University of Tubingen while at the age of 19. However, he took a transfer to University of Heidelberg after one year and took medicine as his major. He declined medicine and joined physiology under the tutelage of the founding father of experimental psychology Johannes Muller. He took his doctorate degree at the age of 24 in Heidelberg and shared great moments in studying physiology with Hermann von Helmholtz in the same study physiology laboratory.In 1871, Helmholtz left Heidelberg as a professor in physiology which gave Wundt the chance of replacing him.

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He however transferred to University of Zurich and became the chairman of inductive philosophy. In 1875, he was appointed in chairing the department of Leipzig’s philosophy. (http://psychology.about.com/od/profilesofmajorthinkers/p/wundtprofile.htm)He widely participated in politics while at Heidelberg.

Ceremoniously, he was appointed in Baden parliament. As an icon in various disciplines such as psychology, philosophy, physiology and other disciplines, he wages an enormous attribute towards developing psychology. His work dominated various spheres of learning such as books, lecture halls and arenas.  His writings are estimated to totaling to 53000 pages which included articles in areas such as vision, hypnotism, human and animal psychology, poisons, spiritualism, politics, medicine and other areas of contagious human knowledge. Great foundations marked Wundt’s philosophical propagation. Generally, the position of the early 19th Century psychological standpoint was hallmarked by Kantian argument that scientific psychology was ideally impossible (Cronax-Hillix, Terry, 1990). The dogmatic inadequacy posited by Kant on psychology gave Wundt a base with which he would extra ordinarily explore the subject matter of psychology.

The epic towards founding experimental psychology by Wundt was a struggle in disregarding the contemplations posited by other scholars and early philosophers like Max ,Weber, Emmanuel Kant and others. His foundations on the subject matter of experimental science in psychology started when he “triangulated” the various options about the same area of knowledge as formerly developed by others. Firstly, the starting point of his psychological development was by rejecting Fechner’s mysticism but at the same time maintaining the state of his approach in experimental psychology. In the same point, he maintained the pure state of physical interpretation on physiological experiments as propagated by Helmholtz. This was through his argument that any human experimentation revealed regularities of reality about the inner human psychology (Brent, Richard, 1997).

The foundations of his exploration in the world of pragmatic knowledge were based on establishing a system of philosophico-scientific knowledge, politics and practice. He had a length admiration in developing his career through output of coherent ideas and philosophical attributes that addressed different spheres of human concern. However, despite a wide dimension of scope in the areas of human knowledge, great attribute goes to his contribution in psychology.

The philosophical rational for studying Wundt is based on two conceptions. At one level, his arguments that age more than 100 years about legitimizing the non-reductionist account on human consciousness have been challenging as well as a resource scope of study to the philosophy of the mind and contemporary psychology. Nevertheless, in providing a tolerable ground in understanding the relationship between the traditional and the modern philosophy. Though there exists a wide domain of influence by him on different topics such as phenomenology, pragmatism and the neo-Kantianism, Wundt can perhaps be credited of developing the empirical methodologies together with his students that gave philosophy the chance of separate existence to the discipline of philosophy (Tracy, Michael, 2005)Across his historical biography, he is described as participating greatly towards different spheres of life. This includes his span in career development, politics, philosophy, administration and others preferential aspects. His career development also encompassed great acquisition of pragmatic and valid knowledge by been a student and later a lecture for philosophy and psychology at the university. In such for this true domain of knowledge, he continuously interacted with various domains of human societal structures which gave him the capacity of writing many articles on different spheres of human life.

Additionally, his wide participation in politics and change for the human society remains implicit in internalizing the contributions of Wundt in spheres of psychology.(http://psychology.about.com/od/profilesofmajorthinkers/p/wundtprofile.htm)The realm towards his synthesis of psychology came towards the end of the 18th Century.

This was fostered by the influence in the change of psychology as a discipline in philosophy. Psychology as formerly defined was changing the heart of its meaning such as the “mental substance”. “soul”, “the mind” and other aspects. However, the start of 19th Century saw a further change in psychology by regarding it to imply the state of “inner experience” or even human consciousness but which was different from the accounts of natural science of the sensible and external reality. The controversial aspect of psychology led to an expanded framework of debate and the synthesis of a wide domain in explanations of what encompassed Psychology. However, Wundt brought all this controversy to a state of more rational description.

Wundt’s invitation to studying psychology was fundamentally influenced by the arguments of people such Max Weber, Kant, Ben-David and others substantial icons. In study of his historical biography however, it fetches great philosophical authenticity in analysis his dimensions of concern in the subject matter of psychology. Down his history, Wundt expounded various study dimensions in defense of his theoretical development of psychology(Cronax-Hillix, Terry, 1990).Object and method of Experimental psychology.i) ObjectExperimental psychology was the starting point of Wilhelm’s search for adequate knowledge on psychology. To him he believed that the state of describing consciousness was the basis of experimental psychology. In order to develop a more concise understanding in psychology, Wundit identified “experimental” with “physiological” psychology.

According to him therefore, experimental psychology entailed the study of the human consciousness which was through the aid of experimental protocols founded on natural sciences. The definition of psychology as developed by Wundt compounded of two aspects. Firstly, the state of consciousness was susceptible to experimentation. However, this argument was literally rejected by Kant.

Secondly, psychology had it sole object consciousness which was the mental object despite conceived as been experimental (Tracy, Michael, 2005)The basic definition of consciousness by Wundt was the state of “inner experience”. To him, consciousness was the real and immediate phenomena that constituted the inner experience. There promulgated nothing beyond its proximities that established psychology whether psychophysical or physiological. In developing his psychological understanding, he did not separate psychology and soul. To him therefore, psychology develops to that which has a soul. This was his representation as been a radical empiricist. Accordingly, he described psychology as determined in whole or exclusive by what it predicates.

Either, such predicates have their sole derivation from internal observations that are direct to what is been studied. Individual psychology also provided psychological inquiry. Consequently, every individual psychology was to become scientific when the inner phenomena went through experimental manipulation.

Instead of accepting blindly what Kant had posited about injunctions to any possible scores of scientific psychology, he formulated that a person’s inner experiences had certain susceptibilities towards mathematical representation and experimentation (Cronax-Hillix, Terry, 1990).ii) MethodIn his drive towards rationale in psychology, he addressed the objections that had been argued by other philosophers in credit of psychophysical and physiological experimentation. His argument was based on the inquiry of how the complex phenomena that entailed the mind-body problem could be argued in physiological standpoint that resulted to psychological interpretation.

According to him on the physiological state of argument, any experimentation that had response and stimulus were not adequately experiments about sensation (Donald, 1996). However, these were externally observed reactions and excitations of muscular tissues and nervous system. His innovations were modeled as an attempt of projecting the experimental rigor found in physiology in a wider domain founded by the inner experience trough a supplementation process of such experiments with procedures that were purely psychological. These procedures compounded his conventional method of Selbstbeobachtung which meant introspection or even a better state of self-observation. The development of Kant’s psychological model was based on the argument that that distinguished the inner and the external states of self experiences (Cronax-Hillix, Terry, 1990).  To him, since the inner experience fully distinguished itself from what came externally, every level of psychological development started with self observation which meant that the physiological experiment came as ancillary function. However, in support of self observation, Wundt debated on what was perceived by the other proponents of psychology as arguing that such self observation mainly compounded a paradoxical identity between the observed object and observing the subject. However, his argument towards the liberation of the ambiguity was that, the people were only altered by the phenomena that existed in the direction of attention between the coinciding states of the observed object and the observing subject (Brent, Richard, 1997).

Individual psychology by WundtSensationLike the other early empiricists, he laid his concern in both perception and sensation in modeling human psychology. To him, sensation provided the closest connection between the physical world and the body. He argued that the apparatus of somatic sensory and sensations were highly important in developing human psychology. This was because sensations were mainly the points of contacts between the physical world and the psychological factors.  Sensations were therefore responsible for two-sided state of inquiry (Donald, 1996).

First, it compounded the external state of environment in a stimulus. Secondly, it compounded the internal framework of psychological imagery that was defined by the provisions of the mental representation. Therefore, the Wundt psychological model encompassed the control over the external state of psychological experiment with which it generated a diverse framework of internal representations that appeared only to an introspective observer. Accordingly, the level of representations which constituted the innate contents of this consciousness had their source in sensations. Either, every pure sensation had three fundamental characteristics which are the “feeling-tone”, intensity and quality (Tracy, Michael, 2005). However, the intensity and quality of sensations was important in understanding the concept of psychological experimentation.

Every sensation possessed an inner experience which was measured in the level of its intensity when a comparison was made between such different sensations. Additionally, sensory stimuli of the outer environment were measurable only by using physical methods. Psychology was then used in determining the extend of degree with which the immediate estimations in the strengths of the sensory stimuli corresponded or deviated from the real strength of this stimuli (Cronax-Hillix, Terry, 1990). The psychophysical measurement gave out to two complimentary tasks.

Firstly, it determined the limitation in the values with which the state of stimulus changes was accompanied by the corresponding changes in the level of sensation. Elsewhere, it investigated the level of any lawful reactions that came between the change in the sensation and the change in the stimuli. Consequently, sensation could adequately be measured respectively to the change in the intensity that corresponded to change in stimuli strength. (http://psychology.

about.com/od/profilesofmajorthinkers/p/wundtprofile.htm)ConsciousnessThe general psychological dispensation provides consciousness as component of the subjects: feeling, representation and willing. To Wundt, willingness and representations posited great concern in his psychological propagation. According to him, representational acts and representations were distinct though different aspects within a one flowing process. This was the formula towards the theory of actuality.

To him, representations came as representational acts but not objects that showed constant properties as the proponents in the theory of substantiality (Donald, 1996).The theoretical background of his development in psychology was rooted on the argument that the origin of consciousness was in sensations. However, such consciousness is not purely in atoms of individual sensations but rather occurring in a compounded autonomy.

Wundt argued that sensations were connected to these representations through spatial ordering or temporal sequencing. Nevertheless, these representations were formed through sensations got through psychological synthesis. The form of representational synthesis was therefore the main characteristic feature in formulation of consciousness  (Cronax-Hillix, Terry, 1990).Experimental psychology in a theoretical frameworkWundt’s concern in experimental psychology was rooted in what constituted physiological psychology. To him, such physiological psychology depended on self observation rather than learning and sensation that were held in physiological inquiry.

This state of self-observation was important in the analysis of the inner phenomena that defined consciousness (Brent, Richard, 1997)ConclusionThe historical standpoint of Wundt came as a refuge of great concern towards the ideals of psychology. He stands as a icon of diverse historical barometer towards developing a rationale in the aspects of experimental psychology. He founded himself as a structurilist with great search towards understanding human mind through a deepened evaluation of the constituting parts of the human consciousness. This was in his understanding that just like any chemical compound, the human state of mind was composed of various elements that were broken into different constituent parts. His imagination of psychology was as a form of science which gave the support that consciousness composed of various identifiable parts. Though governed by physiological and scientific approach towards studying psychology, he constantly employed the subject methodology of introspection though disregarded currently as providing no empirical data (Donald, 1996)Wundt stands to be one of the concrete fathers that gave a light in psychology. His several works in physiological psychology have continued to be hallmark texts in studying psychology.

Down his history as a re-known scholar, he extensively wrote texts on various subjects including psychology. Physiology, physics and philosophy. This writings are known to have been done across in his 65 years exploration in his career that was governed by a wide framework of thoughts. Wundt was devoted in understanding different areas of knowledgeReferenceBiography of Wilhelm Wundt. Retrieved on 9th July 2008 from

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