DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DC121-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2020
Retrieved April 17, 2024, from

2.1.2. Psychologism and psychological method

The term ‘psychological method’ has two meanings. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, it designates a question concerning the way in which psychology should proceed, so it presupposes its character of autonomous discipline (for example, descriptivism-experimentalism, introspectionism-behaviourism, etc.). In the nineteenth century, even when this use already exists, it is much more common to call ‘psychological method’ the programme of founding philosophy on empirical bases and, more specifically, in psychology. In this sense, the ‘psychological method’ is first opposed to the ‘speculative method’ of German idealism and then to the Neo-Kantian ‘transcendental method’. Even if the ‘psychological method’ of the Germans of the nineteenth century is in historical continuity with the way of ideas introduced by Locke and his reception by the German philosophy of the eighteenth century, it possesses important peculiarities given its singular context.

If the basic programme of an empirical ‘foundation’ of philosophy in psychology is common to all variants of the psychological method, just as the ways of understanding psychology or the status of a priori are diverse, so is the sense of this ‘foundation’, which assumes sometimes the character of a radical reduction. While in Beneke (1833: 14) or Lipps (1883: 3–4; 1893: 2, 67) there is a clear trend in that direction, in Brentano and his school (Stumpf, 1892: 501ff.; 1939: 7) this consequence is fought.

The distinction between reductionist and non-reductionist variants of the psychological method allows establishing, in a differentiated way, the relationship among themselves and with psychologism. While reductionist variants of the psychological method tend to psychologism, the psychological method as such cannot be understood as a synonym for psychologism. It is not by chance that an essential chapter of the Psychologismusstreit revolved around the question of whether or not the psychological method as such led to relativism (Brentano, 1874 [1971]: II, 181–8; 1925 [1970]: 147–8, 194; Marty, 1908: 12).

Note that ‘psychologism’ and ‘psychological method’ are terms that refer to practically the same state of affairs, however they do so from two different perspectives: the one purely descriptive, the other evaluative-condemnatory (Meinong, 1902: 196; 1904: 604; Höfler, 1906: 322–8; Marty, 1908: 6).

Citing this article:
Porta, Mario González. Psychologism and psychological method. Psychologism, 2020, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DC121-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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