In the nineteenth century, historicism became a mainstay of the intellectual culture in the German-speaking world. Historicism, however, was not just about the past. It was a way of making sense of reality, past, and present. Historical consciousness entailed both, an understanding of the individuality of the past as well as the historicity of the present. Where philology and historiography furnished the tools for scholars to revive the bygone culture of the Greeks and to trace the origins of modern nations, psychology explained how individual minds created and were created by culture in the historical present. By looking at nineteenth-century German psychology and German historicism as two sides of the same coin, my dissertation contextualizes the history of psychology, along with its educational and scholarly applications, within the intellectual culture of nineteenth-century German neo-humanism.
During the educational reforms of the first half of the nineteenth century, psychology developed a special role. It became the field on which pedagogy and philosophical propaedeutic were based. During this time, the psychology of Johann Friedrich Herbart (1776–1841), a philosopher who for a time held Kant’s old chair at Königsberg, emerged as the leader among a number of loosely associated “schools” of psychology. By focusing on the development and legacy of “Herbartianism” (ca. 1806–1890), my project looks at how the historicist psyche was put to work in educational practice. Herbartian pedagogues thought of their work as applied metaphysics—duly practiced, education promised to create a future rational and virtuous German citizenry. Overlapping with these efforts, a range of scholarship used the historicist psyche to understand the relationship between minds and broad sociological problems. By looking at the role psychology played in shaping educational practice as well as its applications and adaptations in jurisprudence, economics, and historiography, my project aims to understand how the historicist psyche was used to, respectively, make and make sense of bourgeois culture.
While at the MPIWG, Richard is developing his chapter on the relationship between psychology and the origins of the German sociological school of law.