The Nineteenth Century [Routledge History of Philosophy, V. 7]

By C. L. Ten | Go to book overview
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The separation of psychology from philosophy

Studies in the sciences of mind 1815-1879

Edward S. Reed

An age which demands free inquiry, pushed without fear or compromise to its legitimate conclusions, turns up an Epicurus or a Hobbes. In one which likes to put up at a half-way house, there will be no lack of a Dugald Stewart or a Mackintosh, to provide it with comfortable entertainment.

Thomas Love Peacock, ‘The epicier’ (1836)


Traditional metaphysics

The consensus of European opinion during and immediately after the Napoleonic era was that psychology as a science was impossible. This was not the position of a few retrograde thinkers but was the thoughtfully articulated opinion of the best placed academic thinkers. Much of what we now think of as psychology and philosophy emerged from attempts to overcome these well developed arguments against the possibilities of a scientific psychology.

There is an important terminological shift during this time as well. In Locke’s day, the English terms ‘natural philosophy’ and ‘moral philosophy’ were used in parallel to mean, roughly, what we would now call natural science as versus social science. By the middle of the eighteenth century a host of other terms were being used to denote all or part of ‘moral philosophy’, such as the Latin ‘psychologia’ (both empirical and rational) and the pseudo-Greek ‘pneumatology’. Within


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