The History of Psychology: Fundamental Questions

By Margaret P. Munger | Go to book overview
Save to active project

11
GUSTAV THEODOR FECHNER

Gustav Theodor Fechner (1801–1887) found only two of his courses as a university student
interesting: Ernst Heinrich Weber's physiology course and Karl Brandan Mollweide's alge-
bra course—understandable favorites for the future psychophysicist. Fechner earned a
medical degree from the University of Leipzig, but never practiced—probably a blessing
for potential patients, since he writes that he “had not learned to tie an artery, to apply the
simplest bandage, or to perform the simplest operation connected with childbirth” for lack
of interest in the practical side of medicine. Fechner's father, a Lutheran minister, did have
a practical side, installing a lightning rod on his church steeple and admonishing his con-
gregation to honor the laws of physics as well as the laws of God. Writing to earn money,
Fechner not only published a series of satiric articles as Dr. Mises, including “Proof that the
Moon is Made of Iodine” and “On the Comparative Anatomy of Angels,” but also translat-
ed a number of French texts on physics and chemistry. Appointed to a lectureship in
physics at the University of Leipzig in 1824, Fechner continued to support himself with
translations, publishing his first original physics research in 1828. After he advanced to the
rank of full professor, extremely poor health led to his resignation in 1840. Following a
long recovery process, Fechner explored a wide variety of metaphysical, esthetic, and
parapsychological issues, and on October 22, 1850, reported that while lying in bed he re-
alized how to connect the physical, measurable world to the psychological experience via
a proportion. Fechner's psychophysics was recognized by many established scientists, in-
cluding Hermann von Helmholtz (p. 154) and Ernst Mach, as critical to establishing psy-
chology as a scientific discipline unique from philosophy and physiology.


ELEMENTS OF PSYCHOPHYSICS

INTRODUCTION

I.

General Considerations on the Relation of Body
and Mind

While knowledge of the material world has blossomed in the great development of the various branches of natural science and has benefited from exact principles and methods that assure it of successful progress, and while knowledge of the mind has, at least up to a certain point, established for itself a solid basis in psychology and logic, knowledge of the relation of mind and matter, of body and soul, has up to now remained merely a field for philosophical argument without solid foundation and without sure principles and methods for the progress of inquiry.

The immediate cause of this less favorable condition is, in my opinion, to be sought in the following factual circumstances, which admittedly only make us seek their more remote origins. The relationships of the material world itself we can pursue directly and in accord with experience, as no less the relationships of the inner or mental world. Knowledge of the former, of course, is limited by the reach of our senses and their amplifications, and of the latter by the limitations of everyone's

From Gustav Fechner, “Introduction. Outer Psychophysics.” In T. B. H. E. Adler, D. H. Howes, & E. G. Boring (Eds.), Elements
of Psychophysics (pp. 1–18, 38–45). New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1966. (Original work published 1860)

-142-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The History of Psychology: Fundamental Questions
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 514

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?