12tensive sensitivity, as well as those of the intensive, when
taken according to the principle provided here, have only
the value of observational data, which by themselves do
not provide insight into the basic relationships of sensations to their physical basis, but which, together with
other data, may yet serve to contribute to the establishment of this relationship, if one consistently takes and
uses them as purely observational data.One might entertain doubts from the start—considering the great variability of sensitivity due to individual
differences, time, and innumerable internal and external
conditions—that it would be of any use to strive for a
measure for either form of sensitivity. For one thing,
something that is constantly varying is not amenable to
exact measurement; for another, results do not show
constancy, and therefore are valueless, since results observed with certain individuals, at a certain time and under certain circumstances, are not found again at other
times and circumstances.Indeed, it cannot be denied that in this respect there
do exist difficulties of measurement in our psychophysical domain, difficulties which do not exist in purely
physical or astronomical areas. But instead of the measure or the possibility of obtaining fruitful results by its
means being destroyed thereby, this difference only
means that the sphere of inquiry must be widened, and
considerations introduced which do not exist in the other areas.Insofar as sensitivity is a variable, we should not
seek for a constant as its measure. We may, however,
look for (1) its limits and (2) its mean values; we may
also investigate (3) how its variations depend on conditions; finally we may seek (4) lawful relations that remain constant during variation; the last are the most important. The methods for measuring sensitivity that will
be discussed will provide not only sufficient means, but
also sufficient precision, for research and investigations
into all these matters.A thorough investigation under these circumstances
is necessarily more complex than it would be for a single, constant, unchanging subject, for it cannot be accomplished for one person alone and it has as yet not
been carried out adequately for a single sense domain.
In this respect, rather, there opens up a rich field for future research, especially for the younger generation, by
means of the methods that we will now discuss. This research is by itself not difficult, yet it demands patience,
attention, endurance, and faithfulness.
HERMANN VON HELMHOLTZ
|1. ||Trans. Note: A typical Fechner notion. God is the
soul of the universe.|
|2. ||Examination in this case is equivalent to forming,
from deductions based on external observations, an adequate concept of how the internal condition would appear
upon removal of barriers to direct examination.|
|3. ||Trans. Note: A reference to free navigation as a political problem—for example, free navigation on the Rhine.|
|4. ||Berichte der sächs. Soc. 1853, p. 83; abstracted in Fechner's Centralblatt für Naturwissenschaften und An thropologie. 1853, No. 31.|
|5. ||Ed. Note: E. H. Weber, Der Tastsinn und das Gmeingefühl. R. Wagner's Handwörterbuch der Physiolo gie. 1846, III, ii, 481–588.|
|6. ||Trans. Note: Fechner undoubtedly meant one third,
rather than twice as strong a stimulus, for three times the
|7. ||Ed. Note: This sensory circle is a translation of E. H.
HERMANN VON HELMHOLTZ
Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz (1821–1894) writes in his autobiography that
he had trouble as a child in school because he “had a bad memory for disconnected
things.” He did find, however, that he enjoyed memorizing poetry of the highest sort—in-
cluding some books of the Odyssey and Horace's Odes. He found his true subject follow
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Book title: The History of Psychology: Fundamental Questions.
Contributors: Margaret P. Munger - Editor.
Publisher: Oxford University Press.
Place of publication: New York.
Publication year: 2003.
Page number: 154.
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