Post-Kantian Idealism in Early Psychology: Wilhelm Wundt’s Psychophysiological Theory of Voluntary Action and the Idealist Conception of the Body

Project Details


In my doctoral dissertation, I argued that Helmholtz's proto-psychological theory of perception has demonstrable roots in Fichte's meta-theoretical view of the subject as an active, striving being (e.g., De Kock 2012, forthcoming(1), forthcoming(2)). In doing so, I addressed a crucial shortcoming in the historiography of contemporary scientific psychology, i.e., the almost complete disregard for the relation between early German psychology and post-Kantian idealism. This neglect is surprising, given the ubiquity of idealist metaphysics in German universities during the 19th century, and idealism's preoccupation with themes that were central in early psychological theories. A particular challenge in this area of research pertains to the apparent difficulty of reconciling idealism's abstract view of the subject, with early psychology's attempt to relate mental functions to the physiological body. Therefore, I want to develop my doctoral investigation in two novel directions, which are closely intertwined. On the one hand, I will further examine Fichte's transcendental theory of subjectivity, by focusing on the way in which it determined his view of the body. On the other hand, I will shift the scope from Helmholtz's to Wilhelm Wundt's psychophysiology. The overarching research goal is to investigate to what extent that Fichte's idealist conception of the body can provide a valuable framework to Wundt's psychophysiological analysis of voluntary action.
Effective start/end date1/10/1411/01/21

Flemish discipline codes in use since 2023

  • Philosophical psychology


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