Psychology Wilhelm Wundt
by
Saulo de Freitas Araujo
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 February 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0273

Introduction

Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt (b. 1832―d. 1920) was a central figure in German culture between the second half of the 19th century and the first two decades of the 20th century. Coming from a medical and neurophysiological background with a PhD in medicine, Wundt shifted his interest toward psychological and philosophical questions, becoming full professor of philosophy: first, at the University of Zurich in 1874; then, at the University of Leipzig in 1875. In the early 21st century, he is known worldwide as one of the founders of scientific psychology. In Leipzig, he founded in 1879 the Psychological Laboratory, which later became the first psychological institute in the world. Moreover, he founded the first journal for experimental psychology, which he called Philosophische Studien (Philosophical Studies), later Psychologische Studien (Psychological Studies). In so doing, he created the first international training center for psychologists, attracting to Leipzig students from all over the world. Wundt had a significant impact upon the development of scientific psychology in many countries, not least in the United States, where his former students founded psychological laboratories inspired by the Leipzig model. Apart from his contributions to psychology, Wundt also developed a philosophical system that is crucial to understanding his psychological program and methodology, but which has not received due attention among psychologists. Wundt’s writings have been published in different, mostly enlarged editions throughout his career. The great majority of these volumes have not yet been translated into English, and the same holds true for much of the relevant research literature.

Wundt’s Publications

So far there is no critical or standard edition of Wundt’s works, although some volumes have been recently reprinted. Only a few titles have been translated into English. The list offered here is necessarily partial and selective, although representative of his theoretical development. Wundt’s daughter, Eleonore Wundt (b. 1876–d. 1957), compiled his publications in the extensive catalogue Wundt 1927. Wundt 1862 and Wundt 1863 represent his first psychological program. Wundt 1874 marks the beginning of his new psychological theory. In the 1880s, he defined the main tenets of his philosophical system. Wundt 1880–1883 is a treatise on logic and theory of knowledge. Wundt 1886 is a treatise on ethics. Wundt 1889 presents the philosophical system as a whole. Wundt 1896 is a general sketch of his mature psychological theory. Wundt 1900–1920 offers a detailed account of his Völkerpsychologie, a kind of cultural psychology, the counterpart of experimental psychology. Wundt 1910–1921 is a collection of revised and enlarged essays on philosophical and psychological issues that represent his theoretical positions.

  • Wundt, Eleonore. 1927. Wilhelm Wundts Werk: Ein Verzeichnis seiner sämtlichen Schriften. Munich: Beck.

    The only available catalogue of Wundt’s publications and lectures, compiled by his daughter. Very useful to understand Wundt’s intellectual development.

  • Wundt, Wilhelm. 1862. Beiträge zur Theorie der Sinneswahrnehmung. Leipzig and Heidelberg, Germany: C. F. Winter.

    A collection of Wundt’s first psychological papers (1858–1862) preceded by an important introductory chapter, in which Wundt presents for the first time his first psychological program.

  • Wundt, Wilhelm. 1863. Vorlesungen über die Menschen- und Thierseele. 2 vols. Leipzig: Voss.

    The full realization of Wundt’s first psychological program. In 1892, Wundt published a second edition, which was reduced by half. The entire part related to Völkerpsychologie was removed. There is an English translation of this second edition.

  • Wundt, Wilhelm. 1874. Grundzüge der physiologischen Psychologie. Leipzig: Engelmann.

    The most famous book by Wundt, which comprises his experimental psychology. Over the years Wundt revised and enlarged this work in successive editions, the last of which appeared in three volumes between 1908 and 1911. The six editions are a faithful portrait of the development of Wundt’s experimental psychology. The first volume of the fifth German edition (1902) has been partially translated into English (though only the first six chapters on the bodily substrate of the mental life).

  • Wundt, Wilhelm. 1880–1883. Logik: Eine Untersuchung der Principien der Erkenntnis und der Methoden wissenschaftlicher Forschung. 2 vols. Stuttgart: Enke.

    Wundt’s first philosophical treatise, which deals with logic, theory of knowledge, and scientific methodology. The fourth edition was published between 1919 and 1921 in three volumes.

  • Wundt, Wilhelm. 1886. Ethik: Eine Untersuchung der Tatsachen und Gesetze des sittlichen Lebens. Stuttgart: Enke.

    Wundt’s second philosophical treatise, which presents his ethical theory in relation to his psychology. Here one finds Wundt’s defense of psychical causality and the rudiments of his later voluntarism. The fifth edition, which is an unchanged reprint of the fourth edition, was published posthumously between 1923 and 1924 in three volumes. There is an English translation in three volumes of the second German edition (1892).

  • Wundt, Wilhelm. 1889. System der Philosophie. Leipzig: Engelmann.

    Wundt’s third philosophical treatise, which presents his conception of philosophy as a whole, the classification of sciences, and the division of philosophy in philosophy of nature and philosophy of spirit. The fourth edition was published in 1919 in two volumes.

  • Wundt, Wilhelm. 1896. Grundriss der Psychologie. Leipzig: Engelmann.

    The first overview and introduction of Wundt’s mature psychological theory. The fifteenth edition was published posthumously in 1922. There are three English translations, corresponding to the first (1896), fourth (1901), and seventh (1905) German editions, respectively.

  • Wundt, Wilhelm. 1900–1920. Völkerpsychologie. 10 vols. Leipzig: Engelmann.

    Wundt’s monumental ten-volume work on cultural psychology. It is a comprehensive psychological interpretation of the historical development of mankind, comprising the formation of language, myths, customs, and culture in general. It also includes discussions of basic theoretical concepts and methodology.

  • Wundt, Wilhelm. 1910–1921. Kleine Schriften. 3 vols. Leipzig: Engelman/Kröner.

    A collection of Wundt’s shorter philosophical and psychological essays in three volumes. They contain some of Wundt’s most important clarifications and further developments of his theoretical positions.

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