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Gestalt Psychology in German Culture, 1890–1967

Gestalt Psychology in German Culture, 1890–1967
Holism and the Quest for Objectivity


Part of Cambridge Studies in the History of Psychology

  • Date Published: January 1999
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521646277

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About the Authors
  • This is a full-length historical study of Gestalt psychology - an attempt to advance holistic thought within natural science. Holistic thought is often portrayed as a woolly-minded revolt against reason and modern science, but this is not so. On the basis of rigorous experimental research and scientific argument as well as on philosophical grounds, the Gestalt theorists Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Kohler and Kurt Koffka opposed conceptions of science and mind that equated knowledge of nature with its effective manipulation and control. Instead, they attempted to establish dynamic principles of inherent, objective order and meaning, in current language, and principles of self-organization, in human perception and thinking, in human and animal behavior, and in the physical world. The impact of their work ranged from cognitive science to theoretical biology and film theory. Based on exhaustive research in primary sources including archival material, this study illuminates the multiple social and intellectual contexts of Gestalt theory and analyses the emergence, development and reception of its conceptual foundations and research programmes from 1890 to 1967.

    • A full-length historical study of Gestalt psychology in Germany
    • Based on extensive archival research
    • Challenges accepted viewpoints in history of German science and culture by showing that in this case holistic thought, natural science and democratic politics were compatible
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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 1999
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521646277
    • length: 528 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 24 mm
    • weight: 0.7kg
    • contains: 34 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of illustrations
    Part I. The Social and Intellectual Settings:
    1. The academic environment and the establishment of experimental psychology
    2. Carl Stumpf and the training of scientists in Berlin
    3. The philosophers' protest
    4. Making a science of mind: styles of reasoning in sensory physiology and experimental psychology
    5. Challenging positivism: revised philosophies of mind and science
    6. The Gestalt debate: from Goethe to Ehrenfels and beyond
    Part II. The Emergence of Gestalt Theory, 1910–1920:
    7. Max Wertheimer, Kurt Koffka and Wolfgang Köhler
    8. Laying the conceptual and research foundations
    9. Reconstructing perception and behaviour
    10. Insights and confirmations in animals: Köhler on Tenerife
    11. The step to natural philosophy: Die Physischen Gestalten
    12. Wertheimer in times of war and revolution: science for the military and toward a new logic
    Part III. The Berlin School in Weimar Germany:
    13. Establishing the Berlin School
    14. Research styles and results
    15. Theory's growth and limits: development, open systems, self and society
    16. Variations in theory and practice: Kurt Lewin, Adhemar Gelb and Kurt Goldstein
    17. The encounter with Weimar culture
    18. The reception among German-speaking psychologists
    Part IV. Under Nazism and After: Survival and Adaptation:
    19. Persecution, emigration and Köhler's resistance in Berlin
    20. Two students adapt: Wolfgang Metzger and Kurt Gottschaldt
    21. Research, theory and system: continuity and change
    22. The post-war years
    List of unpublished sources

  • Author

    Mitchell G. Ash, University of Iowa and Universität Wien, Austria

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