One important way of appraising a thinker’s contributions is to pose the questions, what problems did he solve? and what new problems did he uncover? Such an appraisal does not require that final or correct solutions be identified. Rather, one may seek to describe the dialectic through which views developed. This dialectic may lead to current outstanding problems rather than to current acceptable solutions. Such an appraisal should describe those problems, solutions and criticisms which have been interesting and powerful even while leaving open the possibility of various responses to them.
Such an approach may he especially valuable when faced with views which seem quite important - whether they are true or not is not an issue here - whose origins are doubtful or when there are significant appearing views whose influence seems doubtful. Such appearances may be due to the nature of the influence or origins in problems rather than in theories passed from one thinker to another. When both problems may be solved at once, when the influence of one view may be explained by an analysis of the origins of another view we may expect a bonus. This possibility exists in the case of the Wurzburg school on the one hand whose influence seems diffuse and uncertain even though it must be granted a certain importance in the history of psychology at least and in the case of the philosophy of science of Karl Popper on the other hand whose origins seem obscure. The explanation of the dialectic within the Würzburg school and that between psychology and the philosophy of science may partially solve both the problems of the influence of the Wurzburg school and of the origins of Popper’s views.
Although the Wurzburg school is granted a definite place in histories of psychology and the philosophy of science of Oswald Kulpe has been given some, albeit slight, attention, the work of this school has not been deemed to have had decisive influence in either psychology or philosophy. The theories of this school seem not to have survived. Kulpe himself, the leader of the school, has a firm albeit somewhat small place in the history of psychology. His psychology is deemed to be of sufficient importance to be a standard part of the history of the subject. The influence of this psychology is lost in the general changes brought about by gestalt psychology and later of cognitive psychology whose relations to the Wurzburg school remain somewhat obscure. This modest recognition of the importance of Kulpe’s psychology is combined with a far greater even if not complete neglect of his philosophy of science. This philosophy of science which was posthumously published under the title Die Realisierung was intended to be Kulpe’s major contribution, the culmination of his work in psychology and the philosophy of science.
There are quite accidental as well as intellectual reasons why this work has been neglected. Kulpe died unexpectedly and still at the rather young age of fifty-three. He died during the First World War and only one of the planned four volumes of his magnum opus had been published. The final version was never properly completed, has a pedantic style and hardly give the impression of containing important ideas. The dispersion and death of those thinkers most closely associated with the Wurzburg school due to fascism in Germany speeded the demise of the direct influence of the school if it was not wholly the cause of it. The two most prominent figures were Otto Selz and Karl Buhler. Selz was murdered by the Nazis and Buhler emigrated to America where he never achieved the status or influence that he once had in Vienna. Renewed interest in Bühler and especially his studies in language is evident in the publication of this book. The role he has played in the continuation of the work of the Wurzburg school is also deserving of interest.
After considerable difficulties in gaining recognition, difficulties which were also in part due to fascism in Europe, Karl Popper gained acceptance as one of the leading philosophers of science of the 20th century. His philosophy has, however, quite vague roots. Although he first developed his views in Vienna he gained recognition only on the publication of the translation of his major work, Logik der Forschung, in English. The immediate roots of this philosophy of science was the psychology of the Wurzburg school, especially the psychologies of Selz and Bühler. This background was long forgotten but is now more clearly apparent. The publication of Popper’s first attempt in the philosophy of science, Die beiden Grundprobleme der Erkenninistheorie, reveals quite clearly the beginning of Popper’s studies in psychology.
The analyses of this development have made headway but are not yet sufficient. Popper’s own account of his development is somewhat disappointing. He provides a very sparse view of his own development presenting his own problem and basic idea without reference to the background in psychology and philosophy of science of the period. A broad analysis is contained in Lernen aus dem Irrtum by William Berkson and myself but a specific analysis of the problems which grew out of the work of the Wurzburg school and which gave Popper his impetus and stage has not been achieved. It is thus appropriate to here analyse how Popper’s views grew out of his work with Bühler and how more generally this work may be seen to be a result of problems which the Wurzburg school discovered. This analysis may give Popper’s view roots and the influence of the Würzburg school, of Kulpe and of Bühler given due recognition in the philosophy of science.
1. Kulpe’s Critique
There were three interconnected doctrines in psychology which Külpe fought. In so doing he fully changed the problem situation in psychology and the philosophy of science. He himself developed new research programs in both psychology and the philosophy of science and tried to begin the work on them. He met with serious difficulties but one could not go back to the old: new responses to Kulpe’s work were needed.
Two of the three interconnected doctrines which Kulpe fought had been established since Helmholtz at least. The first was that all psychological phenomena are built up out of the elements of sensations and/or simple feeling. This doctrine has an epistemological corollary that all knowledge is obtained by induction from sensations. Historically it goes the other way: the epistemology was the basis for the development of the psychology. The second doctrine was that no life force or soul could be allowed into science. This prohibition was universally deemed a consequence of Helmholtz’s paper on the conservation of force. The third doctrine was new. It was the philosophy of science of Wundt and Mach. According to this doctrine science had merely to establish functional relationships between sensations. One purpose this doctrine fulfilled was to render scientific psychology possible. It allowed for a psychology without the metaphysical assumptions of a soul or a life force - thus remaining within the bounds set by Helmholtz’s principle of the conservation of force - and it provided for reduction -thus providing a methodological interpretation and justification for the reductionist psychology of the time. All three doctrines are intimately connected and Kulpe attacked all at once, as he had to, to develop his own non-reductionist conceptions in psychology, metaphysics and the philosophy of science..
1.1 The Reduction of Psychological Processes to Sensations
The most important assumption of the established program in psychology was that all psychological processes should be shown to be built up out of sensations and/or simple feelings. Sensations received more attention than feelings, in part because this part of the program seemed both more fundamental and easier to carry out. The assumption of the reducibility of some so-called higher thought processes such as thinking or willing to mere combinations of sensations was Kulpe’s main target in psychology. The importance of his criticism was not that it overthrew simply one doctrine in psychology. Rather it overthrew the dominant programs. On these programs the tasks and methods of psychology were determined by the quest for reductions to sensation.
There were at least two modes of attack on the doctrine of the reducibility of (some) higher thought processes to mere combinations of sensations. The first was to show that there are elements of sensation which never come to consciousness. The consequence of this demonstration was that psychological processes were selective and not merely a product of associations, even predetermined associations. The second mode of attack was to show that there were psychological processes which did not have the quality of sensations, of pictures, and which could not, therefore, be built up out of sensations. These processes did not have the qualities they must have in order to be reducible to sensations and their combinations.
The first criticism was developed through simple experiments which showed that sensations which must have been received did become conscious. An experiment was conducted by showing a subject a set of symbols consisting of letters with different colors in various forms for short periods of time. The task given the subject could vary. One time he would be asked to notice the letters, another time the colors or the shapes of the letters together. One purpose of the experiment was to determine if the characteristics which were not included in some given task would also be noted. They were to varying degrees. The variances depended on the task given and on the type of characteristics which were not part of the given task. Those which were not noted were apparently never brought to consciousness. The subjects had no recollection of them. Kulpe believed that the hypothesis that they were forgotten could be excluded. The result was, according to Kulpe, that there was a psychological reality which was distinguishable from consciousness. The reception of the sensations which were not noticed would be perhaps part of non-conscious psychological process.
This distinction between non-conscious psychological processes and conscious ones such as those due to attention was central for Külpe’s psychology but it opened up problems for him which he could not solve. He needed to explain the difference between one psychological reality and another, that of consciousness or attention. This central problem was not solved. The distinction however left open the possibility of the study of both sides as separate processes. This dualistic approach was crucial for the work of Kulpe and that of his students. The demonstration of psychological processes which were both more and less than the mere combination of sensations - more because they were selective and organising and less because some sensations played no role - removed the rationale for the traditional program by refuting the hypothesis of the continuity of psychological processes from simple to complex.
The second criticism of the reductionist hypothesis was that higher thought processes which were purported to be built up out of sensations and their combinations did not have the qualities they must have to be so constituted. This criticism is traditionally deemed the most important. Kulpe presumed that if the higher thought processes were mere combinations of sensations they would have to have the quality of pictures. This did not, of course, mean that these “pictures” had to correspond to the world. Helmholtz maintained the reductionist theory but deemed sensations to be mere signs. The sensations that arose under the same physical-physiological conditions would have the same characteristics but these characteristics need not correspond to those characteristics of the world which functioned as their stimuli. The higher thought processes, theories or ideas have a firm basis in that they are built up by induction but we have no way of knowing if they directly correspond to the world. In order to refute the reductionist theory, then, it appeared merely necessary to study the quality of the higher thought processes, to see if they were accompanied by pictures or not.
The traditional method of studying the higher thought processes was to begin with simple processes and then to explain how the higher thought processes could be built up out of these simple ones. The simple processes were deemed the simplest to study and to be the foundation of all others. If one sought reduction it was certainly appropriate. If one, however, wished to answer the question of what the content of thought processes is, whether sensations or something else, a different approach was needed. The work at the borderline of thinking and picturing might even serve to confuse things. Külpe proposed, then, that the higher thought processes should be studied directly to determine whether their content essentially involved picturing.
Although Kulpe was the leading thinker behind such efforts the main work was carried out by his students. As is well known such thinkers as Narziss Ach, Karl Marbe and August Messer played important roles in Wurzburg. I wish here, however, to mention Karl Buhler’s work in his Wurzburg years, “Tatsachen und Probleme zu einer Psychologie der Denkvorgange.”. This essay was also of some importance, it drew immediate criticism from Kulpe’s former teacher Wundt and it is of interest here since it is Buhler’s role that is crucial in the connections I wish to establish. The method which Bühler applied was quite simple and characteristic of the Wurzburg school. He posed questions which required some thought, such as to understand the meaning of a paradoxical sounding aphorism. After the subject had completed the task he would be asked to describe the thought process by which he came to the solution of the problem or to the completion of the task. He sought to determine in a manner typical of the Würzburg school the content of the thinking or the experience which constituted or accompanied it. Whatever weaknesses there may have been in the description of the content and the interpretation of thinking the negative result, that in thinking picturing was a quite accidental phenomena which could accompany thinking but which for the most part did not, seemed clear. This negative result or refutation of the traditional program was the basis for the new, which I will turn to below.
1.2 The Metaphysics of Science and the Conservation of Force
The reductionism of scientific psychology was not based merely on the perceived needs of inductivist epistemology and methodology. It was also based on metaphysical grounds. In the early 19th century the challenge of idealistic theories, of Naturphilosophie, of William Whewell’s Kantian theory of science and of theories of life force as the proper subject matter for the science of physiology as well as Faraday’s non-Newtonian speculations caused a reaction. The inroads of non-scientific metaphysics and speculation seemed to threaten the empirical foundation of science. The excesses of Schelling and Hegel were taken to be the prime threats but other more moderate views such as that of Johannes Muller made the problem even sharper. For, even though it was clear that metaphysical excesses were to be avoided, the bounds of proper science were not clear.
Hermann Helmholtz was one of the leaders in the fight against the excesses. His inductivism in methodology and psychology, with to be sure minor concessions to Kant, was important but not deemed sufficient. He sought a more direct statement in regard to metaphysics and especially in regard to the theory of the proper subject matter of physiology of his teacher Johannes Muller. For, according to Muller a life force which required different laws for the description of living beings than that appropriate for non-living entities was to be studied in physiology. This life force seemed to come and go with life and death and to upset the normal laws of chemistry and physics. Helmholtz sought to devise a specific response. His answer was his famous essay on the conservation of force.
Helmholtz’s essay and the principle - one should say principles - of the conservation of force have played important roles in a wide range of fields. The importance of Helmholtz’s essay in physiology was almost immediate. Any research which one might justifiably deem scientific could not stand in conflict with this principle, that is, with the principle that force could be transformed but neither created nor destroyed. There are various problems in saying exactly what such conformance required. Helmholtz had intended, however, that his essay be interpreted as proof that the postulate of a life force violated the principles of science, that all physiological explanations should be mere extensions of physical and chemical explanations and not the study of separate entities which obey !heir own laws. I will not discuss here the problems of the interpretations of Helmholtz’s principle which is presented as proven, which seems quite metaphysical, which is offered as a methodological rule and which seems ambivalent between Newton and Faraday. The proper mode of explanation in physiology was deemed the same as in physical science as, for example, the attempt of du Bois Reymond to explain phenomena of life through the study of animal electricity.
The attempt to conform to this principle in psychology was above all carried through by building psychology on physiology, as a mere continuation of it. This seemed to require a metaphysical interpretation of psychological phenomena as merely physical. This view seemed to some however to be too strong. But what alternative could there be? One possibility was developed by Mach and accepted by Wundt. If both physics and psychology studied the functional relations between sensations, then the two fields could be continuous, a metaphysical monism was possible and yet one could have a scientific psychology by allowing different functional relationships between sensations. One set of relations would be the subject matter of psychology and another set would be the subject matter of physical science.
Kulpe required a still further alternative. He wanted to study the higher thought processes as real and independent. Neither the reduction of these processes to sensations, that is to ideas, nor that to physical processes was adequate for his program. He wished to allow for the existence of a real stuff out of which the psychological processes were constituted. He did not want to say what this was, for he sought to find a way to make metaphysics scientific. He sought to avoid the path of Schelling and Hegel, to stay within the bounds of the principle of the conservation of force and to allow for metaphysical dualism or the existence of a soul or life force. He had to show that dualism did not violate the principle of the conservation of force.
His argument is quite simple. The principle of the conservation of force requires that in any transformation the amount of force be neither increased or decreased. This principle does not, however, require that there be any specific number of forces or possible transformations. It merely requires that lawlike relations exist when one transforms one form of force into another, that such transformations preserve the quantity of force even without specifying what such quantities are or how they are to be measured. This principle thus allows for the existence of a psychological force and its incorporation into science. It does not prove its existence. That is a problem for science.
Kulpe’s realism led him into conflict with the methodological view of Wundt and Mach as well. According to this theory the aim of science was merely to establish functional relationships between sensations. This view has a rationale according to Kulpe in that the traditional Spinozistic view of causation according to which causality and logical consequence could be reduced to each other needed to be abandoned. This had, however, already been done in science since Galileo. The new theory provided by Wundt and Mach went too far. It allowed for merely functional relationships; a realistic science demanded more. It demanded that the dependence relations be established. Kulpe thus deemed a stronger view of causality to be necessary which in turn was based on and required realism, which in conjunction with a non-reductionistic view of the study of the higher psychological processes required a new metaphysic, which was to be developed in scientific psychology How this new realistic psychology was to be developed was the subject of his two programs in psychology and methodology.
2. Kulpe’s Programs in Psychology and Methodology
Kulpe’s critique of the methods and interpretations of scientific psychology led to two tasks. The first was to develop a program for the direct study of the higher thought processes. The direct study of these processes should uncover their properties, properties not reducible to mere combinations of simpler elements. The second task was to develop a new interpretation of scientific psychology which allowed for the separate substance or entity out of which these processes were constituted. Kulpe required a theory of method which explained how scientists could determine the existence of various substances. The problems of metaphysics should be actively pursued, leaving open various possibilities but leading to scientific resolutions. His goal was to establish a science of the higher thought processes which would explain these processes as law-like and at the same time identify the substance, a soul or independent psychological entity out of which they were constituted. His most ambitious work, then, was preparatory: he wanted to show the way to this goal by showing how it was possible to attain it and what methods should be used to pursue it.
2.1 Kulpe’s Program in Psychology
The main feature of Kulpe’s program in psychology was the use of introspection to directly study the higher thought processes. Introspection was, of course, not new and it was even a rather suspect method. For introspection could very easily be subjective and uncertain and its results hard to interpret. Kulpe’s greatest problem, then, was to show that his method could be scientific in its applications to higher thought processes and that it could lead to the desired progress. The study of the higher thought processes should lead both to the discovery of their properties and to the knowledge of the realities which lay behind them.
In pursuit of these goals Kulpe followed quite traditional lines. He sought to show that the method of introspection could be used in controlled ways with firm results. He was interested in, for example, securing that the reports of introspection were reliable, that they did not hinge on poor memory or other extraneous factors. The work of Karl Buhler which was discussed above is an example of the attempts to usefully apply and secure the introspective method; the attack of Wundt offers an example of the sort of opposition he faced.
Kulpe sought to encourage these developments by reviews of literature on the psychological study of aesthetic and of attention. He also indicated the types of study he thought would be appropriate to further these programs. These studies were above all those which would more closely identify the properties of particular psychological processes. One should, for example, study more closely the duration of attention of those activities which required attention. These results should prepare the way for further progress. His recommendations were rather inductivist: rather than put forth a theory he wished to gather more detailed experimental results.
The development of the program had two important aspects. One, the use of the research to refute the then dominant modes of doing psychological research, has already been discussed and represents Kulpe’s greatest success. He wanted much more than this however. He wanted to develop a new description and explanation of the higher thought processes. He wanted to identify the reality behind the phenomena in order to render the metaphysics of psychology scientific. Even the more successful of the positive descriptions of the higher thought processes which came out of Kulpe’s school left this program unfullfilled.
The theories that were put forth came from his students. They provided new ways of describing thought processes. They identified some properties of thought such as predisposing tendencies and problem solving which became important parts of the literature. But they did not achieve the aimed for realistic interpretation. On the one hand they seemed too narrow in that they merely dealt with the experience of these thought processes as revealed through introspection. On the other hand they seemed to logicise psychology; Selz’s work seemed vulnerable to this charge. There seemed to be experience on the one hand and thought on the other but no psychological reality which formed the basis for Kulpe’s science of psychology. They thus left the program incomplete and raised difficult problems as to how the results should be interpreted.
2.2 Kulpe’s Program in Methodology
Kulpe’s program in methodology was to explain in general terms how the sort of program he wished to carry out in psychology was in fact carried out in the existing sciences and, therefore, how and why it could be carried out in psychology. He sought to show the necessity and the possibility of a realistic science as well as to give specific proposals about how it could be attained. The demonstration of its necessity was carried through by showing that neither of two leading alternatives were adequate to account for science. These alternatives were idealistic theories of science such as that of the Marburg school - the new Kantians - and theories which deemed science to be merely the study of sensations and their relations such as Mach. The demonstration of the possibility of a realistic science was carried through by showing that objections to a realistic science, that is, arguments purporting to show that such a science could not be obtained were not conclusive. Both exercises were part of his critique of opposing views and do not concern us here.
The demonstration of how a realistic science was possible was the pinnacle of his work or rather, it should have been. His work on this aspect of his program was never properly completed. It is found in the last book of Die Realisierung. The manuscript was published posthumously and shows terrible deficiencies. Kulpe’s basic plan was to show how various methods could be used to correctly infer the nature of the realities underlying the phenomena to be found in any field. In general his procedure is to start by identifying connections between the phenomena which are based in some real connection, to infer, that is, to conjecture what may be behind these phenomena, to test such conjectures and to make inferences from those which seem proven, thereby expanding knowledge of reality. In this way one may approach the truth and make metaphysics scientific.
Kulpe’s basic idea is powerful. This idea is that science gains knowledge of realities by constructing theories of those types of realities which can explain the phenomena and by testing the consequences of such constructions. It is based in his psychology in that the ideas of these realities are not mere combinations of sensations, not mere pictures. It offers an alternative to the then dominant views by deeming scientific theories not mere rational constructions, as the new Kantians did, not mere associations of sensations. They were testable conjectures about realities. Even further Kulpe had specific ideas about how this process could function. Yet his theory proved weak.
The development of Kulpe’s idea, even apart from the problems which arise due to the poor manuscript, left a great deal to be desired. He wished to write a Prolegomena to any metaphysic that should appear as a science. This led him to an inductive approach in spite of the obvious deductivist tendency of his research. He saw on the one hand that as a consequence of his own psychological theories scientific theories could not be directly infered from phenomena but had to be constructed and deductions from them made. But on the other hand he wished to build up a realistic science on firm results. He wished to first determine the phenomena based on underlying realities. Each step had to be conjectural and he saw that science could never be complete. But this conjectural nature of each move and his desire to have each step secure leads to a tension in his theory. Kulpe sought a new methodology which incorporated metaphysical conjectures, which made them scientific But his theory of how such conjectures could be developed remained inadequate. Kulpe wanted to avoid grand theories in order to be scientific and to include theories of realities to be realistic: but how can one make conjectures about realities which are strong enough without deeper and broader theories?
3. Bühler’s Response
The inadequacies of the results achieved through the development of Kulpe’s programs formed the basis for the most important of Buhler’s problems.
Kulpe’s positive psychological theory or the theories of Wurzburg school - Buhler’s included - provided descriptions of some thought processes but offered no complete theory of thinking and failed to provide a realistic psychology or theory of soul, thereby opening acute problems of interpretation of their results. The results which Kulpe achieved in his methodology thus very likely seemed not only inadequate in themselves but also inadequate for guidance in the conduct of scientific psychology.
Bühler faced the problems of expanding the range of the methods of psychology, of integrating the already achieved albeit partial results of the Wurzburg school and of finding a new approach to scientific psychology, an approach which might render it scientific but which did not require the quest for a psychological reality, a soul. There were three major attempts to offer a new systematization of psychology - or part of it - which attacked these problems. The first was his study of child psychology which proposed both an extended study of higher thought processes through a study of their development as well as an integration of these processes with others. The second was Die Krise der Psychologie which proposed an integration of various approaches even while preserving the results of each. The last was his theory of speech which extended the study of higher thought processes perhaps even beyond the realm of psychology while systematizing various aspects. Buhler’s quest for system and integration can be seen as an attempt to offer a needed alternative to Kulpe’s methodology, to extend the methods of the Würzburg school even while integrating much of their psychological and methodological results within his systematic approach.
Buhler’s major early work, Die geistige Entwicklung des Kindes, was published shortly after his collaboration with Kulpe ended due to Kulpe’s death. It continues the work of the Wurzburg school in that it is non-reductionist. He distinguished three aspects of psychological activity: instinct, training and intellect. They are not reducible one to the other but develop along side each other. They must be studied together and separately to understand their unique roles and development on the one hand and their interaction to produce human psychology on the other hand. His book is a program for this study. For, he sets out the major types of activity to be studied as separate aspects, reviewing the state of the art while adding his own suggestions. The result would then be a systematic study of the development of the whole child or the whole human psychological apparatus.
This is not a traditional view. It breaks the tradition by not viewing this development as a unified constructive process of more complex phenomena out of simple ones. This break seems, indeed, to be the implicit rationale for the book. If the development of all thought processes were constructive, from simple to complex, there would be no need for a special study of their development. The development of the higher thought processes in the child would have to follow the pattern of construction of these thought processes which could be discovered by the traditional methods of analysis or reduction.
Although the plan of integrating the various psychological processes and of studying them separately is quite in accord with the program of the Wurzburg school and the study of the psychological development of the child may be deemed, as just explained, an outgrowth of the presuppositions of this school, Bühler already in this book breaks with Külpe in his methodological approach. Kulpe had always valued system. He viewed one of the major tasks of philosophy to be the construction of a world view and this view should be based in science, as, for example, Fechner had unsuccessfully tried to do. He wanted, however, to build system on empirical research: he did not wish to begin with system but sought the realities piecemeal first. Buhler went back to a more systematic approach. He sought to propose a systematic framework and then to develop it. The book is highly programmatic. It presents psychology as non-reductionistic and in a systematic way. Bühler thereby avoided Kulpe’s difficult problem of the soul, extended psychological methods and offered a new methodological approach.
Buhler’s attempt to unify various aspects of psychology continued in his Die Krise der Psychologie. If psychology were to overcome the crisis exemplified by its disunity it would have to recognise the results of various approaches, American as well as European, and it would have to unify them. This could be accomplished, he thought, if the various schools should be deemed to be engaged in the study of various aspects of psychology. The study of these aspects could then be combined in one scientific psychology.
He presents here a new three-fold division which plays a similar role to the three fold division in the earlier work. He distinguishes between experience, behavior and what we might nowadays call cognitive psychology which, he thought, could and should be unified to produce a complete psychology and to overcome the crisis of the existence of competing schools, each contending their own particular methods or favored aspects were adequate to the whole. This plea for unity was, however, in effect a plea for the Würzburg school. For, so long as the various aspects of psychology were to be studied separately and then integrated, so long as no reduction was to be attained, the point of view of the Wurzburg school, or at least of their most stunning results would have had to have been accepted, that is, the higher thought processes would be studied independently and directly. Perhaps there was a moment, as Bühler had the opportunity to take a position at Harvard, when this view could have gained in influence. From Harvard he could have had influence in Europe and America and the effects of fascism in Europe would not have been so disastrous for him. It did not happen however. And, as well known, his later position in America was not happy.
Buhler’s third attempt to develop a system is found in his theory of language. This attempt is broader in that it extends his study of language beyond mere psychological aspects of speech and yet narrower in that it does not include all of psychology. It broadens the psychological study of language and includes studies of properties of language which are not psychological but social and even epistemological. This study is even more explicit in its systematic approach and in its development of new and broader methods. It remains as well as the others in quite important respects within the bounds of the Wurzburg school.
The systematic approach is here more explicit in that Buhler attempts to put his theory axiomatically. He apparently seeks here to incorporate the new methods or the new logic of David Hilbert. The Wurzburg school, that is to say Kulpe, had indeed ignored the new logic; its incorporation into the studies of this school was needed. Bühler’s approach is, however, quite superficial. He develops no theory of this approach and his own axiomatics cannot be taken too seriously. He presents his basic ideas as “axioms”. But they are not even stated properly as axioms. They do not play the role of being those propositions from which all other parts of the theory should be deduced. Rather they are basic presumptions which set the stage for what follows. Buhler’s systematic approach is also here somewhat programmatic.
The problems which Bühler deals with in his studies of language are by no means dependent on his “axiomatic” approach. The most important of these problems include those which come out of the Wurzburg school even if all of them may not have this source. The style or approach which Bühler follows in attempting to solve them comes from this background as well. No appraisal of the success of Buhler’s studies in language will be attempted here. Rather the influence of the Wurzburg school as a source of problems and approach will be illustrated in order to explain how Buhler’s work sets the stage for Popper’s research, that is, how the problems of the Wurzburg school reappear for Popper in Buhler’s work.
There is one central problem which permeates Bühler’s work and which determines his style; both come out the Würzburg point of view. The problem is how the higher thought processes, the human apparatus of perception and thinking enables men to (correctly) perceive or describe the world. Bühler maintains the view that the higher operations or functions are not constructed out of the lower, they are found in humans, yet they enable men to communicate, to describe and to perceive the world. In his speech theory he discusses the success of pointing or indication of directions etc. as a function of fields. Still further he discusses naming as successful through the operation of a symbol field. The details of these theories and their relative success or failure are not of concern here. The problem of explaining the nature and role of “higher” processes is. For, in each case Bushier presumes the dualism of context and element, seeks to study the context in psychology or speech and to explain how they function. This is a natural continuation of Kulpe’s study in abstraction discussed above which proposes the field or context and element pattern of study.
The subtitle of Bühler’s Sprachtheorie, that is, Die Darstellungsfunktion der Sprache, indicates further the interest Buhler has in the problem of how language can be used to describe the world. This is also a development of Kulpe’s approach. For Kulpe’s psychology and his theory of knowledge required that the inbuilt human psychological processes be capable of knowing, of describing the world. The study of how language does this, especially in the way Buhler proceeds, solves problems which unavoidably arise when the nonreductionism and realism of Kulpe are presumed. Bühler’s study, however, does not solve the methodological or epistemological problems nor is it intended to. It does set a framework in which the problems Külpe sought to solve remain of crucial importance.
In his studies in psychology and the theory of language Buhler made assumptions which were the basis of the research in the Wurzburg school and which were in direct conflict with the leading psychological and methodological theories of the time. His non-reductionism was the central heretical doctrine. It had both a psychological and methodological aspect. Both played a role in his research. The former set his dualistic — field-element approach — the second lead to his emphasis on the function of language to describe the world. His deductivism and realism gave the basic Kulpeian elements of a theory of knowledge. He did not follow Kulpe’s footsteps however in seeking to develop a methodology. He apparently sought to avoid the problems of the separation of psychology and methodology for, his study of language lays on both sides. The problems of metaphysics, of a soul, were avoided even more rigorously than those of method. These problems were not removed; there were no alternative answers to them. Buhlers attempts at system had enabled him to work around them, which is no critique, but not to solve them. These problems, then, formed the context of Popper’s work.
4. Popper’s First Problems
Karl Popper’s problems grew out of his work in psychology and methodology conducted within Bühler’s framework. To begin with he conducted investigations in both thought psychology and methodology. Both were apparently Bühlerian. This work can be seen to have lead to his own problems in methodology. It is apparent that he quickly identified those problems of the Külpe school which Buhler had not solved. To begin with these were the separation of psychology and methodology and the development of a methodological theory which presumed the deductivism of the Wurzburg school.
Popper began his intellectual work, at least that work which is today available to us, in Buhler’s seminar in Vienna, working in both psychology and methodology. In both aspects he apparently continued the work of the Wurzburg school, that is to say, of Bühler. His first psychological work is not available. His first methodological piece, which is available, was submitted as a doctorate and has the title Die Methodenfrage der Den kpsychologie. This work is a Bühlerian analysis of psychological methods — his own included he says. The problem he deals with is how scientific psychology should be conducted. He seeks to show on the one hand that the reductionism of the sort defended by Schlick in philosophy and exemplified by the Gestalt school in psychology was not only not needed but harmful and on the other hand that the three aspect schema of Buhler was needed in thought psychology as well as in the psychology of language, which he deems Buhler already to have successfully demonstrated.
He did not seek to refute Schlick’s reductionism, i.e. physicalism, as a metaphysical hypothesis but, just as Kulpe had done before, sought to show that other possibilities were still open and to repudiate any short cut, that is, any metaphysical answer to this question which precedes the empirical psychological research. He argues that psychological research needs to be carried out quite independently from physiological research, pointing out that physiological hypotheses which are designed to show the reducibility of psychological to physiological processes such as those sought by the gestalt school are always based in psychological hypotheses obtained independently from physiological research. It is impossible, he says, to start with physical or physiological hypotheses and to make progress in psychology. As a methodological program, then, Schlick’s reductionism would be a block to progress; as a metaphysics it is a mere conjecture which has to be tested through the development of the sciences of psychology and physiology.
In the second part of his essay Popper seeks to show the necessity of the three aspects of psychology proposed by Bühler, that is, of experience, of behavior and of intellectual structures, for the psychological explanation of thought. The necessity of the first aspect, that of experience, has already been shown to be needed by the Wurzburg school, he contends. Even though there are problems associated with the use of experience or the method of introspection in the study of thought, no thought psychology can be taken seriously, he says, which does not conduct such studies. The second aspect, that of behavior, is necessary, he argues, to explain certain reactions found in animals which are at times purpose oriented and at times not. The reaction to movements, for example, as dangerous are sometimes appropriate and sometimes not. The third aspect, that of cognitive structure, is necessary to explain, for example, meaning. The study of the describing function of language as on Buhler’s approach cannot however adequately fulfil this role by itself. Other factors such as the research of probing behavior indicated by Selz’s psychology must be added. The study of description is at the same time problematical because it raises problems of the relation between the theory of knowledge, of logic and of psychology to one another. These problems need to be solved before a full psychology can be attained. This analysis is crucial. For, shortly after this work Popper turned away from psychology itself in order to solve just these problems, to separate psychology and methodology and build a deductive theory of science — of research — on his deductive - Selzian - psychology. Before turning to this development one further aspect of this essay should be mentioned. Bühler had suggested the importance of a biological explanation for psychology. Popper follows him here, proposing that a system of psychology should be incorporated in a biological system to attain completeness.
When Popper had finished his doctorate he had adopted the non-reductionism of the Wurzburg school, he had attempted to develop his own psychology which could apparently be placed within this school - he says it was similar to Selz’s - and he had discovered within the chosen Bühlerian schema the need to consider the problems of the separation of logic, methodology and psychology as well as the need to extend the study of thought beyond the describing function of language. These problems were acute at the time due at least in part to the difficulties discussed above of interpreting such theories as that of Selz. If one adds to this the need for a methodological theory which was deductivist, which could take the place of Kulpe’s attempt to form such a theory, one had the basic elements of Popper’s problem situation which came from the Würzburg school as he started work in methodology. There are other aspects of course. Some of these such as his attempt to explain why Freud’s work should not be included within science may be due to the influence of this school since Bühler in Die Krise der Psychologie had also wanted to exclude Freudianism and this book was central for Popper’s own early view. This and other aspects may be added but the problematic of the Wurzburg school gives a quite rich and adequate context for Popper’s problems.
Popper’s first attempt or rather attempts to develop a methodological theory are found in his only recently published Die beiden Grundprobleme der Erkenntnistheorie. He here begins with some of those problems noted in his doctorate, that is the separation of psychology and methodology in order to clear the way for the development of his own methodological theory. He does not there discuss the problem in its broader dimension. He has a narrow purpose. He wishes to lay the basis for his study in the theory of knowledge. His problem arises due to the background of his work in psychology. He defended a deductive psychology, that is, a psychology which presumes some inbuilt structure to thought which is not merely a product of combinations of sensations. His own methodology should be deductive apparently building on the deductive point of view found in the psychology. But the two domains could not be identified. He notes that there are deductive psychologies such as that of Selz and inductive psychologies as well as deductive and inductive methodologies. He argues that they need not come in inductive and deductive pairs. Thus, a deductive psychology may be compatible with an inductive methodology or the other way around. Popper’s own approach, of course, is to continue his work in deductive psychology with a deductive methodology. Without solving the problems of the relationships between psychology and methodology he could, with this tactic, open the way for the independent development of his view. His problem situation thus repeats to a large extent that of Kulpe, who, as explained above, sought to form a methodological theory which presumed his psychological results, which was, however, distinct from psychology and which would supply a methodology for the continuation of psychological research.
The problems which Popper faced in developing his methodology were, of course, not identical with those which were faced by Külpe. The most important difference was the need, already recognised by Buhler, to take account of the new logic of Frege, Russell and Hubert. Popper was thus required to deal extensively with the work of the Vienna Circle since they had the lead the way in developing methodologies, albeit inductive methodologies, which sought to take account of the new developments in logic.
Popper did not meet with instant success. Some of the difficulties he met and had to overcome are evident in Die beiden Grundprobleme der Erkenntnistheorie. The task of analysing the development of Popper’s views will not, of course be undertaken here’. The demonstration of how Popper’s first problems grew out of the dialectic within the Wurzburg school and between psychology and methodology is sufficient to show the influence of the Wurzburg school and the roots of Popper’s view. I should note however that even with the completion of his first methodological theories in Die beiden Grundprobleme und Logik der Forschung Popper did not achieve all the aims of the Wurzburg school which happened to be his own. Above all these theories are not realistic. Popper says that he in fact was a realist but that he deemed this a personal matter. He thus defends in his early work the positivist thesis that his own theory of science is compatible with any metaphysic and with any interpretation of science, whether idealist or realist or any other. The problems of the Wurzburg school thus stayed with him. He needed to develop later a realist interpretation of his theory and still later he returned to problems of metaphysics, of the soul and of a scientific psychology. These developments are, however, another story.
Note: I have continued this story in my review of Die beiden Grundprobleme “The Road through Wurzburg, Vienna and Göttingen,” The Philosophy of the Social Sciences, Vol. 15, No. 4. Dec. 1985. pp. 487-506.