Go to Page Number Go to Page Number
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

London: Allen & Unwin; New York: Macmillan, 1916. Pp. xxiii+ 532. 1

The International Journal of Ethics,27 (Jan 1917) 252-54

This book of Wundt’s will probably remain as a classic of its kind. One thinks of Wundt as one of a half-dozen or so of the founders of modern psychology; and this is as much the case in Völkerpsychologieas in individual psychology. But a book which can be thought of dispassionately as a classic almost upon its appearance–the German edition is of 1912–is already, in a sense, out of date. And Wundt’s book really marks the end, rather than the beginning, of an epoch; his Folk Psychology is too near to philosophy, to the philosophy of history, to be valued apart from Wundt. Undoubtedly he has made great and permanent contributions to the science of language, to the study of myths, and to the study of the primitive mind. But the present volume, in which there is far less detailed examination, but a more synoptic view than in the three-volume work–this book defines the limits of the Folk Psychology much more clearly than did its predecessor. 2

It is Wundt’s philosophy of history. When he objects to Hegel’s “logical schematism” imposed upon history, 3 we feel that in some measure he has been compelled to impose a schematism of his own [521]. He defines his purpose as to understand in regard to mankind “not merely the genesis of the particular organs (of society) but primarily their co-operation and the correlation of their functions”; 4 and also “In addition to the problem of the relations of the separate processes to one another . . . we must . . . face also the broader question as to whether or not mental development is at all subject to law” [xiii]. Wundt divides the stages of culture into four: (1) primitive, including prehistoric man and Bushmen, Negritos and Veddahs; (2) totemic, including two very different groups, the Australians and the Iroquois, and on its indefinite borders the Polynesian; (3) what he calls the “age of heroes and gods,” the beginnings of ballad and epic; (4) the “development to humanity,” fostered by world empires and world religions. It will be observed that this method of division is partly one of stages of culture and partly one of periods of time, which tends to cast suspicion upon its scientific value; and further that the scheme involves a philosophic teleology. “[A] philosophy of history,” Wundt says,

cannot dispense with principles that are in a certain sense external to history itself. Yet the function of such a philosophy would appear to consist in considering historical life from the point of view of the purposes that come to realisation within it, and of the values that are created on the various levels of historical culture. Such a teleology of history. . . must be preceded by a causal investigation, which begins, here as everywhere, by entirely ignoring purposes and values. . . . [T]he direct approach to a philosophy of history which aims, not to acquire a knowledge of reality from a prioriconcepts but, conversely, to derive ideas from reality, is a psychological account of the development of mankind. [521-22]

But even Hegel would hardly be accused of acquiring“a knowledge of reality from a prioriconcepts”; he pretended to find these concepts in history. And is Wundt’s concept of humanity any less a priori? If the concept is to be of value in folk-psychology it must be heuristic, and so far we fail to see that it has justified itself. What, exactly, are the permanent factors which permit us to regard the “development to humanity” as the thread to string our historical and geographical account of man upon? For Wundt, the conception of humanity appears to be in reality only a...

Published By:   Johns Hopkins University Press