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  Roger Smith. The History of Human Nature: More of the Same or Facing the Other?
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Roger Smith. The History of Human Nature: More of the Same or Facing the Other?

Roger Smith
The History of Human Nature:
More of the Same or Facing the Other?
There is a significant cognitive and moral dilemma. Should we know and act on the assumption that other people are basically similar to ourselves, or assume that other people are, in a deep sense, different? It is a very common humanistic sentiment to feel that all people are «in essence» similar, or have a single human nature, and on this basis humanists justify the ideal of equal rights and dignity for all people. If there were no shared human nature, on what grounds would we treat people as members of the same category and hence equally objects of our moral concern? Thus Isaiah Berlin stated: «The fact that men are men and women are women and not dogs or cats or tables or chairs is an objective fact; and part of this objective fact is that there are certain values, and only those values, which men, while remaining men, can pursue»[1]. Yet there are powerful voices, such as Nietzsche’s or Foucault’s, which declare the belief in an essential human nature wrong as an epistemological principle, misguided as to fact and opposed to human freedom. According to this point of view, the claim that there is a universal, trans-historical subject, man, is unfounded, and pious assertions about man impose one discourse as if it were uniquely valid when it is not. The trouble the English language has when it uses a gendered term, «man», also as a collective term for all people illustrates the point. There are different views about how far the term denotes a universal or a particular. In short, we face the dilemma whether we do cognitive and moral justice to people by starting from the proposition that they are like ourselves or from the proposition that they are other.
At one pole of opinion are people, perhaps evolutionary biologists or those with a religious faith about the soul, who believe that they possess uniquely valid knowledge of human nature. At the opposite pole, there are
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postmodern theorists and artists who celebrate possibilities, as they see them, for the continuous recreation of human identities and, through modern technologies, for re-shaping the body, the genes and even forms of life. The former like to emphasise the underlying permanence of human nature, the latter prefer to get rid of the word and emphasise the flexibility of human identities. These differences of opinion actually raise some very complex questions. In order to think more precisely about the dilemma, I therefore propose in this paper to examine it as a problem which historians face when they write history. (That is, I will discuss the presence of the dilemma in historiography.) In particular, I am interested in how to write the history of belief about human nature itself, especially where this belief takes the form of systematic, scientific knowledge. What are the strengths and weaknesses of presupposing the essential unity, or of presupposing the possibility of otherness, in writing history of beliefs about the nature of being human? To anticipate my conclusion, I shall argue that there are cognitive and moral reasons to assume that earlier people and earlier beliefs about what a human being is, may, in a significant sense, be other.
I first discuss some general (or philosophical) questions about the conditions of knowledge of what it is to be human and about knowledge of unity and diversity. There is then an illustrative review of some of the positions which historians of knowledge of human nature, and particularly historians of psychology, have taken. (This discusses aspects of what a number of contemporary English-language writers call the history of the human sciences; but the term «human sciences» translates awkwardly into Russian[2].) The paper concludes with an argument for the cognitive and moral virtues, in historical writing, of an imagination about what is other.
The basic model of historical work is a historian attempting to interpret and subsequently to explain a text or other artefact (the so-called primary source) from another time. The historian, like any other investigator, is an interpreter, asking what an object is and what it means. Interpretation, it has long been understood, involves a double movement, like a dialogue, between the interpreter’s knowledge and way of thought and the knowledge and way of thought that the historical object expresses. For interpretation to be possible, or for dialogue to occur, it is logically necessary that the interpreting subject and the interpreted object have something in common. As Wilhelm von Humboldt wrote: «All understanding presupposes in the person who understands, as a condition of its possibility, an analogue of that which will be understood later: an original, antecedent congruity between subject and object»[3]. Without this element in common nothing could be said that would constitute an interpretation; writing would instead always
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be fiction. Just so, people in the artistic or philosophical avant-garde have sometimes said: we are isolated from what is other and can only invent stories about it. All the same, daily life, the academic discipline of history and certainly ordinary language use presupposes that interpretation is a meaningful and rational activity and is not the same as fiction; and it is this that is relevant here.
It is also a necessary part of the act of interpretation, however, that the interpreter always – logically, must – bring something to the description of an object which is then claimed to be in the object. The object itself cannot supply the terms for its own description. The act of description is an interpretive act, and there is therefore no uniquely valid description for any object. There is a kind of circularity in interpretation – as philosophers of hermeneutics have long appreciated. Heidegger noted that «in every case interpretation is grounded in something we see in advance – in a fore-sight», and, as he wrote in a typically gnomic utterance, «whenever we encounter anything in the world, the world has already been previously discovered»[4]. The logical positivists systematically tried to develop an alternative theory of knowledge, which would escape circularity by making formally confirmed observation statements. But this project failed. There is no possibility of a neutral position in description; all description is interpretation – we cannot make statements about an object independent of the conceptual or theoretical framework in terms of which we make those statements. As a result, «the world was disclosed to man only in terms of the questions he asked of it and the purposes with which he addressed it»[5].
What we can know about people in general, or one person in particular, or about ourselves, depends on the purposes, embedded in historically formed languages and practices, which we actually have. This is so even if the purpose were, following Kant, to ask the most general possible question, «Was ist der Mensch[6]. Any answer is an interpretation, and any interpretation presupposes something in common, something shared, between subject and object. Yet, as this is a matter of logic and not a conclusion of empirical science or natural history, it tells us nothing about what people share in common. Indeed, a number of humanistic philosophers, including Berlin, have recognised that the term «human» primarily has logical, metaphysical or moral meaning, and only secondarily empirical content. Somewhat in the spirit of Kant, who defined a rational human being as possessing a capacity to act freely according to the moral imperative, Berlin used the word «human» to defi ne, not describe, a category of being possessing certain qualities. «Our conscious idea of man – of how men differ from other entities, of what is human and what is not human or inhuman – involves the use of some among the basic categories in terms of which we
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perceive and order and interpret data. To analyse the concept of man is to recognize these categories for what they are. To do this is to realize that they are categories, that is, that they are not themselves subjects for scientific hypotheses about the data which they order»[7]. Clearly, to defi ne being human in this way builds a presumption about the shared qualities of human beings into any interpretation of what a human does.
Reference to «the other» in philosophical writing appears first in the literature, which Kant launched, reconsidering from the ground up the conditions for knowledge. Both Kant and the Idealists who followed him (and who rejected the limits which he had placed on knowledge of what is real) defined a common humanity in terms of the intrinsic properties of reason and freedom. Attempting to articulate the metaphysical ground, the basis in being, of this common humanity, Fichte and then Hegel posited an original, creative state which, in order to have knowledge of itself, has to create division or difference. Their writing thus put forward a notion of «the other» as a logical requirement for the possibility of self-conscious reflective knowledge of the original «I» (Fichte) or Absolute Spirit or Geist (Hegel). Thus, for Fichte and Hegel, «the other» is logically implicit in the reflexive act, the act where the world, taking the form of expressive human activity, creates knowledge of itself. Hegel wrote: «A self-consciousness exists for a self-consciousness. Only so is it in fact self-consciousness; for only in this way does the unity of itself in its otherness become explicit for it». Hegel then recreated this logical argument as the driving force of history, and this made the historical ages of the human world into stages into the self-realisation of Geist, generating difference out of an original unity. Human subjects, he argued, require the presence of what is not themselves in order to come to knowledge of themselves. «Self-consciousness exists in and for itself when, and by the fact that, it so exists for another; that is, it exists only in being acknowledged»[8]. The need of consciousness for an other in order to be self-consciousness became, in his history, the motor of domination, the creator of master and slave and the subsequent development of the social and political world. Only at the end of history, with the full self-consciousness of the Absolute of itself as unfolding in history, he argued, would the other appear in its true form as the expression of the ideal unity.
The notion of «the other», strictly speaking, thus had logical content before it had existential or moral, let alone empirical content. But the history of the notion since Hegel has confounded boundaries between what is logical and what is empirical. There are logical grounds for holding that «the human» (as Berlin wrote) is a category in terms of which we shape empirical knowledge, and is not itself an empirical category. And there are logical grounds to hold that interpretation requires some identity of subject and
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object. At the same time, there are the empirical facts (Berlin, for example, referred to moral facts) which appear to give content to the category of «the human». In a sort of mirror image with the notion of human nature, there is a similar situation with the notion of «the other»: difference is a logical requirement of knowledge, but at the same time there are the empirical facts which give content to difference. What the proper relation is between logical and empirical statements is a complex matter for philosophers (and they hold divergent views); but it clearly creates difficulties in contemporary discussion of human identity and difference and for the moral questions thus posed. Two alternative possibilities, the first sharply separating philosophical and scientific claims (as was the norm in academic culture influenced by analytic philosophy) and the second, naturalism (common in much contemporary philosophy of mind), which supports empirical research into identity and difference, each have their problems. A third alternative, Hegel’s, which explained the empirical and historical content of the world as the unfolding of logical reason, will hardly now attract followers.
The route that this paper takes to this cluster of issues is to examine what writers in one field, the intellectual history of thought about human nature, actually say. But though I discuss only one field, it is worth bearing in mind that the same underlying questions and difficulties about the logic and empirical content of identity and difference face psychology, sociology, philology, anthropology and related disciplines, as well as history. When a philologist translates a word in one language by a word in another, what is the guarantee beyond the interpretative act itself that there is indeed a common meaning? As translators well know, there are many occasions when any translation that might be suggested will be controversial. The common practice of leaving certain words in the original language – English-language writers commonly leave words like «Geist», «esprit» and «perestroika» untranslated, for example – illustrates this awareness. In cultural anthropology there is argument about whether what in one culture appear to be basic categories for dividing up the world, like «individual» or «economy», are indeed categories in terms of which all other peoples divide up the world. The attempt to defi ne «religion» is a well-known problem case in point, since many scholars would admit into the class of practices called religion activities that do not involve belief in a god, though for many believers a religion without a god is a contradiction in terms. Among historians there are debates about the continuity or discontinuity across time of basic forms of social and political organisation, such as the family and the state. There is a very real question, for example, whether the pre-Christian world had a historical consciousness like the Christian world, since the latter believed in an imminent ending and the former not.
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Among historians of science there is argument about the comparability of ancient Greek and modern «science» and about whether the Greeks studied such things as «psychology» and «the mind».
The empirical sciences of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries took a different route from the one Hegel had projected for them. Scientists classified their objects of study in terms of what they considered to be natural categories, categories that resulted from experience and observation. Historians understood terms like «human nature», «race», «science», «nation» and «progress» to denote naturally existing features of the human world, features given by the fact of human presence. Scholars assumed that their basic categories provided a valid framework for describing all times and all places. As a result, historians got on with understanding the particular content and expression of these categories in the lives of different people. They studied, for example, how earlier people differentiated human and not human, assigned specific characters to different nations or races, succeeded or not in constructing scientific knowledge and made progress or degenerated. Thus the dominant practice of western historians – like philologists and anthropologists, though I will not discuss them – was to address the dilemma, with which this essay began, by presuming the identity of basic categories. The general empirical ethos of science, natural science and humanistic science alike, supported and confirmed this choice.
All the same, the dilemma did not go away: on what grounds can a scientist decide that an object about which she seeks knowledge is like or unlike a known object? How do historians respond to the possibility that the object of their knowledge is really other? I will now discuss how writing in the intellectual history of science has responded to this dilemma. This will lead to the argument that the basic categories in terms of which we describe human nature themselves have a history, and hence that there are very different ways of being human – as Giambattista Vico, in the early eighteenth century, was perhaps the first to explore in a systematic way.
The philosophical dilemma confronting the historian was well understood by the English philosopher and historian of Roman Britain, R.G.Collingwood. As he pointed out, for all the fiercely enforced practice among academic historians of consulting the evidence, historians never come face to face with the past. «The historical past is the world of ideas which the present evidence creates in the present. In historical inference we do not move from our present world to a past world; the movement in experience is always a movement within a present world of ideas»[9]. «The past» is a creation of what historians (and everyone else who tells stories) write about the variety of memorials, documents, traditions and memories in the present. As a result, we cannot judge whether the lives and nature of earlier people were like our
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own from comparing past and present in a naively empirical manner. The judgement must come from comparing different ways of writing in the present. And there are indeed different ways of writing history, depending on whether an author interprets the meaning of sources primarily by reference to modern sources or interprets them by reference primarily to sources contemporary with or historically relevant to the source under study. Only the latter is historical work properly so-called, but the former is very common. The latter takes a contextual approach to meaning. What I want to argue is that contextual, historical writing leads to the awareness of the possible otherness of an object of study. By contrast, the former type of writing, which interprets the meaning of a source from comparison with writing or knowledge which is not part of the source’s context, excludes the possibility of acknowledging otherness. Different relations to otherness are therefore built into different styles of writing about the past. Openness to otherness, I suggest, comes from recreating different contexts. This recreating involves both interpretative discipline and imagination.
An emphasis on knowledge of context in historical work relevant to the history of science became prominent in the English-speaking world in the 1960s and 1970s. It began with a debate about the proper manner of understanding the meaning of classic texts in political theory, such as Machiavelli’s «Il principe» (written 1513) or Hobbes’ «Leviathan» (published 1651). Most scholars initially insisted that the value of these texts, and the value of returning to them now, lies with their contribution to political theory, understood as a continuous and continuing effort to lay bare the powers and obligations of the state and of individuals and thus to make clear the nature and goals of political life. Several scholars, notably John Dunn and Quentin Skinner, then argued, with the rigorous precision of the ordinary language philosophy of J. L. Austin, that it is not possible to say what a text means by interpreting it in relation to supposed eternal questions or trans-historical ideas, such as justice. Rather, they argued, it follows from the way we use language that we must interpret a text in relation to the context in which the text was written, if we are to say we know what the text means. In ordinary language, the meaning of a statement comes from the use the statement has, not from abstract definitions. «We should study not the meanings of the words, but their use. For the given idea cannot ultimately be said … to have any meaning that can take the form of a set of words which can then be excogitated [thought out and developed in thought] and traced out over time. Rather the meaning of the idea must be its uses to refer in various ways»[10]. In writing, an author like Hobbes (Skinner’s prime case study) used language which had meaning by virtue of that language’s place in a debate or actions of which his text was part and to which it contributed. The later reader cannot
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assert what a text means independently of acquiring knowledge about the context in which the text was written and the uses to which language of the text was put. The later reader must at least in part be a historian. Thus, it was argued, the discipline of the history of political thought should shift its focus from debate about the lasting contributions of great texts to detailed research on the local settings in which the language of political ideas is «performative utterance» (in Austin’s terms).
This was a debate in political theory. Its relevance, however, was very much wider, and it had a direct and lasting impact on the field which the United States philosopher A.O.Lovejoy had called the history of ideas. Lovejoy had proposed tracing the history of unit ideas (his study of «the great chain of being» was a model); but, according to the new analysis, there are not lasting ideas to trace by this kind of history, since we can state what the meaning of an idea is only by stating something about the context in which it has use in a language. There may be contexts, languages and ideas which persist over time; but this is a matter for empirical research – we certainly cannot presume it. One result was to rename the field of the history of ideas intellectual history. It was in the history of science, however, where the consequences were especially significant. This is because, in western culture, it is so widely and so forcibly assumed that in scientific knowledge there are indeed ideas the meaning of which is not dependent on context, which can be traced over historical time, and that these are the ideas which scientific work has shown to be true (or, at least, the best approximation to truth we have). Given the status of modern scientific knowledge, it was inevitably controversial to suggest that the understanding of what a scientist states requires knowledge of the contextual use of language rather than of the reasons which confirm the validity of the scientist’s claim. All the same, many historians of science, from the late 1960s onwards, adopted contextual research as essential to a properly historical approach to the history of science. Influential exemplars, like Paul Forman’s study of Weimar culture and physics and Robert M. Young’s paper on Darwin’s relationship to political economy, caused considerable discussion because, to their critics, they suggested that major innovations in science owed more to so-called irrational causes in the social world than to the supposed norms of science’s rational research on nature[11]. The emphasis on context had opened up a route for considering the place of social factors, as well as cognitive ones, in the construction of knowledge. There was a sometimes heated debate about rationality and relativism, growing even hotter under the impact of a new sociology of scientific knowledge[12]. But I do not wish to be side-tracked by this. What matters now is the fact that contextual practice encouraged a new form of writing in the history of science, writing which understood
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knowledge – whether later judged true or false – in particular and local terms. The new historians of science described the creation and meaning of knowledge in local, historical contexts, and they understood the local contexts to consist of social and institutional as well as intellectual factors. In the setting of academic life, this separated an older generation of scientists turned historians, who continued to interpret the meaning of past science by reference to present science, and a new generation of historians who identified socially with the history profession and did not start from modern science in their interpretation of earlier work[13]. As a matter of fact, both forms of historical writing about natural science have continued down to the present.
I have drawn attention again to the question of contextual argument in the history of science because different kinds of writing and interpretation contain the potential for very different views about what may be other. The traditional form, plotted around the progressive discovery by scientists of true knowledge, presupposes the common identity of the past and present objects of knowledge. It is a consequence of this view that, if earlier people had knowledge different from our own, their knowledge was not knowledge of what is other or knowledge that makes them other than us. Their knowledge was simply false knowledge. Written in this way, the history of science presupposes continuity in the objects of knowledge and continuity in the activity of science; there is nothing which can be called other in a deep sense, only ignorance and superstition. (By a deep sense of «the other», I mean acknowledgement of something as other with its own intrinsic value.) This is the way of thought characteristic of the Enlightenment, later of the Comtean positivists and of scientists in our own day who think the significance of history lies only with its contribution to celebrating the present. There is place here, in the manner of writing history, for ways of thought other than the scientist’s own only by categorising earlier thought as, in Comte’s negative words, theological or metaphysical. In E.B.Tylor’s anthropological terms, thought that does not match modern science is a «survival» of a nonrational age. Thus, there is a large genre of writing in the history of science which has confirmed and reinforced the image of the other so prevalent in the late nineteenth century, the image of what is other as the primitive, the beast within, the woman, the degenerate or ill person and the unconscious. From this point of view, human activity that does not conform to the canons of scientific rationality structures an irrational not rational other – Mr.Hyde not Dr.Jekyll.
Yet this kind of history of science writing contained within it the seeds of a totally different view. At the same time as they stressed the unity and historical continuity of the scientific project, historians of science stressed
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the singular importance of the Scientific Revolution. (It was a sign of the importance which they attached to it that they used capital letters.) As a result, there was tension between the view that science began in ancient civilisations and the view that only Renaissance and early modern Europe laid the philosophical and experimental basis for truly scientific knowledge of nature. This tension took the form of a very productive diversity in the historiography. Scholars like Pierre Duhem and Alistair Crombie argued for substantial continuity between modern science and its medieval antecedents, while others, like Alexandre Koyré, argued that a revolution in metaphysics, replacing Aristotelian philosophy with the mechanical world view, made modern science possible. The latter view, which emphasised a revolution in philosophy, claimed that there were earlier forms of science which were rational but not ours. It suggested the possibility that an earlier world view might be other than a modern scientific world view but rational nonetheless.
There were also divergences in the philosophy of science which supported different kinds of historical writing. Earlier Anglo-American philosophy of science was preoccupied with epistemological questions, with the rational steps that supposedly demarcate confirmed (or falsified) scientific claims from unconfirmable (or unfalsifiable) unscientific beliefs. By contrast, in France there was a tradition of writing preoccupied with the structure of what has become accepted as authoritative knowledge, rather than with epistemological questions, and this encouraged the view that there are indeed conceptual breaks in the history of knowledge. Georges Canguilhem and later, and differently, Foucault, studied the conceptual structure of different representations of particular areas of knowledge (not knowledge in general), as in Canguilhem’s work on reflex action or on Claude Bernard’s notion of life. Their work suggested ways to write about knowledge by reference to conceptual context rather than by reference to a norm of science taken from the present[14]. Thomas S. Kuhn also published his book, «The Structure of Scientific Revolutions» (1962), in which he made the notion of revolution central to the development of the physical sciences. By constructing a general picture of periods of what he called normal science, when knowledge and practice advances within a broadly agreed framework (or paradigm), interrupted by rare but crucial moments of revolution, Kuhn shaped much of the subsequent discussion about the historical continuity or discontinuity of knowledge[15]. By claiming that there was «incommensurability», no shared meaning, between forms of knowledge before and after a revolution (the exemplar was Einstein’s overthrow of the Newtonian view of absolute space and time), Kuhn raised clear questions about the possible existence of other forms of knowledge. His argument
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appeared to face a dilemma: if there are complete revolutions in science and incommensurability between scientific knowledge before and after, then we cannot talk about progress in general; and if we do believe that scientific knowledge makes progress, then there must be some cognitive continuity over time and no revolutions.
There was no explicit reference to «the other» in these earlier debates in the history and philosophy of science. Such language was quite foreign to the discourse. All the same, I have suggested, writers in the history of science, in the way they wrote, expressed different views about the unity or diversity of reasoning and the comparability or non-comparability of its objects. There was the potential for debate about «the other». I now want to make these points more concrete with illustrations from the historiography of the sciences of human nature and, in particular, psychology.
The term «human nature» illustrates the main point. In the contemporary English language, the word most often denotes a biological nature, established in an evolutionary past and passed on genetically, which all humans supposedly share. This, however, says nothing about what the content of human nature, as a matter of fact, is, and about this there is disagreement – as there is, for example, about whether and in what way female and male human nature diverge. Moreover, whatever the hereditary content may be that all people share, this has expression, or presence, in the life of actual people mediated by the long and complex process of development. There is no human nature independently of this development. Because of this, there are areas of contemporary scholarship, notably cultural studies, where writers do not usually refer to human nature at all but, instead, refer to the shaping of human identities. Thus scholarship has tended to polarise. Biologists and biological psychologists carry out research to describe and explain the unity and difference of people, but they assume that there is a shared human nature, while sociologists and cultural theorists write about the social construction of diverse identities. Reference to human nature, as a matter of social fact, builds into the way of thought an assumption of shared identity; by contrast, refusal to use the term builds into discourse an emphasis on recognising «the other».
The question of human identity and difference has of course long divided opinion. Observing past history as well as the commercial society in which he lived, David Hume thought he could discern shared ways of learning, feelings and causes for action. He perceived a common human nature, and this was the subject of what he and other eighteenth-century writers called «the science of man»[16]. Hume confidently wrote: «It is universally acknowledged that there is a great uniformity among the actions
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of men, in all nations and ages, and that human nature remains still the same, in its principles and operations. … Mankind are so much the same, in all times and places, that history informs us of nothing new or strange in this particular». He therefore said about history that «its chief use is only to discover the constant and universal principles of human nature...»[17]. Yet, for every statement in the eighteenth century identifying a unified subject, «man», there was another statement drawing distinctions between people and describing their differences. Pascal earlier had exclaimed: «All is one, all is diversity. How many natures lie in human nature!»[18]. The language was rich with descriptions of difference of individual character and of differences between groups like women, savages, gentlemen and peasants. The age of universal enlightenment also distinguished rude and polite society, and the age of the universal rights of man also kept slaves. The modern sciences, likewise, show a centripetal tendency, identifying a core of human nature, and a centrifugal tendency, identifying difference. Also, as in the manner of Hume and the science of man, modern scientists search for definite empirical evidence about what unites and what divides human identities. I want to look critically and historically at this.
I do so by examining the assumptions of texts in the history of psychology. In the English language, as in the Russian, the standard texts in this field do not question the category «psychology» itself[19]. There is a large and captive audience of psychology students for these texts, students required to take courses in the history of psychology, as they are in Russia. The authors, and also we may believe their students, assume that psychology describes an objectively existing dimension of the world and that, potentially at least, all peoples who have some ordered way of reflecting on human nature possess beliefs about psychology. It is a western commonplace to refer to Tibetan psychology or to ancient Greek psychology. Texts very commonly begin with Aristotle (some begin even earlier) and cite his writings on sensation, memory and the other activities of the soul as the beginnings of scientific psychology[20]. The authors do not note, let alone argue about, the convention they adopt, which effaces the possibility that there are forms of understanding being human which are not psychological, and of which Tibetan belief and Aristotle may be examples. In other words, these texts take «psychology» to be a trans-historical and trans-cultural category, and they do not consider the possibility, even if to reject it, that «psychology» is itself historically and culturally specific. As a result, the historiography builds an assumption about the unity and continuity of human thought into everything that is written. These texts do not seriously allow «psychology» to confront «an other» category, an alternative way of thought.
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This is certainly in accord with common opinion. It does not usually strike people as odd to talk about the subject matter of the history of psychology before there was a social activity called psychology. Plainly, it might be said, the ancient Greeks, like people later, wrote systematically about memory, perception and reason – they studied the mind – and, in doing this, they studied psychology. It appears self-evident, although the specific word «psychology» was not in use, that people studied what the word denotes. Modern and ancient ways of thought share a family resemblance, even if language has changed.
There are empirical as well as conceptual questions involved here. It is a matter for research to compare the meanings of terms, and this requires studying local contexts of use – the sort of work empirical historians do – before carrying out the comparison. At the same time, any comparison involves a theory of meaning and a hermeneutics. The common-sense view holds that people in all ages have studied the same thing when they have studied perception, memory, thought, instinct or behaviour. This view assumes that there is a real, fundamentally unchanging world, in relation to which knowledge, once gained, will remain true. It assumes a denotative theory of meaning. The view, of course, allows for truth being so hard to attain that, unfortunately, people will actually come to very different results, and ancient Greek views may therefore differ from our own. Such failure, however, does not prevent us from calling all the results psychology. Opposed to this common-sense position, however, is a contextual theory of meaning: we do not know what psychological terms denote independently of the historical contexts in which they have acquired the meanings they have. From this point of view, even the category «psychological» may itself have a history. From this point of view, also, there may be times and places in which the way of being human is truly other than our own, not psychological at all, since the very terms in which people understand and represent that being are not our own.
Historians of psychology have described Aristotle as a psychologist, even the first psychologist. But if one turns to the expert literature on the interpretation of Aristotelian texts, especially «De anima», it is obvious that there are differences of view about the appropriateness of this description. Few scholars would now state, as the earlier standard English translation of Aristotle did, that «De anima» is «on psychology»[21]. A number of scholars, however, think that this work has something important to contribute to modern debates in the philosophy of mind, if not in the science of psychology, and this judgement presupposes a high degree of continuity between the subject matter of Aristotle’s and modern texts. By contrast, other scholars state that there is a break between the ancient concept of psyche and modern
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notions of mind. If we defi ne psychology as the science of mind, does this therefore mean that Aristotle could not have had a psychology? While one author, stated, for example, that «the “De Anima” is a work in theoretical scientific psychology», other authors qualify this usage: «By Aristotle’s lights, psychology is not, strictly speaking, an independent science, with its own method and subject-matter. He allocates the inquiry into the nature of the soul to the physikos concerned with the principle of living things…»[22]. While no one would claim that Aristotle, or any other scholar in the ancient world, taught a discipline of psychology, understood as a differentiated body of learning passed from master to pupil, still, if we defi ne a discipline as «a department of knowledge characterized by its own subject-matter and methods: as a ‘mental discipline’ rather than a school discipline», then it might be said that Aristotle contributed to psychology[23]. Behind this view, is a realist assumption: there is an object in the world, be it called psyche, soul or mind, whose activity we know in perception, reason, feeling and so forth, and therefore anyone who writes about such activity, as Aristotle does, writes about the same thing and hence contributes to the same field.
This conclusion, however, is open to criticism. To start with, it is not possible to separate «mental discipline» and «school discipline», or the cognitive classification of learning and the social organisation of leaning, in this way. Schemes of classification are social institutions too, and Aristotle did not just not teach psychology but he did not have it as a division of knowledge. Second, even if we concede that Aristotle wrote on topics which, in later ages, were classified as psychological topics, there is still the possibility – which a number of scholars think is the case – that the way in which he thought about those topics, his basic concepts, were sufficiently different form later ones for it to be simply wrong to say he wrote on psychology. Aristotle’s conception of the psyche was a conception of a living principle, the formal cause of a person being human and not something else. Thus, for instance, «in ordinary parlance, the antithetical term to psyche was likely to be not ‘body’ [as in modern pairing of ‘mind’ and ‘body’] but ‘death’»[24]. Thus, on this view, there was not only no ancient discipline of psychology but no object which could have become the subject matter of such a science – there was no mind[25].
Foucault brought prominence to a radical version of such an argument. In «Les mots et les choses», he made the notorious remark that «before the end of the eighteenth century, man did not exist»[26]. This was a rhetorical flourish against the claims of philosophical anthropologists and phenomenologists to describe the essential being of «man». Instead, Foucault proposed «to create a history of the different modes by which, in our culture, human beings are made subjects»[27]. He considered the subject of knowledge
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in modern psychology, the psychological self, as well as psychological knowledge, to be a historical formation. The English sociologist Nikolas Rose developed the thesis in a series of studies linking modern people, who think of themselves in terms of psychological states, to the internalisation of government within individuals in liberal democracies[28]. Such work made it plausible to claim that earlier people may not have been psychological subjects, not only people without psychological knowledge. This implicates a radical idea of «the other» in history.
Less radical in its implications, though still at variance with the assumptions of most psychologists, is the argument that psychological states have changed during the course of human history, just as manner of life has changed. There is in fact a field of historical writing, sometimes called historical psychology, about the changing character of psychological states[29]. The field’s intellectual antecedents lie in German-language sociology of knowledge, which responded to Marx but was not necessarily Marxist, and before that in the eighteenth-century writings, for example of Adam Ferguson and J. G. Herder, which linked the changing character of peoples to geographical and material circumstances. Norbert Elias, in the late 1930s, suggested causal ties between state formation and civilising psychological characteristics (e.g., delicacy at meals) which became part of the court culture of the seventeenth century. A number of modern social psychologists have argued, in Kurt Danziger’s case on the basis of extensive empirical research, that key categories of modern psychology, like «intelligence» and «personality», came into existence with the institutional expansion of psychology as an academic discipline, beginning in the late nineteenth century[30]. As a social psychologist, Danziger argued that the objects to which such terms refer are themselves products of a social process. We might say, for example, that Potemkin had a character but not a personality. Supporting this general conclusion, many scholars have pointed to the immense significance of literature, especially the novel, in creating self-reflecting psychological subjects[31]. Pursuing such arguments about changing psychological states, historians come close to Foucault’s and Rose’s thesis about the modernity of «psychological man».
Such conclusions conflict with the naturalistic assumptions of most psychologists and historians of psychology. The naturalistic view is that evolutionary processes have given rise to the human species with a particular kind of brain, and that what we call psychological events are functions of this brain. As a result of evolution, there is a natural object, the brain and its functions, which remains in its essential characteristics the same over the ages of history and across the geographic dispersion of cultures. Perception, memory, intelligence, feeling and so on are, according to this view, examples
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of «natural kinds». It appears self-evidently the case that the subject matter of human self-understanding is constant, however much descriptions and research vary. Taking this viewpoint, it makes sense to write about Aristotle’s contributions to psychology; we can legitimately ask what he understood, even if poorly, about the different activities that we now know are functions of the brain. The naturalistic position, therefore, does not allow us to posit anything human as radically other.
Thus there is marked disagreement among scholars about the historical continuity of human nature. This disagreement is not going to be resolved easily. Any attempt to determine on the basis of historical evidence whether both the category «psychology» and psychological states are historically local or universal must compare the language (or other symbolic representation) used to describe people at different times. We are back with the hermeneutic questions. Many historians simply assume that different words actually refer to the same things. But for scholars with a different theory of knowledge, who start out from the principle that we cannot refer to an object apart from the language in which we describe it, the shift of language is of decisive importance. One significant example concerns the emotions, a topic of considerable interest among contemporary historians. There is good empirical evidence for a shift in English, during the nineteenth century, from a language of passions to a language of emotions, and this is clearly in need of explanation[32]. For realists about psychological knowledge, it is not substantially important that earlier English writers used the language of the passions and rarely referred to emotion. But this position does not deal with the philosophical question as to whether the linguistic change marks a change in what it is meaningful to say about the human world. I think it does. Historically, the passions were associated with capacities of the soul and their expression included an element of desire; in contrast, emotions are feelings, imagined like sensations as being present in the mind, and they are analytically separable from desire. Writing about the passions of the soul describes a way of being which is other than the way of being to which modern psychologists refer.
The position that I am taking relies on an argument well known since the work of the philosopher of social science, Peter Winch: «To assume at the outset that one can make a sharp distinction between ‘the world’ and ‘the language in which we try to describe the world’ … is to beg the whole question of philosophy». Winch claimed that «reality is given for us in the language that we use» and thus that a change in language is a change in the substance of what we call reality. «A new way of talking sufficiently important to rank as a new idea implies a new set of social relationships»[33]. In statements like this, Anglo-American philosophers took a view similar to Heidegger’s –
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ontological commitments logically precede empirical science: «We must always bear in mind … that … ontological foundations can never be disclosed by subsequent hypotheses derived from empirical material, but that they are always ‘there’ already, even when that empirical material simply gets collected»[34]. Rephrasing this, we might say that there is no place «in nature» at which to stand to view what a human being is independently of the presuppositions in our language about what that being is.
It is possible to develop Winch’s arguments and suggest that all aspects of being human, including those which most people believe to be natural, are what they are only by virtue of their place within a particular social system of language and rules. This provides historians with philosophical reasons to inquire whether, in earlier times, there were beliefs about what it is to be human sufficiently different from our own for it to be meaningless to attribute psychological states, and not just particular psychological conditions like intelligence or personality, to them. This would be to identify earlier people as truly other. Yet, there is always pressure to translate the earlier ways of thought into our own terms, which are often enough psychological, and some kind of translation is a condition of intelligibility. We are therefore back with the dilemma with which this discussion began: if a way of being human were to be entirely other, it could not be known; but if we presume it is like our own, we are in danger of excluding the possibility that it might have been really different.
In order to think further around this dilemma, I turn to historical practice. What are historians of human self-understanding to do: strive to identify everything as like their own way of thought, or strive to identify difference? It is, I suggest, a moral as well as a cognitive question.
Decisions must be made about how to write about ancient, medieval and early modern representations of the workings of the soul, what differentiates people from animals, the sources of action and the similarities and differences between people (as between Greek and barbarian, for instance). If one writes about such topics under the heading of psychology, this suggests that there are certain modern categories – «psychology» itself, but also «emotion», «the unconscious» and so on – which we do not have to question as the appropriate starting point. Such historical work does not promote a critical and reflexive attitude towards modern categories. It does not encourage psychologists, or perhaps more importantly psychology students, to think about what the conventions and limits of psychological explanation may be. It also precludes the development of a historical imagination about what may be quite other ways of thought. Such a lack of imagination is especially visible in the failure of most modern writers on the
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history of psychology to do justice to the theological dimension of earlier learning about the soul[35]. Modern psychology, for example, does not provide appropriate resources for understanding certain medieval notions of memory, in which memory involves a historical consciousness of Christ’s place in the cosmic drama and the function, therefore, of memory in anticipating the future course of events and the coming Kingdom of God[36]. Another example concerns the early modern notion of intelligence. This notion may well have become prominent in European thought as a result of the theological and legal questions raised by the incapacity of certain kinds of people, like children and idiots, to understand and hence take responsibility for the moral law and, in Calvinist settings, the dogma of predestination[37]. That is, «intelligence» was a juridical and theological category before it was a psychological one. To be sure, the historians who have made such points about memory and intelligence start out with the knowledge that such categories are, for modern people, primarily psychological ones. But at the same time they have kept before their minds the possibility that earlier authors did not have the same categories. Their historical writing therefore sets up dialogue between discourse using the modern categories and a contextual reading of earlier texts. This, I argue, is historical writing in which «the other» may have a place.
There is no single ideal of historical writing – or any other writing for that matter; the judgement about what is good depends on the purpose in hand. Like any other empirically-minded scientist, the historian has as one purpose the kind of objectivity which will persuade other scholars that a piece of writing gives the best possible account of events. But this objectivity necessarily involves one act of writing taking up a relationship to another human act, and thus one person taking up a relationship to another person. These relationships, as I have already noted, always involve interpretation. Interpretation is never final and absolute – the old dream that history might find an absolutely objective stance has not survived[38]. The act of interpretation is for something, and the shaping of this purpose, the «lesson», «moral» or «story» for the reader, gives shape and life to the historian’s engagement with the primary sources. Historical writing «is itself a social practice which establishes a well-determined place for readers by redistributing the space of symbolic references and by thus impressing a ‘lesson’ upon them; it is didactic and magisterial»[39]. Modern historians know that they are the medium of dialogue between readers and the past (that is, the records in the present which they constitute as the past). How this dialogue is carried on is a form of moral, as well as cognitive, activity. The situation is the same for literature; there are good reasons to compare writing and reading histories and stories.
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The writer, the subject matter and the reader engage in a kind of conversation. In historical writing about what has been thought about being human, this conversation takes the form of an inquiry into what it is to be human. This, I argue, must allow space for the notion of «the other» – or be in danger of subsuming all points of view about what it is to be human under the writer’s own point of view. Moreover, if writing leaves no possibility for recognising the other, writer and reader alike have no position in language from which to view themselves. As Hegel argued, there can be no self-reflection without the reflective act dividing itself, positing that which is not itself. In non-formal terms, the condition of knowing «an other» is a condition of knowing self. Historical writing therefore has the potential to place the reader’s own beliefs – own cognitive and moral position – into relation with the ideas and conditions which made that cognitive and moral position possible in the first place. History is central to self-understanding. As Habermas argued, writing about what he called the practical interest of the cultural sciences (like history): they aim «not at the comprehension of an objectified reality but at the maintenance of the intersubjectivity of mutual understanding, within whose horizon reality can first appear as something»[40].
Finding out how «reality can first appear as something» (to repeat Habermas’ phrase) is not usually among natural or, for the most part, social scientists’ stated purposes. Working within a discipline, scientists assume that there is more than enough to do to learn about the world without wasting time going over the ground on which people in the discipline have come to their manner of knowing in the first place. And of course they are right – for the purposes of disciplined knowledge in their own fields. They are wrong, however, judged by other purposes. These other purposes, both cognitive and moral, inspire other disciplines, including of course history. And historians of science, of philosophy and of cognitive activity in general do have the purpose to understand what it means to people to have the beliefs they do and explain how they came to accept them. The seek this knowledge about past people and, symmetrically, about traditions and practices which modern scientists carry on – including, of course, historians themselves. These purposes require contextual methodology. Most disciplinary knowledge is in fact unreflexive about its most basic presuppositions. As Barry Sandywell, a philosopher of social science, observed: the «‘sciences’ and ‘disciplines’ created within the representational mind-set may well be reflective but in their truncated ontological and epistemological self-awareness they sponsor a deeply unreflexive view of the world»[41]. Historical writing can be a counter-balance to this unreflexiveness. And, of course, to encourage historical reflection, on the presuppositions of contemporary disciplines as well as on other
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much more obviously politically-charged things, is clearly not a neutral, purely cognitive, exercise. Awareness that ways of thought and acting have a history is also awareness that these ways of thought and acting can change.
Out of the interaction between ways of thought in the present and ways of thought in the past (which, as Collingwood explained, is the present too), writing history creates a dialogue with a questioning character which disciplinary knowledge in psychology or the social sciences, for example, does not have. Historical writing is therefore in itself an expression of moral agency. It asserts the presence of, and enters into communication with, something which writers do not assume is simply themselves in another form or their own way of thought in different dress. If someone exclusively committed to biology as the way to understand people (someone who, for example, puts forward a genetic explanation of jealousy) argues that we should replace writing and reflection on «the other» by objective descriptions of people’s nature, that claim too expresses a kind of moral agency[42]. It judges a particular kind of objectivity (which, as it happens, the promoter’s own discipline exemplifies) as supreme. I fear that this is an agency that finds virtue in a monologue; it concerns itself with the history of its coming into existence as a form of knowledge only in order to assert the triumph of its own authority.
Knowledge about the human sphere has the potential to change both knowing agents and their objects. The basic categories with which the sciences describe the human world – like person, society, mind, polity, art – originated historically in, and continue to give expression to, forms of life. There is no place where we can stand outside the forms of life, including scientific disciplines, which we actually have. People may consider one form of life best for certain purposes – as a biologist thinks doing biology is best for arriving at confirmed truths about human nature. There remains, however, as it seems to me, both a cognitive and a moral obligation to be open to the possibility of difference. Cognitively, we cannot presume that we can simply translate thought at another time or another place into our own; and, indeed, there is empirical evidence from social anthropology and cultural history that we cannot. In this connection, as Clifford Geertz said about ethnology, historical work is «enabling»: it enables us to imagine difference[43]. And this leads to the moral point. If we do not imagine that something might be different, one way of life legislates the world. But human life – as historians richly portray it – is distinctive for its diversity. Many people have stressed this. «The nature of the human mind has to be investigated in the history of the successive forms of social expression; the greater the historical sense of variety, the more adequate the philosophy will be»[44]. Historians need to keep open imagination for what is other. For the
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historian, «the otherness of the other is preserved in its difference and history can be, according to Paul Veyne’s phrase, ‘the inventory of differences’. Whence the dialectic between the alien and the familiar, the far and the near, at the very heart of the interest in communication»[45]. This dialogue is crucial to knowing ourselves as well as others: «We travel abroad to discover in distant lands something whose presence at home has become unrecognizable»[46]. When historians examine the context of an individual or collective action, they engage in a dialogue with other people, who happen to be dead, as to what the subject is, and what is right and wrong, and they do so in dialogue also with themselves. They engage a moral as well as cognitive position[47]. In Heidegger’s term’s this is an «encounter»: «letting something be encountered is primarily circumspective [looking from all sides with thoughtful attention]; it is not just sensing something, or staring at it. It implies circumspective concern, and has the character of being affected in some way»[48]. Historical writing, where it recognises the possibility of otherness, can create this kind of «encounter».
Historians (and here again they are like ethnologists) are very often, though by no means exclusively, interested in particular people, actions and events, the interest and significance of which lies in their individuality. This interest has kept alive reference to Wilhelm Windelband’s distinction between nomothetic and idiographic knowledge[49]. There are areas of learning – like those which concern the clinical physician and the biographer – where the whole point of knowledge is to understand what is individual; for this purpose, knowledge claimed about a universal human nature is not of much help. As Geertz sharply observed, in opposition to those scientists who think it most important to determine the universals of human nature: «the notion that the essence of what it means to be human is most clearly revealed in those features of human culture that are universal rather than in those that are distinctive to this people or that is a prejudice we are not necessarily obliged to share»[50]. And, I add, forms of knowledge which focus on what is individual are in their nature forms of knowledge which focus upon difference.
Discernment of difference and discernment of what is individual is part of the foundation of moral action. Much of the modern western moral imagination derives from fiction, since fiction is a form of writing and thinking expert in describing difference, or otherness, and particularity. Moral action requires a certain kind of orientation to the world, an orientation that, as one of its conditions, requires clarity of sight – not a set a rules but a vision. This is something great writers can make clear in a way scientists cannot. The poet Shelley’s description is justly renowned: «A man, to be greatly good must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must
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put himself in the place of another and of many others; the pains and pleasures of his species must become his own. The great instrument of moral good is the imagination …»[51]. Seeking in such principles the basis for the moral stance towards other people, the physician and philosopher A.I. Tauber noted, drawing on the work of Emmanuel Lévinas, that «ethical responsibility to others rests on the recognition that in acting in the world, one inevitably changes it for others as well as for oneself …To see another then becomes an ethical act»[52]. History is not usually thought of in this connection. All the same, as the close link between the words «history» and «story» attests, these are both forms of writing in which to make something intelligible, to recognise its particularity and to view it ethically are not, finally, separable activities. In H.-G.Gadamer’s idealist language, «to recognize one’s own in the alien, to become at home in it, is the basic movement of spirit …». The sciences of being human «seek not to surpass but to understand the variety of experiences – whether of aesthetic, historical, religious, or political consciousness…»[53].
Such argument does not assert the superiority, let alone exclusivity, of one form of knowledge rather than another. Such claims, in the abstract, make no sense. Knowledge is always for a purpose, and it is in relation to that purpose that we must judge whether it is adequate or not. «The criteria that control “good talk” in science, poetry, history or any other interpretive system depend on its point and its purpose»[54]. I have attempted to say why history writing has value. The reason is, owing to its contextual hermeneutics, that it is a means of writing about what is other to ourselves and hence it sustains possibilities for critical self-reflection. To fulfil such purposes, historical writing must not presume identity across the ages of either ways of being human or ways of thinking about being human. I illustrated this point through a few brief comments on the historiography of psychology and argued it should keep open space for what is other.
What people do, and indeed cannot but do, when they reflect on their own nature, beliefs and identity is re-express in their own lives the way the society to which they belong has come to think about being human in one way rather than another. In self-consciousness about the history of this, we converse with the content of what we ourselves are and what we ourselves are not. Thus engaged, we change ourselves. Writing history about what people think it is to be human makes this conversation explicit and itself the subject matter of science.
Knowledge about what makes a person unique, or an institution just, or a claim to truth true, a moment of perception insightful or a historical event important is a different kind of knowledge from knowledge in the natural sciences. It requires writing about particulars set in a story. Knowledge
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of such particulars is ill-served by attributing things to human nature – as if human nature were some kind of generalised reality existing outside and independently of the stories which people tell about it. But «Man» does not exist. «Man is to be defined neither by his innate capacities alone …nor by his actual behaviors alone …but rather by the link between them, by the way the first is transformed into the second, his generic potentialities focused into his specific performances. It is in man’s career, in its characteristic course, that we can discern, however dimly, his nature…»[55]. These «careers» are particular – whether we are talking about individual people or groups of whatever kind. Insofar as the evolutionary story by itself is supposed to tell us what human nature really is, it fails, because the story is abstract and detached from the historical story about what has made the particulars of what people are. This is a cognitive matter. But it is also a moral one, since valuing and respecting people is valuing and respecting particular people and groups of people not an abstract entity, humankind. We value individual people, emphatically including ourselves, or groups of people by placing them within significant stories. These stories are about a person’s or a group’s life and circumstances, and the identification of a person as an evolved animal undifferentiated from others who share the same remote ancestors has little to contribute to these kinds of stories. In this regard, the German proponents of Geisteswissenschaft, like Heinrich Rickert, had a correct point to make. «The cultural importance of an object …depends, as far as it is considered an integral whole, not on what it has in common with other real entities, but precisely as what distinguishes it from all the others»[56]. It is in this context that historical narrative achieves its purpose. Its commitment to contextual explanation provides the means not just to arrive at an understanding of the meaning of writings and actions but to appreciate the distinctive nature, uniqueness – and therefore otherness – that these things may have. If we were to assign everything to human nature, how could we understand and perhaps criticise the activity and belief of those who decide what human nature is?

[1] Isaiah Berlin, The First and the Last. Intro. Henry Hardy. London: Granta Books, 1999, p. 51.
[2] See Роджер Смит, История и История Наук о Человеке: Чей Голос? // Коллаж – 3. Социально-философский и философско-антропологический альманах. Cоставители: В.А.Кругликов, А.А.Сыродеева. Mocква: ИФ РАН, 2000, с. 6–26. In the present paper, I draw on Roger Smith, «The History of Psychological Categories», Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 36 (2005), 55–94, and on several sections from a forthcoming book on Being Human: Historical Knowledge and the Creation of Human Nature.
[3] Wilhelm von Humboldt, «On the Historian’s Task» (lecture 1821), trans. anon., History and Theory 6 (1967), p. 65.
[4] Martin Heidegger, Being and Time. (First publ. 1927.) Trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1973, p. 191, 114.
[5] Gerald N. Izenberg, The Existentialist Critique of Freud: The Crisis of Autonomy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976, p. 94 (writing about Heidegger’s position).
[6] Kant’s famous question was a rhetorical flourish at the beginning of his lectures to students: «Immanuel Kant’s Logic. A Manual for Students.» Ed. Gottlob Benjamin Josche (first publ. 1800), in Immanuel Kant, Lectures on Logic. Trans. and ed. J.Michael Young. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992, p. 578.
[7] Isaiah Berlin, «Does Political Theory still Exist?» in Philosophy, Politics and Society. (Second Series.) Ed. Peter Laslett and W.G.Runciman. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1962, p. 23.
[8] G.W.F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit. (First publ. 1807.) Trans. A.V.Miller. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977, p. 110–111 (§§ 177, 178). For commentary, see Charles Taylor, Hegel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975, Part II; Terry Pinkard, German Philosophy 1760–1860: The Legacy of Idealism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
[9] R.G.Collingwood, The Idea of History. (First publ. 1946.) Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961, p. 154. (Collingwood was here drawing on the work of Michael Oakeshott.)
[10] Quentin Skinner, «Meaning and Understanding in the History of Ideas» (first publ. 1969), in Meaning and Context: Quentin Skinner and His Critics. Ed. James Tully. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1988, p. 55. Also, John M.Dunn, «The Identity of the History of Ideas», Philosophy 43 (1968): 85–104.
[11] Paul Forman, «Weimar Culture, Causality, and Quantum Theory, 1918–1927: Adaptation by German Physicists and Mathematicians to a Hostile Intellectual Environment», Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences 3 (1971): 1–111; Robert M. Young, ‘Malthus and the Evolutionists: The Common Context of Biological and Social Theory’, Past and Present no.43 (1969): 109–145, reprinted in Darwin’s Metaphor: Nature’s Place in Victorian Culture. Cambridge University Press, 1985, p. 23–55.
[12] There is an excellent review in Jan Golinski, Making Natural Knowledge: Constructivism and the History of Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
[13] The historian of anthropology George W. Stocking, Jr, defined terms much used in this debate in «On the Limits of “Presentism” and “Historicism” in the Historiography of the Behavioral Sciences», Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 1 (1966): 211–218, reprinted in Race, Culture, and Evolution: Essays in the History of Anthropology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982, p. 1–12.
[14] Georges Canguilhem, Etudes d’histoire et de philosophie des sciences. (First publ. 1968.) 7th edn. Paris: J.Vrin, 1994. See Jean-François Braunstein, «Bachelard, Canguilhem, Foucault: le “style français” en épistémologie», in Les philosophes et la science. Ed. Pierre Wagner. Paris: Gallimard, 2002, p. 920–963.
[15] Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.(First publ. 1962.) 2nd edn. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970. See Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave (eds.), Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970.
[16] See the characterisations in Christopher Fox, Roy Porter and Robert Wokler (eds.), Inventing Human Science: Eighteenth-Century Domains. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.
[17] David Hume, Enquiries Concerning the Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles of Morals. (1777 edn.) Reprint, ed. L.A.Selby-Bigge, 2nd edn. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1902, p. 83.
[18] Blaise Pascal, Pensées. Trans. and intro. A.J.Krailsheimer, revised edn. London: Penguin Books, 1995, § 129.
[19] See Roger Smith, «Does the History of Psychology have a Subject?», History of the Human Sciences 1 (1988): 147–177; Kurt Danziger, «Does the History of Psychology Have a Future?», Theory & Psychology 4 (1994): 467–484.
[20] E.g., М.Г.Ярошевский, История Психологии. Третье издание. Москва: «Мысль», 1985; also, Mikhail Yaroshevsky, A History of Psychology. Trans. Ruth English. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1990.
[21] The Works of Aristotle. Volume III. Ed. W.D.Ross. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1931.
[22] K.V.Wilkes, «Psuche versus the Mind», in Essays on Aristotle’s De anima. Ed. Martha C. Nussbaum and Amélie Oksenberg Rorty. Oxford: Clarendon Press, p. 109; Amélie Oksenberg. Rorty, «De anima: Its Agenda and Its Recent Commentators», in Essays on Aristotle’s De anima, p. 7.
[23] Gary Hatfield, The Natural and the Normative: Theories of Spatial Perception from Kant to Helmholtz. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1990, p. ix. Hatfield argued for the existence of an early modern European psychology; he did not discuss Aristotle as a psychologist.
[24] C.H.Kahn, «Sensation and Consciousness in Aristotle’s Psychology», in Articles on Aristotle: 4. Psychology and Aesthetics. Ed. J.Barnes, M.Schofield and R.Sorabji. London: Duckworth, 1979, p. 4.
[25] The further interpretation of Aristotle is a matter for specialists. But I would add that it may be very relevant to have a historical knowledge of the way new conceptions of mind and body gradually replaced the Aristotelian categories in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Understanding the historical roots of our own categories may be essential to the interpretation of the categories of others.
[26] Michel Foucault, The Order of Things. (First publ. 1966.) Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock, 1970, p. 308.
[27] Michel Foucault, «Afterword: The Subject and Power», in Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics. Ed. Hubert L. Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow. Brighton: Harvester Press, 1982, p. 208.
[28] Nikolas Rose, The Psychological Complex: Social Regulation and the Psychology of the Individual. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985; idem, Inventing Our Selves: Psychology, Power, and Personhood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998; idem, Governing the Soul: The Shaping of the Private Self. (First publ. 1989.) 2nd edn. London: Free Association Books, 1999.
[29] Irmingard Staeuble, «“Psychological Man” and Human Subjectivity in Historical Perspective», History of the Human Sciences 4 (1991): 417–432; idem, «History and the Psychological Imagination», Annals of Theoretical Psychology. Volume 8. Ed. Hans V. Rappard et al. New York: Plenum Press, 1993, p. 85–117.
[30] Kurt Danziger, Constructing the Subject: Historical Origins of Psychological Research. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990; idem, Naming the Mind: How Psychology Found Its Language. London: Sage, 1997.
[31] Christopher Fox (ed.), Psychology and Literature in the Eighteenth Century. New York: AMS Press, 1987; Marina Frasca-Spada, «The Science and Conversation of Human Nature», in The Sciences in Enlightened Europe. Ed. William Clark, Jan Golinski and Simon Schaffer. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999, p. 218–245. The significance of literature, as opposed to scientific psychology, to psychological thought in Russia is argued in David Joravsky, Russian Psychology: A Critical History. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989.
[32] Thomas Dixon, From Passions to Emotions: The Creation of a Secular Psychological Category. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
[33] Peter Winch, The Idea of a Social Science and Its Relation to Philosophy. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1958, p. 13, 15, 122–123. Winch was much influenced by Wittgenstein.
[34] Heidegger, Being and Time, p. 75.
[35] The philosopher and psychologist Gary Hatfield, for example, has written provocatively about the early modern origins of psychology in Europe, but he still largely ignores the religious dimension: ‘Remaking the Science of Mind: Psychology as Natural Science’, in Inventing Human Science. Ed. Fox, Porter and Wokler, p. 184–231.
[36] Janet Coleman, Ancient and Medieval Memories: Studies in the Reconstruction of the Past. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
[37] C.F.Goodey, ‘Locke’s Idiots in the Natural History of Mind’, History of Psychiatry 5 (1994): 215–250; idem, «From Natural Disability to the Moral Man: Calvinism and the History of Psychology», History of the Human Sciences 14(3) (2001): 1–29.
[38] See Peter Novick, That Noble Dream: The «Objectivity Question» and the American Historical Profession. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
[39] Michel de Certeau, «The Historiographical Operation» (first publ. 1974), in The Writing of History. Trans. Tom Conley. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988, p. 87.
[40] Jürgen Habermas, Knowledge and Human Interests. (First publ. 1968.) Trans. Jeremy J.Shapiro. London: Heinemann, 1972, p. 176.
[41] Barry Sandywell, Reflexivity and the Crisis of Western Reason: Logological Investigations Volume 1. London: Routledge, 1996, p. 44. For similar argument in relation to psychology, see Jill G.Morawski, «Self-regard and Other-regard: Reflexive Practices in American Psychology, 1890–1940», Science in Context 5 (1992): 281–308; idem, «Reflexivity and the Psychologist», History of the Human Sciences 18(4) (2005), forthcoming; Franz Samelson, «Assessing Research in the History of Psychology: Past, Present, and Future», Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 35 (1999): 247–255.
[42] See, e.g., the confident assertion of the biological way of thought about human nature in Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works. (First publ. 1997.) London: Penguin Books, 1998.
[43] Clifford Geertz, «The Uses of Diversity», in The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Vol. 7. Ed. Sterling M.McMurrin. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986, p. 251–275.
[44] Michael A.Arbib and Mary B.Hesse, The Construction of Reality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986, p. 234. This book interestingly finds common ground between a cognitivist scientist (Arbib) and a philosopher (Hesse).
[45] Paul Ricoeur, «The Narrative Function» (first publ. 1979), in Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences: Essays on Language, Action and Interpretation. Ed. and trans. John B. Thompson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981, p. 295.
[46] Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life. Trans. Steven F.Rendall. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984, p. 50.
[47] See Charles Taylor, «Theories of Meaning» (first publ. 1980), in Human Agency and Language: Philosophical Papers 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985, p. 279–282.
[48] Heidegger, Being and Time, p. 176.
[49] Wilhelm Windelband, «History and Natural Science» (Rectorial Address, 1894), trans. and intro. Guy Oakes, History and Theory 19 (1980): 165–186.
[50] Clifford Geertz, «The Impact of the Concept of Culture on the Concept of Man» (first publ. 1966), in The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays. New York: Basic Books, 2000, p. 43.
[51] Percy Bysshe Shelley, «A Defence of Poetry» (written 1821), in Shelley’s Poetry and Prose: Authoritative Texts: Criticism. Ed. Donald H. Reiman and Neil Fraistat. 2nd edn. New York: W.W.Norton, 2002, p. 517.
[52] Alfred I. Tauber, Confessions of a Medicine Man: An Essay in Popular Philosophy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999, p. 89–90.
[53] Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method. (First publ. 1960, 5th edn. 1986), 2nd English edn., trans. revised Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall. New York: Continuum, 1998, p. 14, 99.
[54] Arbib and Hesse, Construction of Reality, p. 181.
[55] Geertz, «Impact of the Concept of Culture», p. 52.
[56] Heinrich Rickert, Science and History: A Critique of Positivist Epistemology. (6th and 7th German edn. 1926.) Trans. George Reisman. Ed. Arthur Goddard. Princeton: D. Van Nostrand, 1962, p. 81.