Der psychophysische Parallelismus

Psychophysical Parallelism. On a Discursive Figure in the Field of Scientific Changes in the late 19th Century

The article traces the rise and fall of “psychophysical parallelism” – which was the most advanced scientific formulation of the mind / body relationship in the second half of the 19th century – through an interdisciplinary and broad geographical spectrum. It sheds light on the extremely different positions that rallied round this discursive figure, ranging from Fechner, Hering, Mach, Wundt, Bain, Hughlings Jackson, and Taine to Freud and Saussure. The article develops the thesis that the psychophysical parallelism functioned as a ‘hot zone’ within and a symptom of the changes in the order of sciences at that time. Against that background, the criticism of the psychophysical parallelism which became prominent around 1900 (Stumpf, Busse, Bergson, Mauthner et. al.) indicates the cooling of this ‘hot zone’ and the establishment of a new order within the scientific disciplines. The article pays particular attention to the position of this figure in contemporaneous language theories. Its basic assumption is that the relationship between the body and the psyche is itself constituted by language.