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A Plea for Scientific Ambitions: Reply to Commentaries from Martin Wieser, Nikolai Veresov, Asger Neumann, and Peter Krøjgaard


The paper is a reply to commentaries to “Activity theories and the Ontology of Psychology: Learning from Danish and Russian Experiences” (Mammen and Mironenko 2015). At the same time it is an attempt to reply to more general issues raised by the commentators and an attempt to further develop some general ideas from our paper with a focus on the introduction of the new analytical concepts sense and choice categories. These concepts have been elaborated in an axiomatic frame in (Mammen 2016) and the present paper is thus also pointing forwards to that and supporting it with examples from research on adult human relations of love and affection and on infant cognitive development. A few examples from myth and literature are referred to also. The ambition is to introduce new analytical tools across schools and domains of psychology which open for theoretical inclusion of new phenomena and re-structuring of well-known ones. The hope is to surmount some problems, as e.g. the dilemma between dualism and reductionism, which have been obstacles in the search for conceptual and methodological coherence in psychology. In the first place the hope is also to sharpen the analytical, critical and practical potential of psychology as a science. The ambition is not, here and now, to develop a comprehensive general theory as a container for the huge amount of empirical results collected using very heterogeneous criteria for what belongs to the domain of psychology and very heterogeneous conceptual frames. Here we still need some patience following the lesson from natural science, step by step including new domains as the conceptual and practical frames are expanding, but on the other hand not excluding anything apriori.

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  1. In fact Lewin ignored that the “Galilean” revolution in some respects were too radical, too “mechanistic”, denying e.g. “self-initiated” agency in animals and men claimed by Aristotle. But this is another story which we discuss in our paper (Mammen and Mironenko 2015).

  2. This has been emphasized by the Danish statistician Georg Rasch (1977), also referring to Kurt Lewin.

    The pre-Galilean concept of scientific psychology is, as a contrast to the present point of view, clearly expressed in Smedslund (2016) also having a short introductory reference to Mammen and Mironenko (2015). For Jan. Smedslund with a background in cognitive psychology this traditional mainstream concept is simply the definition of psychology as an empirical science, you could even say as a “synthetic” science in Kantian terms. As also being a practitioner of psychology Smedslund is, however, disappointed with the uselessness of this traditional definition of science (surprisingly including our paper) and concludes on that basis that psychology cannot be an empirical science at all but should stick to logical analysis of everyday language, or “analytical” science in Kantian terms. This despairing statement is far from our ambitions.

  3. In fact we also enrich the traditional understanding of sensory categories by introducing the possibility that these categories are not necessarily symmetric in relation to inclusion and exclusion but may be asymmetric with symmetry as a special case. For further elaboration see Mammen (2016).

  4. To distinguish the variants Veresov most often refers to Vygotsky’s theory as Cultural Historical Theory (CHT) letting AT and sometimes CHAT denote Leontiev’s.

  5. Perhaps the duality is also pervading physics. Some phenomena in quantum mechanics as entanglement and interference patterns in one-particle-experiments (Penrose 1989) can only be understood by including particles’ individual “descent” as a supplement to their sum of properties.

    Another indication of the pervasiveness of the duality is its astonishing parallel in mathematics (see Mammen 2016).


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Mammen, J. A Plea for Scientific Ambitions: Reply to Commentaries from Martin Wieser, Nikolai Veresov, Asger Neumann, and Peter Krøjgaard. Integr. psych. behav. 50, 368–381 (2016).

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  • Sense and choice categories
  • Dualism
  • Reductionism
  • Activity theory
  • Natural science
  • Semiotics
  • Love and affection
  • Infant cognitive development