History and System

  • Hans V. Rappard
Part of the Annals of Theoretical Psychology book series (AOTP, volume 9)


This paper aims at presenting the outline of an integrated view of history of psychology and theoretical psychology. First, Madsen’s conception of theoretical psychology as meta-psychology is introduced. Although some details are criticized, the general view is accepted. Madsen’s theoretical psychology aims at contributing to systematology, that is, a general meta-theory of psychology. However, systematology is reinterpreted as systematization of psychological theories. In this connection the paper deals with the current issue of the unification of psychology. Systematology -as-systematization is argued to differ from unification in that it entails a plurality of theories instead of one theory by means of which unification is to be achieved. Second, the paper deals with the question of what is a (psychological) system ideally. According to some authors, a system involves as a first step an ‘ontological legislation. This view is clarified by means of a hermeneutical interpretation of the phenomenological concept of essence. According to this interpretation essence entails the founding definition of a (psychological) knowledge domain. Third, it is suggested that the history of psychology may be conceived of as a process of phenomenological ‘variation’. From this point of view, history cannot yet be said to have determined the ‘essentials of psychology’ and hence there seem to be as yet no founding definitions of the discipline. However, it is argued that historical research has pointed out elements of at least two such definitions, which are identified with the so-called Lockian and Leibnizian traditions. Next, these two tradition are linked to a multi-level conception of the discipline and it is argued that the Lockian and Leibnizian traditions correlate with the low and high levels of psychology respectively. High-level psychology is assumed to be relatively common-sensical and hence less fragmented than low-level theories. Given this inverse relation between ‘level’ and ‘fragmentation’ the paper concludes by suggesting that high-level ‘Leibnizian’ psychology may serve as a framework for the systematization of low-level Lockian psychology.

In many cases, the attempt at integration required taking a step backward to look at psychology’s intellectual history, for a number of psychological endeavors are hard to explain unless one points to the paths that led up to them ... Much as a river’s water is clearer when it is taken from its spring, so issues which have become more and more complex as detail has piled upon detail become very much clearer when we trace them back to their origin. (Gleitman, 1983, p. xviii)


Meaning Variance Intellectual History Intentional Stance Ontological Foundation Elementary Principle 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hans V. Rappard
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychonomicsFree UniversityAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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