§6. Psychologism: the name and the concept

really positive suggestions and tendencies of the book, which also, in fact, were not so easy to understand since they were full of obscurities. Even today we are still caught up in the process of self-clarification, which can only occur in conjunction with concrete work. As long as the work is in progress, the process of clarification will remain open. In fact, it was not so much the positive work of Husserl’s book that had an effect, but rather the critical work found in the first volume, titled “Prolegomena to Pure Logic.” This critical work was more easily accessible to the understanding of problems at that time, [34] because as a critique, it had relevance to the predominant forms of inquiry into logic. From the critical perspective of his book, Husserl called those approaches “psychologism.”

§6. Psychologism: the name and the concept

An “-ism” always means the emphasizing of something that legitimately or illegitimately takes priority. It could be a particular attention to something or a defense against something. “Psychologism” expresses the priority of psychology, particularly with regard to logic and its project.

How does psychology get its dominant position with regard to logic? How do these two disciplines come to be related? Logic deals with λόγος, the statement, whereas psychology deals with ψυχή, or in modern terminology, with “consciousness.”

If you recall the threefold division of philosophical disciplines that we began with in our first meeting—logic, physics, ethics—you notice that psychology is not to be found there. Someone might say, “Well, the ancients did not yet have a psychology.” True, they did not have a psychology in the sense of a particular discipline, but in those days psychology belonged in physics, the scientific study of the world or of nature in the broad sense. For the ancients psychology meant the science of living nature. In its ancient Greek sense, psychology meant roughly the same as what we today call biology, using the word in its literal sense: the science of life. Or more exactly we should say “zoology,” because “life” as treated in ancient psychology had the connotations of ζωή. As Aristotle understood it, ζωή is the being of plants and animals. It is “life” in today’s sense of “the biological,” whereas for the Greeks βίος, taken in a quite extreme sense, means the same as human existence or personal being, as for instance the word “biography” shows. In Aristotle’s Ethics, the word βίος refers to a possibility of existence. βίος θεωρητικός means [35] the existence of someone who does science.

The terms “biology” and “psychology” are interrelated. Biology would mean the science of human existence or of its foundations. It would be an inquiry into the foundations of “ethics.” As the science of βίος, psychology

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