G. T. Fechner (1801-1887) In and For Psychology
I have presented a broader review of Fechner “in and for psychology” than that with which psychologists are generally familiar. Fechner wrote in a time before the emergence of psychology as a discipline and a profession. (1) He offered a quantitative theory of pleasure as a computational principle in action, directed toward the goal of stability or equilibrium. (2) Bodies and minds are collections of phenomena in Fechner’s phenomenalism. Mental changes are a function of bodily changes, but not vice versa, an asymmetric relationship. Double-aspect theory can be seen as relating clusters of body phenomena and mental phenomena. Is their relation functional or causal? (3) Fechner’s psychological parallelism contributed a widely-accepted meme to nineteenth-century philosophical and psychological thought. (4) Scholars have anchored his psychophysics in sensitivity, expanded it to a psychophysical worldview, and drawn lessons for memory from the inner psychophysics. (5) Fechner’s experimental aesthetics drew on judgments of beautiful objects by naïve subjects, taking into consideration the proportions of the object as well as the feelings of the subject. Part II will address Fechner “beyond psychology”: his physics and chemistry, indeterminism, atomism, non-reductive materialism, satirical writings, and philosophy of religion.