Physiological optics, cognition and emotion: A novel look at the early work of Wilhelm Wundt

Abstract : The German physiologist Wilhelm Wundt, who later founded experimental psychology, arguably developed the first modern scientific conception of emotion. In the first edition of Vorlesungen u¨ber die Menschenund Thierseele (Lectures on human and animal psychology), which was published in 1863, Wundt tried to establish that emotions were essential parts of rational thought. In fact, he considered them unconscious steps of decision-making that were implied in all processes of conscious thought. His early work deserves attention not only because it is the attempt to conceptualize cognition and emotion strictly from a neural point of view but also because it represents the very foundation of the debate about the nature of emotion that revolved around William James' theory of emotion during the 1890s. However, this aspect of his work is little known because scholars who have analyzed Wundt's work focused on his late career. Furthermore, historical analysis interpreted Wundt's work within a philosophical framework, rather than placing it in the context of German medical and physiological research in which it belongs. In addition, Wundt's early works are hardly available to an English speaking audience because they were never translated.
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Contributor : Claudia Wassmann <>
Submitted on : Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 1:59:37 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, April 24, 2018 - 5:20:10 PM

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Claudia Wassmann. Physiological optics, cognition and emotion: A novel look at the early work of Wilhelm Wundt. Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, Oxford University Press (OUP), 2009, 64 (2), pp.213-249. ⟨10.1093/jhmas/jrn058⟩. ⟨halshs-00791119⟩

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