The Nineteenth-Century Biography of Another Kind of Knowledge
The chapter focuses on the nineteenth-century history of kinaesthetic knowing, starting with Hermann von Helmholtz’s theorization of Kennen, knowledge based on immediate experience, versus Wissen, propositional knowledge. Kinaesthetic knowing promised to resolve the antinomies of Enlightenment frameworks—the mind and the body; mechanism and teleology; induction and deduction, etc.—by positing experience as the first “given” and the foundation of all secure knowledge. This was how psychology, the science of experience, became a key discipline at the end of the century. Psychophysical thinking, invented by G. T. Fechner and transformed into experimental psychology by the likes of Wilhelm Wundt, was to cut through Enlightenment’s intractable dichotomies by correlating form (stimulus) to affect (sensation) without explaining the exact relationship between them. At the end of the century Wilhelm Dilthey went so far as to suggest that a descriptive psychology, anticipating phenomenology, was poised to be the epistemological foundation of all human sciences. While psychological thinking proved influential, the organization of the disciplines at German universities followed the outlines theorized by the neo-Kantian Wilhelm Windelband, who rejected the possibility of a science that was not subject to the mediation of the mind, thus casting psychology as just one natural science among others.
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