What is it about?

This work exposes for the first time the beginning of scientific psychology from the professional struggles between physiologists and philosophers in the 1870s. Particularly analyzed is the debate between Adolf Horwicz and Wilhelm Wundt between 1879-1880 which is of vital importance to understand the beginning of psychology as a science in the German Empire. The history of psychology has erased almost all the records of the critics of Wundt's project of physiological psychology, one of them was Horwicz who besides offering an opposing model of psychology was also its greatest public contradictor.

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Why is it important?

Using unpublished primary archives, this article reconstructs part of the history of the beginning of psychology, thus questioning the myth that psychology achieved its autonomy as a science after its separation from philosophy. On the contrary, it shows that psychology is largely a consequence of the invasion of German physiologists and natural scientists into the chairs of philosophy and historical sciences as part of certain scientific and cultural policies in the German Empire. This fact led to a professional struggle, the most representative case being that of Horwicz who harshly criticized the appointment of Wundt in Leipzig in 1875.


Precisely in the year 2024, the 150th anniversary of the publication of Grundzüge der physiologischen Psychologie, an essential book to understand the birth of scientific psychology. It is an opportunity to return to the study of its foundations, its reception and its early readings. This work showed the case of a book published two years earlier that exposed a similar research purpose, that is, to found a new field of research called physiological psychology, however, it was written by the philosopher Horwicz and despite its relative success it was quickly overshadowed by Wundt's book.

Juan David Millán
Universidad Catolica del Maule

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This page is a summary of: “My Opponent Prof. W.”: The debate between Wilhelm Wundt and Adolf Horwicz in the beginning of physiological psychology (1872–1879)., History of Psychology, November 2023, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/hop0000246.
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