Mittwoch, 10. Januar 2018, 17:15 - 18:45 iCal

Public Lecture Prof. Martin Kusch

From Völkerpsychologie to the Sociology of Knowledge

Hörsaal 3F im Neuen Institutsgebäude (NIG)
Universitätsstraße 7, 1010 Wien


This talk is part of a broader project of trying to understand the emergence of various forms of relativism in 19th century German-speaking culture. My talk focuses on one key strand of this general theme, namely the links between the Völkerpsychologie of Lazarus and Steinthal, and Simmel's early sociology of knowledge and belief. My central theses are as follows:

1. Lazarus and Steinthal wavered between a "strong" and "weak" programme of VP. Ingredients of the strong programme included: Epistemic, moral and methodological relativism; causal explanation of beliefs bases on causal laws; a focus on groups, interests, tradition, culture, and materiality; determinism; a self-referential model of institutions.

2. Elements constituting the weak programme were inter alia: the blurring of explanatory and normative interests; an emphasis on freedom of the will; anti-relativism; anti-materialism; opposition to Comte and Buckle, no reception of Spencer.

3. Later research projects keeping the label "Völkerpsychologie" followed the weak programme.

4. In the 1880s and '90s, Simmel called for a return to the strong programme. Intellectually, Simmel was ideally placed to push for such radical enterprise.

5. The intellectual-social-political situation of German academia around 1900 explains why Simmel soon distanced himself from both VP and sociology.

Martin Kusch is Professor of Philosophy of Science and Epistemology at the University of Vienna and a member of the DK faculty.


Doktoratskolleg "Naturwissenschaften im historischen, philosophischen und kulturellen Kontext"


Mag. Mag. Mag. Ramon Pils, DipTrans
DK Naturwissenschaften/Kontext
01 4277 40872