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The Purposes of Descriptive Psychology

Tuesday, November 16, 2021, 3:40 pm – 5:20 pm

This colloquium talk is planned as an in-person event. Registration by email is only required for non-CEU members. Please check the COVID safety rules here to enter the building.


In this talk, I discuss the different views of the founders of descriptive psychology in the 19th century about the meaning and purpose of this discipline and sketch a new plan for connecting descriptive psychology with the language-critical tradition of analytic philosophy. I will show that the goals Hermann Lotze, Franz Brentano, and Wilhelm Dilthey set for descriptive psychology were too lofty for different reasons. The common problem they faced was how to reconcile the ideal of autonomous philosophical knowledge with the empirical relevance that descriptive psychology should have. Faced with this dilemma, I outline a new plan to conceive of descriptive psychology as a critical project aimed at overcoming the obstacles that language places in the way of our knowledge of mental phenomena.