Classical Texts in Psychology
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Autobiography of Karl Marbe
First published in Murchison, Carl.
(Ed.) (1930). History of Psychology in Autobiography (Vol. 1, pp. , pp.
Republished by the permission of Clark University Press,
© 1930 Clark University Press.
[Editor's note: The version created by A. Cardell & E. Goodwin, members of the History & Systems of Psychology course of John Kraft (Armstrong Atlantic State University, GA) who contributed it to the Classical Texts in Psychology website. -cdg-]
Posted December 2004
reason why I am only now responding to the very friendly and complimentary
request which came a few years ago from Professor Carl Murchison, that I
write my biography for this collection, lies in the fact that precisely
in the last few years I have been carrying a particularly heavy load of work,
from which I am only now beginning to recover somewhat. In addition to conducting my scientific work
and my professorship at Würzburg I taught for five and one-half years
(up to October 1, 1931) in the Commercial High School in Nürnberg (High School
for Social and Industrial Science) where, as in Würzburg, I represented
the subjects of psychology, pedagogy, and philosophy, also belonging to
the Senate of the high school. In
Nürnberg I was furthermore in charge of the Psychological Institute of
Although the Nürnberg position became more and more exacting, I enjoyed my work in it. Although in general a university can certainly give a psychologist and philosopher much more stimulation than a commercial high school can, yet my working in such a high school did have certain special advantages for me.
after the War I had begun to be interested in the psychology of advertising,
which arose in the
It is plain that this practical attitude of mine, which revealed itself in the above-mentioned activities and also in many other writings, some of which are to be mentioned later, necessarily made work in a commercial high school appear desirable. Also, there were many fields of industrial psychology—as, for instance, the question of aptitude for being a merchant and of the psychological analysis of industrial markets—in which, inevitably, commercial high schools were more interested than universities. In Nürnberg I worked particularly on the psychology of advertising, often lecturing there in conjunction with the Professor of Industrial Management, Dr. Alfred Isaac Kurse, on the psychology and technique of advertising.
It is also quite plain, however, that all my efforts in the field of industrial psychology were necessarily much deepened by association with my Nürnberg colleagues. While my book, Psychologie der Werbung (Stuttgart, 1927), was still written primarily during a time when I was not working In Nürnberg, my work on the Psychologie der Wertreklame and two essays on the psychology of command and obedience come within my Nürnberg period.
Furthermore, I had already worked once
before for a time in a commercial
high school, namely, while I was at the Akademie für Sozial- und
my time the Frankfurter Akademie was at the same time a commercial high school,
and even today, although it has become a university, it still counts the tasks of
a commercial high school among [p. 183] its most important functions. My interest in questions of industrial
science had already been aroused in
The practical attitude which I have
mentioned showed itself also in the invention, development, and application of
my "Russmethode" (method using smoke of flame for direct recording of
voice), to which I devoted a considerable number of articles in the Physikalische
Zeitschrift, the Zeitschrift für Psychologie, and other journals,
and which falls within my Frankfort period, although this invention itself
originated in purely theoretical considerations. During my earliest activity in
Würzburg I had been interested, among other things, in the psychology of
language. This interest was perhaps
particularly stimulated by a friend who died all too young, the well-known
linguist, Albert Thumb, with whom I had published, in
I also treated the "soot method" from the theoretical point of view (cf. Marbe, K. and Seddig, M.: Untersuchungen schwingender Flammen. Annalen der Physik, 1909, 30, Series 4, pp. 579 ff.), and it has also been applied to phonetics. Its invention likewise led me to the most varied practical applications, which were far remote from the field of language. Thus I have shown that it can also be applied to the graphic registration of heart sounds and pathological heart noises, a fact which lead to the book, Klinische Untersuchungen über die Schallerscheinungen des Herzens (Leipzig, 1911), by my friend the internist Ernst Roos, who, alas, has also died.
[p. 184] Further testimony to my practical attitude is borne by my articles, "Ueber Psychologie und Eisenbahnwesen" (Archiv für Eisenbahnwesen, 1924, pp. 729 ff.), "Psychologie und Versicherungswesen" (Zeitschrift für die gesammte Versicherungswissenschaft, 1925, 25, 337 ff.), and "Ueber Strafanstalt und Psychologie" (Zeitschrift für Psychologie, 1926, 99, 375-382). Evidence of this attitude is also given by my actual psychotechnical investigations, such as, for example, the one on aptitude for surgery and dentistry (Deutsche Zeitschrift für Chirurgie, 1928, 208, 289-317; Deutsche Zahnärztliche Wochenschrift, 1928, 31, No.6) and also my little essay on "Psychotechnische und faktische Eignung" (Industrielle Psychotechnik, 1928, 5, 16-20). This attitude likewise explains my wish, which, is continually being reactivated, to obtain practical recognition and practical significance for psychology as extensively as possible in the most varied fields of life and science.
Perhaps my largest accomplishment in this
respect has been attained through my effort to bring psychology and
jurisprudence into closer contact with each other. The first German psychological legal expert
opinion was my testimony in a case of sexual assault in Würzburg in 1911, in
which I had to discuss the question of the testimony of children. Soon afterwards came my testimony in the suit
resulting from the big railroad accident at Müllheim in
My successful activity in the railroad case which I have mentioned, which led to many other similar juridical activities on my part, I owe, incidentally, to pure chance. The district attorney in the case of the Müllheim railroad accident, who is now Reichsgerichtsrat Justus Bender, is one of my friends. When I heard of the accident I addressed myself to him personally and pointed out [p. 185] that psychology was in a good position for explaining much in this connection; I was then named as the medical expert in this case.
first general publication on legal psychology was my Grundzüge der
forensichen Psychologie (München, 1913); my most recent work in this field
is my little book on the Halsmann case (
I attach particular value to my work on the psychology of accidents, to which I have devoted several essays. This work is perhaps best known through my little book, Praktische Psychologie der Unfälle und Betriebsschäden (Munich and Berlin, 1926), and again reveals my practical point of view. On the basis of the data of a large insurance company I was able to show that the probability that a given person will have an accident varies directly with the number of accidents he has already had within a given time. Furthermore, on the basis of data from the German railways I was able to show that the probability that a given workman will cause damage will likewise vary directly with the number of times he has already caused damage within a certain period of time in the past. It was also possible to show that those people who frequently suffer accidents are the same ones who repeatedly cause them. Psychological analyses and experiments showed that the psychological prerequisites for the causation of damage and for special liability to accident are, on the whole, one and the same. These facts led me to the concept of the "Unfäller" ("accidenter") and to the recognition of the deep significance of the psychology of personality in the avoidance of industrial damage and accidents of all kinds.
Naturally, however, in my book on accidents, the psychology of personality in general also had to be discussed. I had already devoted attention to this subject in my essay in the Festschrift für Robert Sommer in the year 1925 (Zeitschrift für die gesamte Neurologie und Psychiatrie, 1925, 94, pp. 359 ff.) and later treated it again and again, as in my detailed review, "Persönlichkeit und Aussage," given at a congress of the Kriminalbiologische Gesellschaft in Munich (Mitteilungen der Kriminalbiologischen Gesellschaft, 1931, 3, pp. 89 ff.) I attach particular value to the concept of the momentary personality [p. 186] (momentane Persönlichkeit) and to the fact that, in spite of the great significance of the congenital factor and of the deeper levels of personality, the individual is nevertheless a different person as it were, each moment. The theory of modifiability (Umstellbarkeit), which is of great practical significance, which can be treated experimentally, and which is of importance to the psychology of accidents, among other subjects, my associates and I have discussed again and again. Individuals vary very widely in their ability to adapt themselves to new situations. To many people repeated adjustment of the personality seems desirable and pleasant. To others it is unbearable. I reckon among the more important results of my researches the establishment of the theory of modification (Umstellung), which I was able to use, among other places, in an article on homesickness (Archiv für die gesamte Psychologie, 1925, 50, 512-524).
practical attitude is again shown in my pamphlet, "Eignungsprüfungen fur
Rutengänger (Munich, 1927), and also found expression in the invention of
various pieces of apparatus and series of experiments, of which my apparatus
for shifting sectors (Sektorenverschiebungsapparat)
has probably come to be best known.
This apparatus, which I invented as a young physician during my stay in
the Leipziger Institut of Wilhelm Wundt, and which I discussed in 1894 in the Zentralblatt
für Psychologie, Volume 25, pp. 811 ff., makes it possible to change the
sectors of a rotating disc during the rotation.
I had heard that the Physikalisch-technische Reichsanstalt in
however, my practical efforts have been closely related to my interests bearing
on theoretical psychology. This
connection, to my mind, is necessary.
"The psychologist who stops his studies when they lead him to practical
attitudes and practical measures incurs the just reproach of narrow-mindedness. But one who aims only at practical results
lapses into a wretched technicalistic psychology (Laboranten psychologie)."
This was approximately what I said at the Kongress der Deutschen Gesellschaft
für Psychologie (at [p. 187] that time the Gesellschaft für experimentelle
II. BASIC ATTITUDE ON PURE THEORY.
ENTRANCE INTO THE FACULTY OF THE
practical attitude which I have strongly emphasized so far, and which, of
course, was associated with pleasure in practical results, developed very
slowly in me and at present seems to be receding again. When, at the age of 18,
I passed my matriculation examination in my native city of
Toward the end of my student period in Freiburg I asked my instructor in Germanistics, the philologist, Hermann Paul, who was also then working in Freiburg and who later became very famous, where I ought to go to continue my studies, as I had no desire to go on studying at home indefinitely. Paul advised me quite decidedly to go to Halle, where the professorship in Germanistics was held by Sievers, whom he esteemed very highly and who later became known to the psychologists through his investigations (to my mind entirely erroneous), or rather his assertions, on the psychology of language and of music.
188] Sievers and his students taught that every author is characterized by a
special voice quality (Stimmqualität) and that absolutely every work created
by man in the field of sound, whether language or music, is dominated by
certain sound constants (klangliche Konstanten) which are of basic
importance in the character and effect of the sound product (Klangwerk) and
show large individual variations.
Sievers claimed that it was possible, on the basis of difference in
voice quality alone, to decide whether a given piece of prose or poetry was to
be ascribed to one author or two different authors. Never, however, did Sievers conduct real
experiments with which he might support this theory, which at first found many
adherents but then decidedly lost in interest.
At the Kongress für Aesthetik und allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft in
did not follow Paul's suggestion that I transfer my studies to
following Winter Semester, 1890-1891, I studied in
In the summer of 1881 I returned to
that same time in
During this period I again worked with Martius, under whose guidance I had, as a student, already written an article on the fluctuations in visual sensations (Philosophische Studien, 1893, 8, 615-637) and in whose private institute I also wrote my doctor's thesis, "Zur Lehre von Gesichtsempfindungen, welche aus successiven Reizen resultieren" (Philosophische Studien, 1894, 9, pp. 384 ff.).
article on the fluctuations of visual sensations bore upon a problem treated
several times by students of Wundt under the head of fluctuations of
attention. I was able to show
experimentally that these fluctuations are not really fluctuations of
attention, but rather fluctuations in sensation. That a philosopher should hand in as his
dissertation an experimental study of successive stimuli and visual sensations
at that time caused some surprise and shaking of heads. It did not do me any harm, or at least not
much, in connection with my receiving the degree, for I received it with the
designation "insigni cum laude," not frequently given in
I would have handed in, in
During my second
therefore went for a year to
192] Returning to
With this piece of work I entered the faculty in Würzburg as a Privatdozent in the entire field of philosophy. In order to enter I had to discourse upon a purely philosophical theme, the Freedom of the Will, assigned to me three days in advance, and to defend twelve theses, proposed by me, which belonged almost exclusively to philosophy proper, and which, I must admit, make a very childish impression upon me when I read them through again today.
The reasons why I chose to teach in Würzburg were personal. In
had uncanny industry and was, even then, better read than I [p. 193] have ever
become. The fullness of his reading, which he was continually extending, spread
not only over psychology and philosophy but also over the most varied other
scientific fields. Külpe, with whom I
ate lunch regularly in
my third sojourn in
It should be clear from the details of this chapter that the practical attitude was really quite foreign to me at first. At most, one might see certain modest beginnings of a practical point of view in the fact that I helped Martius in a practical way to build his apparatus for the investigation of reaction time to sounds—a fact which he explicitly emphasized (Martius G., Philosophische Studien, 1891, 6, 403) and in the fact that I invented in Leipzig my apparatus for shifting sectors.
III. LATER LIFE AND WORK UP TO THE PRESENT TIME
My first period of work in Würzburg, lasting for nine years, was the most pleasant period of my academic career. The teaching went very well. During the first semester (the Summer Semester of 1896) I gave a one-hour public course on Arthur Schopenhauer and, during the second semester, a private colloquium on the general history of philosophy. The next semester I taught Ethics. It was only gradually that I undertook the teaching of psychology also. The [p.194] teaching and my successes gave me much pleasure. At that time, already, as I do today, I attached particular importance to expressing myself clearly and understandably, while at the same time presenting as much material as possible. Külpe, who was himself a popular and respected teacher, was far from envying me my effectiveness; on the contrary, he seemed to rejoice in it almost more than I did.
Already, during my third stay in
Today, also, teaching has undeniable attraction for me, but my manifold scientific interests and other tasks somewhat limited the pleasure of instructing. My lecture courses today I usually enjoy only while I am on the platform, though I am as enthusiastic about teaching in the Institute and in seminars as I was before.
My scientific activity during my first stay in Würzburg was expressed in a series of publications on psychological optics, in which I entered partly into opposition with Götz Martius. I also pointed out at this time in an essay in Pflüger's Archiv für die gesamte Psychologie (1903, 100, pp. 551 ff.) that Talbot's law and all facts connected with it are valid and must be valid in the [p. 195] field of acoustics also. That during my first stay in Würzburg I also did research in the psychology and the esthetics of language I have already stated above.
my work, Naturphilosophische Untersuchungen zur Wahrscheinlichkeitslehre
In my work with Thumb, belonging in my first Würzburg period, it was shown for the first time that the association reactions of a rather large number of subjects in response to the same stimulus word were to a large degree the same. There are always the most preferred, next preferred, etc., reactions, and finally some which are purely idiosyncratic (auseinanderfallend). There was also revealed the law of familiarity (Geläufigkeitsgesetz) according to which, on the average, the more familiar a reaction is, i.e., the larger the number of subjects, relatively, in whom it occurs, the more rapidly it occurs. These and allied facts have found their way into many other writings and have also led to the so-called association test, since it has been found that it is possible to draw certain conclusions from the fact of whether a subject does or does not conform to the general regularity of the process of association. Linguistically the work showed that the words which in the history of language have influenced each other in the direction of linguistic analogy formation are at the same time those which show themselves to belong together on the basis of the association experiments.
influence, however, during my first stay in Würzburg was probably exercised
through my work, Experimentellpsychologische
Untersuchungen über das Urteil (Eine Einleitung in
die Logik) (
This essay, in which the consciousness of understanding, also, was explicitly discussed on the basis of experiments and which dates the beginning of my opposition to Wundt, who until then had always been very fond of me, is the first work in which the psychology of thinking is systematically and experimentally treated. That its results are by no means all negative, as someone recently stated them to be, is already shown by my theory of conscious sets. [p. 197] My methodological procedure was likewise entirely new. That there cannot, however, be a positive criterion of judgment follows from the fact that the concept of judgment must be conceived as a logical and not as a psychological one. As I have explicitly shown in the essay referred to, whether conscious phenomena should or should not be treated as judgments depends upon the meaning (Sinn) we attribute to them, but not upon their psychological structure. This meaning may be but is not necessarily given in consciousness in the form of conscious states (Beswusstseinslagen). Also, the value of a judgment for science and for practical life is in no way dependent upon the conscious processes which represent the judgment, but solely upon whatever we wish to express through the judgment, although of course this desire for expression need not necessarily be really conscious at every moment. The merchant into whose calculation the proposition "twice two is four" blends quite automatically is, of course, making a judgment just as truly as is the A-B-C-scout (Abc-Schütze—first grader) who painfully works out this proposition.
This essay led Külpe to assign to Mr. H. J. Watt and Mr. A. Messer further subjects in the field of the psychology of thought. I was somewhat vexed by this, perhaps somewhat unjustly, and did not like to see the psychology of thought, which at the time lay very close to my heart, being led into fields in which I could not make my full influence felt. When, in the Spring of 1905, before Watt and Messer had yet completed their work, I responded to a call to Frankfort, K. Bühler, too, came to Würzburg, and worked on the psychology of thought afresh, entirely under Külpe. Also, Külpe assigned his students still further studies in the psychology of thought. Finally he, too, first in the Fifth Congress of the Gesellschaft für experimentelle Psychologie (1912) in Berlin, then in the lnternationale Monatschrift für Wissenschaft, Kunst, und Technik (also in 1912), and finally in his philosophical book, Die Realisierung (Leipzig, 1912), took a stand in regard to the psychology of thought. He finally spoke of the "monarchistic arrangement" of our consciousness and said: "The Ego sits upon the throne and carries out governmental acts. It observes, perceives, and ascertains." Although I had previously intended to do so, I did not work specifically any more on the psychology of thought, but in an essay (Fortschritte der Psychologie und ihrer Anwendungen, [p. 198] 1915, 3, 27) I did reject, sharply and on the basis of explicit reasons, the course which the psychology of thought was taking under, after having previously repeatedly expressed my concern to him verbally, without success even though without actual contradiction on Külpe's part. For this essay, which had been directly stimulated by the avowed performances of Külpe and which appeared shortly before his death (1915), Külpe never forgave me.
In this essay I also emphasized my independence of Külpe in this field. Much as I owe him, I have never been his student. I never attended a single lecture of his and never took part in the laboratory work which he directed. I was never his assistant and never worked in fields which he had suggested to me or in which he had previously worked himself. And if I have ever been independent in anything it has been in having arrived independently at the idea of applying the method of systematic introspection (Selbstwahrnehmung) to the study of logical thought. Although Külpe acted as a subject in my experiments on the psychology of thought, this fact showed only that he was interested in this work, as in all my work at that time.
Taking over ideas from other people to develop them has never been my interest. It is only in independent work that I really feel at ease; from the start I have emphasized the attainment of new facts, trying at the same time to pursue the study of psychology in as exact a way as possible. I was animated by this striving when I tried to place the psychology of thought upon an experimental basis. When a younger psychologist wrote that the striving after precision was the weakness of my school, I gladly accepted this reproach, since I regard it as the highest praise by which our work can be distinguished. I necessarily disapproved, however, when another psychologist, in the course of a scientific discussion, attempted to disparage the direction of my researches by using the expression "fact finding" (Tatsachenforschung). In my opinion, theories have a place in science only in so far as they explain facts or have a heuristic significance for the obtainment of new facts.
I naturally regret very much that I displeased Külpe in the essay I have mentioned in the Fortschritte der Psychologie und ihrer Anwendungen. Perhaps after all I should have been more cautious in my choice of words, although, before having it printed, I had the essay read through by my wife and by a professional psychologist [p. 199] who now holds a regular professorship, and although I took into account, to a large extent even though not completely, the mitigations of expression which were suggested to me. For the rest, Külpe, when I read him the most important parts of the manuscript of my essay, Experimentelle-psychologische Untersuchungen über das Urteil, with which I desired to found a systematic psychology of logical thought, was at first very enthusiastic. The fact that he then turned aside from me with his school was undoubtedly due to the circumstance that, when Külpe was further developing the psychology of thought, I was no longer in Würzburg but in Frankfort, and that he now yielded to other influences than mine.
One of the reasons why I found my first stay in Würzburg very satisfying was that, in agreement with Külpe, I was able to stimulate independently some work by students, to guide it, and to lead it to conclusion. The fact that the number of auditors at my lectures declined after a few semesters and only gradually increased again I cannot regard as evidence against my statement that I was a successful teacher.
This decline is to be explained as follows. I was baptized and brought up as a Catholic and bore a name which had a very good sound in Catholic-ecclesiastical circles. An uncle of mine was a Central representative in the Reichstag and in the Bavarian Diet. I myself had gone beyond any Catholic or even generally religious attitude, since my school days. My name, however, attracted at first a large number of incipient Catholic theologians to my lecture room. These soon perceived, however, that I was not, as they had probably at first expected I would be, a representative of the Catholic attitude toward the world.
My leaning toward complete freedom also became known far and wide through an occurrence which is not without interest. In a public lecture on the problem of causality, I had occasion to discuss in great detail the cosmological evidence of God, and also to characterize briefly the other arguments for God. In this connection I contested the stringency of these arguments (in the Kantian manner) without otherwise entering into the question of the existence of God. In March, 1898, one of the many rural and priestly representatives then belonging to the Diet made a long, spready speech culminating in the assertion that a teacher in one of the Bavarian upper schools had said before his class, "We do not need [p. 200] to discuss the evidence for the existence of God, for there is no God." This reputed statement was discussed in detail everywhere by the speaker himself and by several of his colleagues. It was said that evidence of the existence of God had been suppressed, and that there had been dishonesty, pedagogical tactlessness, and other nice things. Only v. Landmann, the minister of public worship and education, who likewise was close to the centrist party, maintained that such debates never led anywhere. Since the aforementioned attacks of the representatives bore upon my person and my lecture on the problem of causality, he then had me make a written report on the occurrence. At the same time, all available students of mine were questioned on the content of that lecture. This questioning led to the finding that neither this statement nor any statement of similar meaning had been made in my lecture. Thus, all the gossip in the Diet resolved itself into idle talk at the cost of the Bavarian taxpayers, and the instigator of it, after being sharply reprimanded, was obliged to make a public acknowledgment of his mistake. One of my auditors had told a clergyman about the content of the lecture in question, and then, through the spreading of gossip (according to the well-known facts of the psychology of rumor), there developed a statement which was entirely nonsensical and almost the opposite of what I had said. Although the matter was thus settled very favorably to me, I was nevertheless branded in the eyes of many who had originally been well disposed toward me. Auditors with Catholic tendencies all removed themselves from me at first. They were replaced by others, and in the course of the following semesters confirmed Catholics also again appeared at my lectures.
my first stay in Würzburg, I also began to work into the field of
pedagogy. Even in
Still less did I understand, during my first teaching period in Würzburg, of the history of pedagogy, which I had not yet studied at all. The historical study of pedagogy and with it my general pedagogical interest were well set on the road, however, by an external circumstance. The Würzburg professor of pedagogy, Lorenz Grassberger, who has become known through his work on education in ancient times, had retired from his teaching in the year 1901. The position could not immediately be filled. The history of pedagogy absolutely had to be given, however, at least for one semester of the year. At the end of the Winter Semester of 1901-1902, Professor Martin Schanz, then rector, known through his studies on Plato and through his history of Roman literature, came to me and urgently requested me to give a course in the history of pedagogy. My objection, that I knew nothing about the subject, was not allowed to prevail, and finally I consented. Immediately and during the subsequent vacation and during the Summer Semester of 1902 I read pedagogical classics and textbooks almost day and night, and in the same Summer Semester I gave a four-hour course in the history of pedagogy which, while certainly not the work of a trained professional, was nevertheless quite adequate.
During my stay in Frankfort, where I also took a very active part in the upper-school affairs of the Academy, which was then evolving into a university, and where, as already stated, I was planning many practical applications of my soot method, my practical tendencies began, for the first time, to develop strongly—tendencies which subsequently, during my second stay in Würzburg, were even more strongly brought out through my legal involvement, the influence of American industrial psychology, and other agencies.
must not neglect to state that, in
Having returned to Würzburg in the year 1908, I worked (besides doing much other writing of which I have already spoken in part) particularly on my two-volume work, Die Gleichformigkeit in der Welt (Munich, 1916-1919), in which I discussed from the most varied points of view the problem of uniformity, to which I had been led by the consideration of probability and by studies on association. It had already been shown in my essay with Thumb that, the reactions of subjects in association experiments are concordant to a very large extent, and now I was able to show in addition that the behavior of human beings, when they are subjected to similar conditions, reveals striking similarities or uniformities to a greater extent than it was previously assumed to do.
203] During my second stay in Würzburg I also wrote my essay on animal
psychology, "Die Rechenkunst der Schimpansin Basso im Frankfurter
Zoologischen Garten" (Fortschritte der Psychologie und ihrer
Anwendungen, 1917, 4, 135-186).
This animal had brought thousands and hundreds of thousands of people
Subsequently I have used this study, in which I also treated more general questions in animal psychology, again and again as a point of departure of the emphatic statement that it is only through systematic experiments and not through mere observation that apparently mysterious performances of human beings and animals can be solved.
have tried in many other writings, also, to reduce occultistic statements to
their proper scope by means of an exact scientific attitude. I treated in this way the problem of the
wishing rod (Wünschelrute), among other problems. Unfortunately, however, I cannot maintain
that I have achieved anything in a practical way by my fight against
occultism. The mob's craving for
sensation, especially in periods of economic depression such as we have had to
It was not until the time of my second stay in Würzburg that I [p. 204] attained a following on a larger scale. A large number of studies of the most varied kinds issued from my Institute here. Slips of the pen, the problem of instruction in languages, the testimony of witnesses, the psychology of lying, musicalness, the psychology of the deaf and dumb, and many other quite different matters were investigated by my students under my direction. Some of these studies have appeared in the five volumes of my Fortschritte der Psychologie und ihrer Anwendungen (1913-1922). Other studies have been printed in other journals, mainly in the Archiv für die gesamte Psychologie, in the Zeitschrift fur Psychologie, and in the Psychotechnische Zeitschrift. About 90 doctors' theses and other publications by my collaborators have come out of my Würzburger Institute, not including the many studies by my assistants. My own studies have been published in psychological, philosophical, natural science, legal, and medical journals. Many studies by me which are not mentioned in the present article have been listed under "Marbe" in the "Psychological Register," edited by Professor Carl Murchison. Many have not been mentioned there either.
I have certainly come to realize more and more clearly that fame is not an advantage, but rather a disadvantage, and that in particular to flirt with the practical calls forth a mass of inquiries, correspondence, and studies which one would often be very glad to do without. Therefore, as already indicated above, my practical ambitions have gradually been receding. At present I am again turning toward philosophical problems, so far as other unavoidable tasks permit.
IV. SUPPLEMENTARY REMARKS. PERSONALITY. YOUTH
We may make acknowledgment when, as I have done, a scholar continually turns toward new questions and when he inspires efforts here and there and works on a great variety of problems. This type of activity can undoubtedly also be criticized, however.
A professor on the staff of one of the three high schools in which I was working once criticized a habilitation essay before us because it gave the impression of being a piece of occasional writing rather than a study resulting from systematic work. In a certain sense, I can say that all my writing has been occasional writing (Gelegenheitsschriften). Almost always I have been guided by certain notions or ideas which I obtained in the course of my reading, conversation with scholars or men of practical life, or other experiences, [p. 205] and I have never been able to decide to study a field for the sake of writing an essay or a book about it. If some few of my writings have resulted from stimulation by a third person, I have responded to this stimulus only when I believed that these writings offered me the opportunity of expressing in action, or at least of publishing, ideas that were in my mind.
It is clear that I cannot treat a subject successfully unless it interests me strongly, and I have no talent for what Herbart calls an even distribution of interest over everything such as is involved in large systematic studies. Today I have even reached the point of basing my study of scientific literature almost solely upon my own ideas and investigations and, of course, also upon the requirements of my teaching. Clearly, the urge to investigation, the wish to have an effective influence upon science and life, and the aim of being able to offer my students the material they need have become the exclusive, or almost the exclusive, deciding factors in my work.
I mentioned above that, as a student, I regarded universality and achievement in special fields as the principal earmarks of the great philosopher. Undoubtedly, I have achieved a certain modest universality in that I have extended my studies, more than it is customary to do, over the most varied fields. To deepen and broaden this universality, however, as Herbert Spencer and Wilhelm Wundt did, for example, and on the basis of this to progress to systematic works on a grand scale was not granted me, because I lacked this even distribution of interest. The wish, too, to bury myself in subjects which held my interest, even when they were not of general interest, hindered my development into a universal philosophical author. When I had once set myself a problem, my desire was to exhaust it to the extent of my ability, and to touch upon a thousand questions, gaining only a literary mastery over them, has never appealed to me. And, lastly, I have also recognized that the authors of large systematic works have hardly ever been able to avoid superficialities in detail which I have always personally strenuously repelled, although I do not on this account reject work of a more encyclopedic trend.
When Külpe saw, in Leipzig, that I kept on working again and again on the construction of the apparatus for shifting sectors (Sektorenverschiebungsapparat) and the outlines of my theory of Talbot's law, he remarked, without meaning to reprove me, shaking his head, that that type of activity was impossible to him. And indeed he and I were quite different scientific personalities.
[p. 206] I ultimately noticed that I was much too critically minded by nature to make a universal writer on philosophical subjects. In the early period of my activity I wrote a large number of reviews and also some very sharp critical essays. As I have already stated above, my critical attitude brought me into opposition with Martius, Wundt, and also Külpe. Other oppositions, too, have arisen through my critical attitude. Although today I avoid polemics and no longer enjoy the writing of criticisms, I undoubtedly still have, even now, a very critical attitude toward others, and also, if I am not very much mistaken, toward myself. This critical attitude, too, was a hindrance to the writing of large systematic philosophical works.
And, in conclusion, writing itself, even to this day, has never come as easily to me as it does, and must, come to the productive writer on philosophical subjects. Rather, I am still inclined, even now, to reflect on almost every word which I write down or dictate.
In speaking of my critical manner, I am far from regarding it as a pure asset. "You always emphasize only what separates us and never what unites us," the philosopher, Heinrich Rickert, once said to me when I had personal association with him for a time and had explicitly criticized his book, Die Grenzen der Naturwissenschaftlichen Begriffsbildung (Part I), in the Zeitschrift für Philosophie und philosophische Kritik, and had taken a critical attitude toward his views in other places also. He was not far wrong in his observation, and in it he showed, perhaps unintentionally, that critical endowment also constitutes a weakness to a certain extent.
Just as I could not manage to write large systematic philosophical works, I could not manage to write philosophical textbooks or other kinds of textbooks, although I consider the writing of good texts, which, in the subjects I have taught, are decidedly lacking, in my opinion, as exceedingly meritorious work. To begin with, in view of my personality, I would find the writing of a textbook much too tedious. Historical problems, too, and also historical researches, have never fascinated me, although I have done much teaching of the history of philosophy and of pedagogy.
desire was always to do concrete research, and, after attaining my practical
attitude, to influence not only science but also practical life. When I had once made a subject the object of
my research, however, I never ceased my investigation when my research led me
beyond the borders of the subjects I officially taught in the [p. 207] high
school. Thus I took particular pleasure
in making my soot method (Russmethode) useful in as many ways as
possible. And thus also my studies in
uniformity have led me far beyond psychology and philosophy proper and have
made it possible for me to be influential in many varied fields, as for example
in sociology. And it is solely because
of my urge to keep on investigating when I was possessed by ideas on uniformity
that my two-volume work, Die Gleichformigkeit in der Welt, which is, of
course, neither a systematic philosophical structure nor a textbook, became so
enormous. In this I was also led into
the field of mathematics. That I
influenced several great mathematicians through this work could easily be
proven. But that here, precisely in
connection with mathematics, I was frequently guilty of errors should not be
concealed but rather emphasized. In my
latest essay, Der Strafprozess gegen Philipp Halsmann (
It is possible to advance the cause of philosophy by large systematic works and by textbooks, but also, of course, by criticisms and by attacking special problems, as I tried to do particularly in my book on uniformity in the world and in my essays in logic and kindred sciences. If, however, I compare my philosophical writing with everything else that I have written, it occupies only a modest space, especially in comparison with psychology. That I have applied myself so extensively to psychology is not due, any more than was my transition from the history of literature to philosophy, previously discussed, to very definite resolutions. Psychological questions simply gradually came to interest me more than the actual philosophical ones. And the more I worked myself into the field of psychology the stronger my interest in this subject became.
however, the form of my activity was determined not only by my innate
personality but also by the stimulation that I received from all sorts of
directions and which I obtained particularly from scholars with psychological
interests. In addition to those cited
above, I must mention here Alfred Binet, in whose Institute I worked
immediately after my doctorate examination during a long vacation in
There are many other things, too, done or not done in the past, which I am compelled to criticize today. Although I certainly made my studies cover many fields, I nevertheless omitted important matters. Thus, for instance, I regret today that I did not study psychiatry more thoroughly from the start. While I was a student in Bonn, the well-known psychiatrist, C. Pelmann, was giving well-liked lectures on borderline states, which he also discussed in his book Über die Grenzen zwischen psychischer Gesundheit und Geistesstörung. It did not occur to me, however, to attend either these or other lectures on psychiatry. It was not until later that I made myself familiar with psychiatric topics, utilizing for this familiarization (not until a few years ago, either) a rather long period of study in an asylum for the insane. Undoubtedly, it would have been much better for my development if I had earlier occupied myself more with psychiatry. It is true, however, that in my time other young psychologists were not thinking either of the importance of psychiatry for our field. I have also regretted very much that during my entire student period I did not come closer to jurisprudence, with which I did not come into more intimate touch until the time of my expert testimony in the Müllheim railroad accident case and in which, since then, mainly under the guidance of my highly esteemed Würzburg colleague, the criminologist, Friedrich Oetker, I have done considerable work. While I was studying, my opinion of jurisprudence, Heaven knows why, was much too low. Today I do not doubt that this important field would have held me spellbound if I had turned to it in the beginning, and that I might very well have found fulfillment in the study of jurisprudence too.
far, I have spoken only of my studies and my scientific work [p. 209] and never
of not studying and not working.
The reader would receive an entirely false picture of my personality,
however, if I did not also bring out that I have not been, and am not, oriented
toward science as exclusively as might appear from the discussion thus
far. Just as, when a student, I chose
had the same experience with many other interests. As a schoolboy I did a good deal with
music. I learned to play the piano and
at the age of 16 began to play the violin too.
Toward the end of my school period I also took courses in the theory of
music, in harmony, and in counterpoint.
Then and later I hardly missed a concert which seemed to me at all
important. But these music interests
too, although they have certainly not been completely [p. 210] lost, have given
place, in the main, to others. For a few
years I was very enthusiastic about difficult mountain and glacier climbing,
which I later regarded as superfluous.
Toward the end of my schooltime I felt very sympathetic toward the
drinking customs, the societies, and other practices of German students, and my
school work at that time was much less important to me than the imitation of
these things, which at that time were current among the pupils of the upper
high school classes in university towns.
But by the time I had finished my military service I was no longer
enthusiastic about these student activities.
I cannot, of
course, name here all the places and persons to whom I owe scientific
inspiration. I have already mentioned my
colleagues in Nürnberg and
When I was speaking of hunting and other matters, just now, I mentioned that my interests have often changed. This is not a striking fact in and for itself. I do believe, however, that this tendency to shift is stronger in me than in most other scholars. Clearly, I do not come as close to being all of one piece as do some of my colleagues, and I am ruled more strongly than they are by a certain restlessness, as is shown in my manifold activity, always attacking new problems, and in my disinclination to write large systematic treatises covering entire fields. It cannot be said, however, that I easily abandon views or experimental findings which I regard as correct, or that in general I am particularly inclined to vacillation in judgment. Clearly the changes in question relate particularly to personal values, which I assign sometimes to one and and [sic] sometimes to another scientific or extra-scientific activity. That the frequent change in my interests was and is accompanied by a change in my knowledge is obvious. While during the first part of my academic career I took great pleasure in often conducting practice classes in the translation of Greek authors, I have now, because of the regression in my knowledge of the Greek language, long felt myself incapable of this, and while as a student in Bonn, as the only pupil of the well-known Sanskritist, Jakobi, I had to translate a text from German into Sanskrit once a week, I have now forgotten even the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet. I do not see any special disadvantage in these and similar instances of forgetting. We do not learn and work in order to retain everything. But the personality which is ours at a given time is essentially dependent upon those earlier experiences which have long sunk into the subconscious, as I have stated again and again in my writings on personality.
of course, the history of populations runs a strictly logical (kausal) course,
yet nevertheless historical development is also dependent upon what we call
chance occurrences. Who would deny that
the World War and misfortune that it has brought to
was born in
I have also failed in such adaptation in that I have failed to read the autobiographies of other psychologists that are already available before starting to write my own. It did occur to me, however, that in his valuable work, for which he deserves many thanks, Professor Murchison was not only collecting biographies but also seeking to further the psychology of personality, a thing which can certainly be done most successfully if each author proceeds quite independently. I shall study the remaining sections of the book with all the more pleasure on this account after my lines have been printed.