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Symposia. European Pragmatism

Wilhelm Jerusalem, the Social Element in his Pragmatism, and its Antecedent in Völkerpsychologie

Thomas Uebel

Abstract

Ernst Mach and Wilhelm Jerusalem may be considered exponents of a homegrown European version of pragmatism. The purpose of this paper is to highlight the strongly social orientation Jerusalem gave to his. Particular attention will be paid to some of his predecessors to exhibit the relevance of a pioneering but largely forgotten type of social science for the development of his version of European pragmatism. Broadly speaking, considerations from Völkerpsychologie played the role for the development of Jerusalem’s views that considerations from the history of science played for the views of Mach. Of particular interest to us here is how these broadly sociological ideas fed into Jerusalem’s philosophy and his understanding and appreciation of pragmatism.

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1.

  • 1 For a biography of Jerusalem see Eckstein 1935; see also his own 1922/1925.
  • 2 For descriptions of Jerusalem’s and Mach’s philosophies as indigenous form of pragmatism, see Uebel (...)

1The German edition of William James’s Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking was published within months of the original, translated by the Viennese educationalist, psychologist and philosopher Wilhelm Jerusalem who had been in correspondence with its author on matters of psychology for some years.1 In his “Translator’s Preface,” dated November 1907, Jerusalem wrote that despite being a “sincere follower,” indeed despite having been himself a pragmatist avant-la-lettre, he could not agree “completely in all respects” with James.2 Being of recent vintage he expected pragmatism to undergo “a few important expansions and also a few corrections”:

  • 3 All translations of texts for which none are indicated in the bibliography are by the present autho (...)

For instance, pragmatism’s theory requires a very important complementation. In particular it ought to be investigated historically what forms the concept of truth has taken in the course of scientific research and in philosophical speculation. Only then will it become clear and only then will it be understood that truth always consists in the leading and directing of our intellectual self in a fashion that is advantageous for life. Then one will also have to take greater account of the social factor in the development of knowledge and cognition and attain greater clarity about the nature of historical truth and the content and point of the historical sciences than the author of the current book has achieved. (Jerusalem 1908a: vi-vii)3

  • 4 “Truth lives, in fact, for the most part on a credit system. Our thoughts and beliefs ‘pass,’ so lo (...)
  • 5 For other writings by Jerusalem on pragmatism for a German and Austrian audience, see his 1908b and (...)

2Even conceding that Jerusalem was talking about pragmatism mainly on the basis of James’s book, what might he have meant? After all, in Lecture Six, James twice recurred to the social as of considerable significance: once, in pointing out that the foundation of all of our talk of truth rests, like credit, on the fact that at least some claims are verified by somebody somewhere;4 and once in stating categorically: “All human thinking gets discursified; we exchange ideas, we lend and borrow verifications, get them from one another in social intercourse.” (1907/1991: 94). What more might Jerusalem wish for – except perhaps an argument for why or how all human thinking gets “discursified”?5

  • 6 For a more comprehensive critique of James by Dewey, see his 1908. For criticism by Peirce, see his (...)

3Well, that most likely was the point. Consider John Dewey’s later remark that, compared to James’s highly personal approach to determining the meaning of conceptions and his attachment to the will to believe, Peirce himself had “a more explicit dependence on the social factor.” Peirce’s appeal was “essentially to the consensus of those who have investigated, using methods which are capable of employment by all. It is the need for social agreement, and the fact that in its absence ‘the method of tenacity’ will be exposed to disintegration from without, which finally forces upon mankind the wider and wider utilization of the scientific method.” (1916/1925: 308).6 Jerusalem’s point was broadly similar, for against James he meant to strengthen the notion of “objective truth.” That notion was distinguished, as he soon put it, by relying not on “the intersubjective criterion, which consists in agreement with fellow thinkers,” but on “the objective criterion of the fulfillment of predictions.” While he conceded that these objective truths also needed to be socially shared “to attain constancy and effectiveness” (1909a/1925: 150), it is not entirely clear whether this sharing was procedurally grounded (as with Peirce and Dewey) or pertained only to content.

  • 7 Note that whether Jerusalem’s criticisms of James’s pragmatism – based on the contents of the book (...)
  • 8 The German term Erkenntnis exhibits a perfect process-product ambiguity that Jerusalem never bother (...)
  • 9 See Jerusalem 1909a, and Durkheim 1910.
  • 10 For discussion of this assessment, see Uebel 2012.

4What then did Jerusalem’s criticism of James amount to?7 The first thing to note is that he talked about the need to consider the social factor more than it had been so far. That it was noted at all to be as important in the respects specified by James was, I take it, one of the things that Jerusalem found attractive in James’s conception. It certainly resonated with his own ever increasing appreciation of the role of the social, as documented in the relevant chapters of his Einleitung in die Philosophie (Introduction to Philosophy) being expanded in later editions (1st ed. 1899, 10th ed. 1923). The next thing to note is where Jerusalem thought greater attention to the social factor was needed: in the development of cognition and knowledge.8 Within one year, after all, he had published his own “Soziologie des Erkennens” (Sociology of Cognition) which is often regarded as a founding treatise of the sociology of knowledge and prompted Émile Durkheim to inaugurate a regular section devoted to the topic, “Les conditions sociologique de la connaissance,” in his journal Année sociologique.9 It seems indicative of the tension within the field that the next generation of practitioners of the new discipline of sociology of knowledge tended to reject Jerusalem’s efforts as mere social psychology.10 These early critics (there were no later ones as his pioneering work was largely forgotten) had a point but they also overlooked something very important. This is the third thing to note. It was not the accumulation of knowledge that interested Jerusalem, but the emergence of the conceptual wherewithal required to have anything like knowledge in the first place. The role of the social at the dawn of cognition and in the development of the concept of knowledge itself was his topic.

  • 11 For a thorough survey of the psychologism dispute in German philosophy, see Kusch 1995.
  • 12 See, e.g., Jerusalem (1923: 359-65) and (1926: 3-17).

5Finally we may note that Jerusalem spoke of the need to pay attention to both “the nature of historical truth” and the “content and point of the historical sciences.” Here Jerusalem pointed to the ongoing struggle for the correct epistemological foundations of the emerging social sciences and envisaged a philosophical anthropology on an evolutionarily informed sociological and psychological, in short empirical basis. Such a program put itself in sharp methodological opposition, of course, both to neo-idealism and, more importantly, to so-called critical philosophy which considered the calling of humanity the exclusive province of transcendental reflection. Jerusalem’s anti-apriorism was radical and unabashedly embraced psychologism and so occasioned discomfort even in staunch logical empiricists and continues to do so in present-day naturalists.11 What must not be overlooked, however, is that this created room for a broadly naturalistic approach to epistemological matters. While I call his approach “broadly naturalistic” it must be noted that Jerusalem was no materialist and he insisted on the distinction between Natur- and Geisteswissenschaft. While he rejected the metaphysics associated with Hegel’s concept of objective spirit (objektiver Geist), he believed that its content was spelt out by an empirical science that remained irreducible to natural science. When he insisted that sociology (his psycho-sociology or social psychology) provided the foundation for Geisteswissenschaft, he sought to provide a scientific framework within which, without undue reductions or naturalistic fallacies, a pronounced ethical idealism was to take root.12

  • 13 See Jerusalem (1909a/1925:145), Mach (1894a/1986: 138).
  • 14 Goldscheid (1905: 15). What I have translated somewhat freely as “purposefulness” – “Zweckmässigkei (...)

6Like James, then, Jerusalem’s philosophy fell between standard positions still before he became the German spokesman for pragmatism. What he sought to stress was that ideas and concepts are Menschenwerk, of human hand, that emerged in history and that, since (as his friend Mach had stated long ago) what history can do it also can undo, these ideas and concepts were continually under construction and need periodic reassessment.13 On this point, of course, he joined forces again with James as well. Fittingly Jerusalem ended a brief review of Germanophone sympathisers with pragmatism with a quotation from Rudolf Goldscheid, his fellow founder of the Viennese Sociological Society, who voiced a very distinctive voluntarism of his own: “We must not rest – not until we have recognized the purposefulness of all that happens, but until we have brought about its purposefulness.”14

7An interim result: while we may leave open how much he advanced matters we can see that Jerusalem sought to re-enforce the recognition of the role of the social in pragmatism.

2.

  • 15 See James (1907: 99, trans. 142) and (ibid.: 103, trans. 148), respectively.
  • 16 The terms literally could be translated as “thickening,” “increase of density,” “solidification” or (...)
  • 17 Likewise, James’ claim that “abstractions […] are so much past experience funded” became in Jerusal (...)

8It may be noted that Jerusalem himself had already started work on the program he outlined in his “Translator’s Preface.” Thus we may note that he happily accepted James’s advice to translate as him freely as needed to get his point across. Where James spoke of “men’s beliefs at any time [being] so much experience funded,” there Jerusalem has him talk of these beliefs being the “Summe der verdichteten Erfahrung” (sum of condensed experience). Likewise James’s “the whole body of funded truths” became “verdichtete Wahrheiten” (solidified truths).15 In other words, where James used a term that resonated with his concern with the “cash-value” of truth and his simile of truth living on credit in order to indicate the experiential well-groundedness of beliefs and concepts, there Jerusalem employed the notion of Verdichtung.16 These translations (and others) give a good first impression what Verdichtung (a term with wide currency at the time) is about: the retention of the content of a set of experiences by condensation or compression to a representative minimum.17

9Here Jerusalem grafted a conception onto James’s pragmatism that he had adopted some time earlier and was about to turn into his vehicle of the further socialization of pragmatism. This was the complex of ideas associated with the concept of Verdichtung that had been introduced by Moritz Lazarus and given a central role in his and Heyman Steinthal’s Völkerpsychologie. In his “Soziologie des Erkennens” Jerusalem was to turn the original from Verdichtung simpliciter into soziale Verdichtung (social solidification). But it is the early stage that we must consider first; here is Jerusalem’s very first remark about it:

This is what makes it possible to formulate in short judgments the results of many a complicated train of thought: making what has been found to be the law governing the events at issue into a constant mark of a new relational concept. Such concepts are themselves the result of many judgments that preceded them and it is in these that the thought labor of previous generations is condensed [verdichtet]. Such condensations [Verdichtungen] – Lazarus introduced this term – are often taken up ready-made and […] as ill-understood slogans or empty knowledge of phrases can lead to gross errors, even to calamities. For the progress of knowledge, however, they are indispensible. Without them, all thought labor would have to begin anew with every generation. (1895: 150-1; cf. 1902: 119)

10Characteristically also, Jerusalem’s much later obituary for Ernst Mach (1916) did not fail to note the use of Verdichtung his late friend had made nearly a quarter of century earlier in his address to the Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften. There Mach stated, equally as physicist, philosopher and historian of science:

  • 18 Compare: “In nature there is no law of refraction, only different cases of refraction. The law of r (...)

No human mind could comprehend all the individual cases of refraction. But knowing the index of refraction for the two media presented and the familiar law of the sines, we can easily reproduce or fill out in thought every conceivable case of refraction. The advantage here consists in the disburdening of the memory; an end immensely furthered by the written preservation of the natural constants. More than this comprehensive and condensed [verdichtet] report about facts is not contained in a natural law of this sort. (Mach 1882/1986: 193)18

  • 19 On Herrmann and his relation to Mach, see Haller 1986.

11In Mach’s work, the concept of Verdichtung seamlessly merged with the principle of mental economy (Denkökonomie) which he had adopted from the economist Emanuel Herrmann in the 1860s and which provided the foundation of his own naturalistic and pragmatist approach to epistemological matters.19

  • 20 See Mach (1894a/1986: 138) and (1894b/1986: 232-3).

12Note also Mach’s still earlier remark in History and Root of the Principle of the Conservation of Energy about the “difficulties [that] lie in wait for us when […] propositions which have often cost several thousand years’ labour of thought are represented to us as self-evident. Here too there is only one way to enlightenment: historical studies.” (1872/1911: 156). Mach’s comment helps us see the reasoning behind Jerusalem’s remarks about the need to expand James’ Pragmatism. To be sure, we may marvel at and appreciate the short-cuts of human cognition for their utility but we also must not be misled by naïve conceptions, for instance, of correspondence truth, which may be encouraged by taking these short-cuts at face value. (Thus Mach once admonished his readers not to mistake our thought-pictures for the things themselves.) Preventing the “calamities” incurred by misunderstood Verdichtungen required historical study – indeed, required periodically revisiting the grounds on which common theories or conceptions were accepted to prevent the fossilization of doctrine into dogma – for which the kind of investigations that Jerusalem was urging were providing the psychological and sociological foundations.20

  • 21 See Jerusalem 1899b and (1922/1925: 2 and 18). In all editions of his Einleitung in die Philosophie(...)
  • 22 Lazarus and Steinthal’s Völkerpsychologie has long been the subject of conflicting descriptions. Fo (...)

13Jerusalem’s use of Verdichtung points to the social scientific research program that he built on early on (just as in later years he was to call on Durkheimian sociology).21 Lazarus and Steinthal’s Völkerpychologie was a relatively short-lived and much misrepresented scientific enterprise in the second half of the nineteenth century, which aimed to provide both a psychology of social life and a theory of socio-cultural evolution, in short, a philosophy of culture.22 To see what this theoretical alignment amounted to, we must first consider Jerusalem’s theory of cognition in a little more detail.

14Jerusalem’s “genetic,” i.e. biological, perspective on knowledge (his term: 1899a: 75) produced a distinctive psychology that considered itself opposed to Herbart’s psychology (still dominant in Austria in the second half of the 19th century). According to Herbart, mental life was accounted for solely in terms of representations and their interplay. Not only did feeling and volition need separate investigation, Jerusalem held, additions were also required on the cognitive side: an active psychological mechanism was needed to impose a certain structure on the cognized material as well as social mechanisms to operate alongside it. In providing these Jerusalem built on extensions and corrections which Lazarus and Steinthal had already made to the psychological theory of Herbart, whom they otherwise revered as a path-breaking empirical philosopher,

  • 23 A faint anticipation of this idea can be seen in Lazarus when without further elaboration he spoke (...)
  • 24 See particularly Jerusalem (1895, Ch. 3) and (1902: 102-23), later, his (1899a: 77-80), (1902: 89-9 (...)

15For Jerusalem, a pre-linguistic stage operating with “typical ideas” (said to picture biologically significant features of objects) was followed by a stage of primitive concept use (by means of one-word-sentences) and finally by a properly judgemental stage. The broad outlines of this were already given (important details discounted) in Steinthal’s account of the emergence of language (1851) which, in turn, was portrayed by Lazarus as developmental stages of human Geist as such (1857/1885, Chs. 2 and 4). What Jerusalem contributed (besides the elaboration of the concept of typical ideas in 1902: 97-101) was a constructive principle he claimed to have been the first to have properly understood, the “basic judgement function” (fundamentale Apperception), a principle that allowed for progression from the second to the third developmental stage. It consisted in interpreting every happening as separated into the two elements of a “centre of force” and an “expression of force” such that the centre of force has ascribed to it a “will” that wills the expression in question.23 “By separating the root [one-word-phrases, TU] into subject and object we form, structure and objectivize the process at issue. Only then do we begin to interpret it in a way that is conducive to our own nature so as to comprehend and master it intellectually.” (Jerusalem 1902: 107). Originally formulated in his 1888 Textbook of Empirical Psychology this principle and the general schema received repeated elaborations in later work.24

16Now the central concept for Jerusalem’s own attempt to understand the cognitive development of individuals and, more generally, human intellectual development from prehistory onwards was, again, Verdichtung. Prior experience of the environment, keyed to survival needs, was condensed first in typical ideas, then in concepts and judgements. Verdichtung made cumulative learning, indeed culture as such, possible (in which capacity Jerusalem came to term it soziale Verdichtung).

3.

  • 25 For the central role of Verdichtung in Lazarus, see particularly Graevenitz 1999.

17As noted, Jerusalem’s developmental account was an elaboration of Lazarus and Steinthal’s schema from the formation of non-linguistic proto-representations through primitive concepts (roots or one-word phrases) to fully fledged concepts and all the way to the common use of the concept of theoretical truth. For Lazarus, Verdichtung was one of two basic psychological processes (the other one being representation: Vertretung) by which he proposed to overcome what Herbart had called the “narrowness of consciousness” and make consciousness capable to handle ever more complex contents (1857/1885: 247-51).25 The first, still non-linguistic proto-representations select only biologically important feature and processes and combine in intuitions (Anschauungen) of objects and states of feeling. Later on, linguistic ideas (Vorstellungen), which possess no intuitive content of their own, were formed to represent (vertreten) these intuitions by being associated in apperception with sounds that were invariably produced in the company of the intuitions. In this process the linguistic ideas “distil and condense (verdichten) as an extract” the intuitive content (ibid.: 323). It was the interplay of synchronous Vertretung and diachronous Verdichtung that led to ever higher orders of representation: repeated and iterated innumerable times this process lead first to one-word sentences and after further differentiation – Jerusalem added his basic judgement function here – to the properly judgmental stage. Only from that point onward did any conscious formation of clearly defined concepts (Begriffe), which unlike ideas (Vorstellungen) give necessary and sufficient conditions, become possible. Jerusalem rightly praised Lazarus and Steinthal for stressing that “language is by far the most important social factor in the development of knowledge” (1905c: 158), and added that “only language allows the development of cognition beyond typical ideas to concepts.”

  • 26 Cf. Lazarus (1857/1885: 229-30) and (1862/2003: 27-8).

18The work of Verdichtung did not stop with the provision of language. Lazarus and Steinthal’s opening article for the first issue in 1860 of their Zeitschrift für Völkerspychologie und Sprachwissenschaft pointed for illustration of the broad developmental dimension of the concept of Verdichtung to “the comparison of the trained mathematician and the beginner: what the latter has to work out most laboriously for himself in order to think it clearly and safely, the former condenses (verdichtet) in great sweeps and still thinks more safely, more distinctly and more definitely” (1860: 65).26 And in a brief paper dedicated to its explication, Lazarus distinguished Verdichtung as denoting the phenomenon of conscious effort becoming a stable disposition (as in individual learning) from what accounts for the formation and transfer of social habits, customs, and a great variety of other social and cultural phenomena.

We must distinguish between two types of the solidification (Verdichtung) of thought. One is individualistic, subjective, such that the solidified (verdichtet) product of thought emerges from one’s own efforts, one’s own slow process of solidification (Verdichtung). The other is universal, objective, such that it is only the result of a historical process that is taken into one’s mind. The former shows the culture of the individual, the latter the public culture of an age. (1862/2003: 35)

19According to Lazarus, in Verdichtung in the objective sense the intellectual labour of past generations is laid down in concepts, (seemingly) self-evident judgements, also in firm customs reflecting a certain moral standard attained by previous generations, or even in works of art. Both subjective and objective Verdichtungen were accomplished (above the level of typical ideas) exclusively with help of language, where, importantly, language was conceived of not as a mere means of communication but as formative and indispensible in the development of cognition itself. Between subjective or objective Verdichtungen, between the individual and the social domain, obtains an interaction that goes either way: what are subjective Verdichtungen can enter the public sphere via their linguistic representation, whereas objective Verdichtungen sedimented in language and ways of life obviously have direct consequences via language learning and socialization. Verdichtungen mediate the social and the individual.

  • 27 For the influence of Humboldt on Steinthal especially see Belke (1971: civ-cvii) and, of course, St (...)

20Verdichtung, in short, is emblematic for the material process of mental-conceptual (geistig) development. It would lead too far here to demonstrate Lazarus’s and Steinthal’s inheritance of themes and adaptations of ideas from the linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt (“innere Spachform,” the inner form of language) or of the philologist August Boeckh (“das Erkennen des Erkannten,” the re-cognition of what was known) who once named Steinthal as the student who had understood him best.27 But it may be noted that with Humboldt they accepted as axiomatic the deeply social nature of linguistically mediated thought and with Boeckh the ever provisional nature of interpretive understanding and its complexities (he elaborated the hermeutical circle). Especially from the former they inherited a problem. Humboldt was unrivalled in his evocation of the role of language for the human Geist, but what it all meant concretely was not all that clear. Just why was language, as Humboldt argued, not just a means of communication for thoughts fully formed by an individual alone, but instead the very medium for forming thoughts in the first place, a medium that could itself only develop in social interaction and so allow thought and the recognition of thought to develop? Clearly Verdichtung has a role to play here.

  • 28 For a detailed reading of Fechner along these lines see Heidelberger (1993, Kap. 2).
  • 29 Stressing their empiricism in social science is consistent with allowing for variation their ethica (...)

21Now Lazarus and Steinthal too declared themselves to be no materialists – by which they meant, I take it, that they were no reductive materialists. Lazarus (1857/1885: 80), for one, declared himself for Fechner whose psycho-physical parallelism can be understood as a non-reductive materialism.28 Verdichtungen do not only mediate the social and the individual, they also mediate, Fechner-style, the mental and the physical. To be sure, even Lazarus’s eloquent language at times strained to lend its customary dignity to rather expansive flights of motivational idealism. But this must be stressed: the modus operandum of his and Steinthal’s Völkerpsychologie was decidedly empirical and they stated unequivocally that their social psychology-cum-science of culture “could only take its start from the facts of human social life” (1860: 23).29

  • 30 Belke rightly stressed that Steinthal regarded language as a “mental organ” and was less interested (...)
  • 31 As noted above, Jerusalem’s use of the term dates back to (1895: 150) where it is credited to Lazar (...)
  • 32 See, e.g., Jerusalem (1923: 219) and (1926: 3-17) and consider his dissent from the anti-metaphysic (...)

22While he was persuasive in resisting thinking of Geist in substantive terms and in outlining its creative force as the activity of thinking thoughts in virtue of the ability for reflection, an ability that only arose given language and linguistic exchange, Lazarus nevertheless owed his readers a proper theory of the phenomenon he outlined: Verdichtungen and its other, Vertretungen, as the means of complex non-sensuous or non-intuitive representation, precisely not as transcendental but material conditions of the possibility of rational thought.30 It seems only fair, therefore, to view Jerusalem’s later efforts concerning soziale Verdichtung as an attempt to elaborate Lazarus and Steinthal’s approach to what they called the objective side of Verdichtung. Jerusalem stayed, as a matter of fact, within the paradigm of their basically naturalistic approach to social cognitive phenomena.31 (That due to his desire to distance himself from godless materialism Jerusalem chose to advertise his sociology of cognition as Geisteswissenschaft must not be allowed to obscure this fact.)32

23Another interim result: Jerusalem and his völkerpsychologische antecedents appealed to the social as constitutive of Geist in a naturalistic fashion. It was in the social domain of material interaction that Geist developed and its customs were formed – even in all the normative glory that Lazarus’ practical idealism bestowed.

4.

  • 33 For incisive comparisons of Lazarus and Steinthal’s Völkerspsychologie with Wundt’s version, see Be (...)
  • 34 For a still relevant corrective account of Tönnies’s work against an image derived from its misuse (...)
  • 35 Unrecognized traces of Lazarus and Steinthal’s conception of the social entered anthropology and so (...)
  • 36 See Belke (1971: lxxxi Fn. 7) for the relatively small list list of Nachrufe. On the quite scandalo (...)
  • 37 See, again, Jerusalem (1895: 150) for the explicit reference Lazarus as originator of the concept o (...)
  • 38 See, e.g., Lazarus (1857/1885: 80 Fn., 229 Fn.) for replies (also covering Steinthal) to the charge (...)
  • 39 See Jerusalem 1899b. Jerusalem criticized Wundt’s lack of attention to the social nature of languag (...)

24It must be stressed that the Völkerpsychologie at issue here is Lazarus and Steinthal’s own, not the one reduced to collections of myth, folklore and customs in earliest, quasi-prehistoric times into which it was turned by Wilhelm Wundt at the end of the century, and certainly not what Nazidom made of it.33 (What happened to Völkerpsychologie is comparable to the gruesome perversions suffered by Ferdinand Tönnies’s conception of Gemeinschaft.)34 With Lazarus and Steinthal’s Völkerpsychologie we actually have a science – or better: a program for an empirical science of culture – that was practically lost among the battles to establish the social sciences in Germany at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century.35 The name survived, to be sure, but already in Jerusalem’s time from the later 1880s onwards, virtually no one practiced it as a science derived from Lazarus and Steinthal and certainly no-one practiced it as a science in the sense of Lazarus and Steinthal. Jerusalem himself was one of the very few writers who remarked upon Steinthal’s passing.36 But while he was unusually ready to extend credit in the direction of Steinthal and Lazarus, he too judged Völkerpsychologie in its original form to be passé.37 One mistake Jerusalem shared with others of their successors, like Wundt, who compensated for their unacknowledged borrowings by misrepresenting them as uncritical followers of a by then overcome Herbartian psychology, was to exaggerate the difference between their psychological conceptions and his.38 In particular, it appears that Jerusalem failed, in this respect, to distinguish sufficiently between Wundt and Lazarus and Steinthal when he accused them of them of undue individualism and contrasted his own recognition of the social factor.39

  • 40 It must be added at least at this juncture that Lazarus and Steinthal, like Jerusalem, were Jewish, (...)

25In short, Jerusalem’s reception of the original Völkerpsychologie was not altogether straightforward. That the connection is nevertheless significant and bears emphasizing is shown, first, by the continuity of socio-psychological theorizing that I exhibited above. It is also shown, second, by the idealist humanist pathos that is shared by Jerusalem and Lazarus and Steinthal and animates their ethical philosophy, a pathos which, incidentally, links both parties with the early cosmopolitanism of Herder and Humboldt. This was an ultimately political, orientation that, tellingly, was shared neither by Wundt or other German successors of Völkerpsychologie nor many other representatives of late nineteenth century German culture – but thereby hangs a story too long and complex to be related here.40 Yet the connection between Jerusalem and Lazarus and Steinthal is important also for still another reason and it is this aspect that I want to explore before concluding. It concerns the question of how recognition of “the social” as important for cognition was brought to bear on philosophy. It is here again that Jerusalem’s adaptation of Lazarus’s concept of Verdichtung plays a central role.

26Jerusalem frankly conceded that is a “banal truism” that the social factor is of importance in the development of human knowledge. “We all know that we receive linguistic communications from our fellow men and learn a lot in this way. And that scientific research consist in a community of labour of ever greater comprehensivenss, that no researcher can do without earlier results, all that hardly needs mentioning.” (1909a/1925: 141) Wherein then lay the distinctive contribution of his own sociology of cognition? “I will attempt to show,” he answered early in his first paper on the subject, “that in cognition the social and the individual factor are always operating together, and that the nature and validity of human knowledge can only be properly understood and appreciated, if it is considered in the light of social development, especially of social differentiation.” (1909a/1925: 140-1). What was important for Jerusalem was the interaction of the social and the individual factors. It is in drawing attention to the role of this interaction in the cognitive development of humanity that the distinctive contribution of Jerusalem’s theory lies. (His innovation did not lie in the provision of new anthropological results but in the interpretation of what he found available.)

27As we saw, already Lazarus distinguished between the subjective work of Verdichtung in an individual’s concept and belief formation and the objective, socio-cultural work of Verdichtung. Jerusalem’s elaboration of this scheme points out that what comes first is the purely social factor.

Typical ideas contain nothing that is individually determined or individually colored. Typical ideas represent, by virtue of their rigidly determined tendencies of reaction, the level of adaptation to the average environment of which the herd has been capable to date […].
An important step in the development of conceptual thought is the formation of language […]. The linguistic concept is an economic generality which again contains an important social factor. All fellow speakers understand the word and use it in a similar fashion […] that is what gives it its stability and efficacy […].
Typical ideas and their biological generalities, linguistic concepts and their economic generalities are both social condensations (soziale Verdichtungen). They designate the degree of adaptation and totality of experiences of a human herd. At this level of development single humans are socially bound in their thought as much as in their volition and action. What is true for everybody is what is believed by everybody, what everybody agrees on. This holds equally for empirical judgements about the environment and religious ideas. (1909a/1925: 146-7)

28Needless to say, cognition at this stage barely covers what is needed for survival. “It is only when human beings emerge from the herd, when human beingsbecome individualized, that more precise instruments of thought are created […]. This most significant change in the nature of man is the result of the social differentiation due to the ever increasing division of labour.” (Ibid.: 147). It is only at such an advanced level that objective knowledge becomes possible.

The now independent human being is wont to liberate himself from the bonds of social solidifications (soziale Vedichtungen). He does not wish to learn traditional opinions about things, but to know the things themselves. He gives to cognition the direction towards what is objective. What is true no longer is what everybody believes but what is stated by means of careful observation and measurement of the things themselves […]. The place of the intersubjective criterion of truth, which consisted in the agreement of fellow thinkers, is taken by the objective criterion of the satisfaction of predictions. (Ibid.: 149-50)

29Jerusalem summarised his findings: “The social factor must be accompanied by the individual one if true knowledge is to be attained.” (Ibid.: 149). But – and this is of great importance – this is not the end of the relevance of the social factor.

The individual may have found a new truth all by himself and independently, he may have irrefutably demonstrated its objective validity by the satisfaction of predictions. But the truth can become an effective force only by being recognized by other people and being acted upon by them. Objective truth too must become social solidifications (soziale Vedichtungen) if they are to attain determinacy and efficacy. (Ibid.: 150)

  • 41 Still in the tenth edition of his Introduction to Philosophy Jerusalem was moved to remark in retro (...)

30Again we may think Jerusalem’s point a banality, but this would be to overlook the deeply pragmatist bent of his philosophy: what is truth, if it is not an aid in orienting humans in the world they live? To be so effective, Jerusalem rightly concluded, it must be socially shared. And to be so effective in its distinctive way, unlike the haphazard way in which mere opinion is effective, it must be objective – and this makes clear why despite his admiration of him Jerusalem’s criticism of James was so persistent.41 To say that truth is what works was just too simplistic, for what works may not be true and what is true may not work. No social science is needed to see this, nor is it needed to see that the differentiation of truth from mere intersubjective agreement is crucial. But to see what makes this differentiation possible for humans, Jerusalem argued, that is what only social science, in particular his sociology of cognition, helps explain.

31In addition, Jerusalem was able to point to still another but no less striking instance of the interplay of individualistic and social factors in history where the wider social recognition of its outcome is essential: the discovery of the phenomenal realm as a distinct realm of knowledge which in turn gave rise to the idea of humanity and universalist thinking.

The individualistic developmental tendency also […] opened up an entirely new field for thought and investigation that it had not been possible to turn into an object of reflection at the stage of social dependency. This is the humans’ own inner psychic life which only personalities who had grown fully independent were capable and eager to explore. (1923: 297)

32For Jerusalem, the self-conscious, individualistic “inward turn” of thought (1924: 195) had begun with Herclitus in Greek antiquity and led to the idea of humanity as such in the thought of the Roman Stoics, laying the foundation for the universalism of the Renaissance. This new access to a field of knowledge that in a previous stage of development had not been recognized as such, provided not only for a quantitative increase of knowledge but also for a qualitative jump in our knowledge of knowledge:

Descartes reached the firm conviction, based on his method of doubt, that in the depth of his own consciousness there existed a source of indubitable certainty and a guarantee of his own real existence. This very thought is of a strongly individualistic character. Descartes did not doubt for a moment that his inner self-certainty should make itself known to every human being. The individualistic tendency of his thought thus immediately turns him towards universalist claims, i.e. claims that hold for everybody. Only because of this is it possible for starting from one’s own consciousness to become the basis of a new epistemology. (1923: 300)

  • 42 See Jerusalem (1923: 328-30, 350-1) and (1924: 204-6)

33The history of philosophy itself, Jerusalem in effect suggested, cannot be understood without understanding the interplay of the forces of social reinforcement and individualist differentiation in the development of human culture. Descartes’s epoch-making work was itself a “sociologically conditioned” and historically contingent “bold synthesis of individualism and universalism” (1924: 197). Care was needed in handling Descartes’s insight, Jerusalem added, for while it was responsible for “extensive and dangerous self-deceptions,” it also provided the basis on which to develop further the idea of common humanity as an aspirational ethical ideal and a self-chosen telos for history.42 Like the idea of objectivity as universal validity, he argued, the idea of an ethical universalism became conceivable only at an advanced stage of social development characterised by increased individualist differentiation in cognition – and required social solidification (soziale Verdichtung) to become effective.

  • 43 See Jerusalem 1908c and 1909b.

34Yet even the species history of truth and of ethical aspiration, as it were, is not yet the entirety of the contribution that sociological thought can make to the development of pragmatism, according to Jerusalem, for they join forces in the battle with aprioricist philosophy. In his contribution to Max Scheler’s 1924 anthology edited for the Cologne Forschungsinstitut für Sozialwissenschaften, a collection which marked the coming of age of the sociology of knowledge, Jerusalem joined his own work in this field to the polemical stance that already had marked him out in the impassioned discussions about pragmatism at the International Congress of Philosophy in Heidelberg in 1908.43

Kant’s firm belief in the timeless, wholly unchangeable logical structure of our reason, a belief that since has become common among all aprioricists and is defended with much energy by the most recent representatives of this tendency of thought as well, has not only not been confirmed by the results of modern anthropology, but rather has been shown to be in error. For this reason alone it appears justified to try to replace Kant’s transcendental analysis by a sociological analysis of the contents of human cognition. (1924: 183)

  • 44 For such in-person criticism at Heidelberg, see Mally 1909. For Jerusalem’s view of the ongoing deb (...)

35Needless to say, the opposition retaliated charging psychologism and conceptual confusion.44 But note that when it is not the validity of formal logic, but concepts pertaining to empirical matters that are at issue, then aprioricists have a much harder task. Why should the contingent conditions for applying such a concept at all (never mind the conditions of applying it correctly) not be relevant to understanding and using it – and to efforts to prevent its misuse?

36James’s very own depreciation of aprioricism and his emphasis of the “cash value” of knowledge thus found support and confirmation in Jerusalem’s sociology of cognition, which, we saw, built squarely on concepts and insights developed in Lazarus and Steinthal’s Völkerpsychologie. Their ideas were thus joined to battles fought long after their Völkerpsychologie had become forgotten by all but a very few. Thus we can read in the concluding paragraph of Jerusalem’s first paper on the sociology of cognition:

American pragmatism stresses the activist character of truth and with this point touches on the efforts of sociology. Together we fight against philosophy’s overwhelming attitude of mere contemplation […]. Consideration of the social factor in cognition is well suited to remind all theoreticians that human knowledge results from exercising the vital drives and that it is the highest and ultimate task of a thinker to serve life. (1909a/1925: 153)

  • 45 See Carnap, Hahn & Neurath (1929/2012: 90). For the pragmatist sympathies of members of the pre-Wor (...)

37If readers are struck by a certain similarity of sentiment and wording of this closing sentence with the final sentence of the inofficial manifesto of the Vienna Circle, written by Rudolf Carnap and Otto Neurath with help from Hans Hahn and others (1929/2012, 90), they are not alone.45 But the connection between Jerusalem and the Vienna Circle is even more subterranean than that between James and the Circle, though it may well account for whatever echoes of Lazarus and Steinthal’s work to be found in Neurath’s (“Ballungen”). In any case, my concern here has been only to establish the first link in this line of influence, between Lazarus and Steinthal’s Völkerpsychologie and Jerusalem’s sociology of cognition and the significant imprint it left on the latter’s form of pragmatism.

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Notes

1 For a biography of Jerusalem see Eckstein 1935; see also his own 1922/1925.

2 For descriptions of Jerusalem’s and Mach’s philosophies as indigenous form of pragmatism, see Uebel 2014 and 2019, and an exploration of the pragmatist sympathies of certain older members of the Vienna Circle (“brought up in a Machian tradition”), see Uebel 2015. For a re-assessment of Jerusalem’s philosophy and pioneering steps towards the sociology of knowledge, see Uebel 2012.

3 All translations of texts for which none are indicated in the bibliography are by the present author.

4 “Truth lives, in fact, for the most part on a credit system. Our thoughts and beliefs ‘pass,’ so long as nothing challenges them, just as bank-notes pass so long as nobody refuses them. But all this points to direct face-to-face verifications somewhere, without which the fabric of truth collapses like a financial system with no cash-basis whatever. You accept my verification of one thing, I yours of another. We trade on each other’s truth. But beliefs verified concretely by somebody are the post of the whole superstructure.” James (1907/1991: 91).

5 For other writings by Jerusalem on pragmatism for a German and Austrian audience, see his 1908b and 1913.

6 For a more comprehensive critique of James by Dewey, see his 1908. For criticism by Peirce, see his 1905a and 1905b.

7 Note that whether Jerusalem’s criticisms of James’s pragmatism – based on the contents of the book he translated – were correct is not the issue in this paper. My concern here is to locate Jerusalem’s joint interest in pragmatism and in the social and then to investigate where it led him.

8 The German term Erkenntnis exhibits a perfect process-product ambiguity that Jerusalem never bothered to resolve, therefore the “and” in my translation of “Erkenntnisentwicklung.” By contrast, the term Erkennen as used in the title of Jerusalem 1909a is weighted towards the process but the ideas developed there again concern the product as much as the process.

9 See Jerusalem 1909a, and Durkheim 1910.

10 For discussion of this assessment, see Uebel 2012.

11 For a thorough survey of the psychologism dispute in German philosophy, see Kusch 1995.

12 See, e.g., Jerusalem (1923: 359-65) and (1926: 3-17).

13 See Jerusalem (1909a/1925:145), Mach (1894a/1986: 138).

14 Goldscheid (1905: 15). What I have translated somewhat freely as “purposefulness” – “Zweckmässigkeit” – could also be translated as “appropriateness,” “expediency” or “functionality.”

15 See James (1907: 99, trans. 142) and (ibid.: 103, trans. 148), respectively.

16 The terms literally could be translated as “thickening,” “increase of density,” “solidification” or “compression.” It was translated as “condensation” when it was employed by Freud and Mach and as “consolidation” when used by Fleck. (For references see Uebel 2012: Fns. 29, 39 and 41). I shall use both “condensation,” “compression” and “solidification” in my translations below.

17 Likewise, James’ claim that “abstractions […] are so much past experience funded” became in Jerusalem’s translation that in them “ist eine Summe vergangener Erfahrung verdichtet” (a sum of past experience is condensed) (1907: 116, trans. 170); “the consummate factor of all conscious experience” is translated as “die Verdichtung aller bewussten Erfahrung” (the condensation of all conscious experience) (ibid.: 17, and 19); and where James spoke of “truth-processes” – by which he understood “worthwhile […] leadings” of the mind by ideas – as “primary verifications arrested, multiplied or substituted for one another,” there Jerusalem has him talk of “verdichtete primäre Verifikation” (condensed primary verification) (ibid.: 91, and 129).

18 Compare: “In nature there is no law of refraction, only different cases of refraction. The law of refraction is a concise compendious rule, devised by us for the mental reconstruction of a fact, and only for its reconstruction in part, that is, on its geometrical side.” Mach (1883/1960: 582).

19 On Herrmann and his relation to Mach, see Haller 1986.

20 See Mach (1894a/1986: 138) and (1894b/1986: 232-3).

21 See Jerusalem 1899b and (1922/1925: 2 and 18). In all editions of his Einleitung in die Philosophie (which discipline, given his anti-aprioricism, took its data from the sciences) he stated that the developmental approach to psychological phenomena led to sociology: “Not only man’s natural environment, also the fellow humans living with him give direction and content to the development of psyche. Thus individual psychology is expanded to social psychology or Völkerpychologie.” And he added that “this science” was “founded by Lazarus and Steinthal.” But where the first edition still continued that while “has made progress in recent decades but still has not yet found its secure method and boundaries” (1899a: 25), there the tenth edition spoke of “great progress” and referred to Wundt’s multi-volume comparative work on language myth and customs (1923: 23). For more on these comparative matters, see §4 below.

22 Lazarus and Steinthal’s Völkerpsychologie has long been the subject of conflicting descriptions. For characterisations that guide me here see Köhnke 2003 and compare Kalmar 1987 and Graevenitz 1999 who restored Lazarus and Steinthal’s Völkerpsychologie against much misrepresentation of varying sorts (including confusion with nominal successors; see §4 below). As Köhnke put it: “Völkerpsychologie is indeed a psychology of social life, but at the same time it is a theory of socio-cultural evolution.” (1990: 100). For a comprehensive critical appreciation of the life and work of Lazarus and Steinthal that preceded the recent interest, see Ingrid Belke’s ground-breaking and still unsurpassed (1971). For a longer-term account of the fate of Völkerpsychologie that casts much light on later practitioners, see Klautke 2013.

23 A faint anticipation of this idea can be seen in Lazarus when without further elaboration he spoke of the “energische Beziehung” of different representations (Vorstellungen) as accounting for the unity of a judgement (1857/1885: 273).

24 See particularly Jerusalem (1895, Ch. 3) and (1902: 102-23), later, his (1899a: 77-80), (1902: 89-91), (1909a/1925: 142-3) and (1923: 86-7).

25 For the central role of Verdichtung in Lazarus, see particularly Graevenitz 1999.

26 Cf. Lazarus (1857/1885: 229-30) and (1862/2003: 27-8).

27 For the influence of Humboldt on Steinthal especially see Belke (1971: civ-cvii) and, of course, Steinthal (1851); in 1884 Steinthal published Humboldt’s Sprachphilosophische Werke, the first collection of its kind. For Boeckh’s judgement of Steinthal see Boeckh (1877: 68), for a compact summary of Boeck’s work see Dostal 2016. Characteristically, Steinthal once spoke of Boeckh’s philology as “the study of the historical development of humanity, the science of its developing Geist” (cited in Belke 1971: ciii).

28 For a detailed reading of Fechner along these lines see Heidelberger (1993, Kap. 2).

29 Stressing their empiricism in social science is consistent with allowing for variation their ethical theories in later years.

30 Belke rightly stressed that Steinthal regarded language as a “mental organ” and was less interested in how language came to be historically than in “the conditions of human consciousness that force the emergence of language” (1971: cvii).

31 As noted above, Jerusalem’s use of the term dates back to (1895: 150) where it is credited to Lazarus.

32 See, e.g., Jerusalem (1923: 219) and (1926: 3-17) and consider his dissent from the anti-metaphysics of Mach whom he followed in all other respects in 1897, 1900 and 1916.

33 For incisive comparisons of Lazarus and Steinthal’s Völkerspsychologie with Wundt’s version, see Belke (1971: cxvi-cxxii) and Bunzl (2003; 80-1); for the descent of a later version of Völkerspsychologie into conformity with Nazi-ideology Guski-Leinwand 2009; on Wundt’s Völkerspsychologie and the later 1930s version, see also Klautke (2013, chs. 2 and 3).

34 For a still relevant corrective account of Tönnies’s work against an image derived from its misuse in the 1930s, see Bickel 1991.

35 Unrecognized traces of Lazarus and Steinthal’s conception of the social entered anthropology and sociology in the work of Franz Boas and Georg Simmel (see Kalmar (1987, passim), and Bunzl (2003: 81-4), on the former, and Köhnke 2003 on the latter); on the dimension of disciplinary competition between emerging social sciences, see Klautke (2013, passim).

36 See Belke (1971: lxxxi Fn. 7) for the relatively small list list of Nachrufe. On the quite scandalous failure to mention Lazarus and Steinthal when they made use of their ideas by other far more prominent philosophers and theorists of culture, see Köhnke 1990.

37 See, again, Jerusalem (1895: 150) for the explicit reference Lazarus as originator of the concept of Verdichtung and Jerusalem 1899b for his knowledgable and, if not faultless, largely fair assessment in his of Steinthal.

38 See, e.g., Lazarus (1857/1885: 80 Fn., 229 Fn.) for replies (also covering Steinthal) to the charge of uncritical Herbartism; see also a telling quote from his lectures in Belke (1971: xx, Fn. 25). See Lazarus & Steinthal (1860: 70), and (ibid.: 3) and Lazarus 1862 for explicit statements contradicting the charge of undue individualism.

39 See Jerusalem 1899b. Jerusalem criticized Wundt’s lack of attention to the social nature of language in his (1905b: 281).

40 It must be added at least at this juncture that Lazarus and Steinthal, like Jerusalem, were Jewish, a fact that, amongst numerous other consequences, accounted for the impediments they faced in their academic careers; see Belke 1971, Köhnke 2003 and Klautke 2013 on the former two and read between the lines of Jerusalem 1922/1925.

41 Still in the tenth edition of his Introduction to Philosophy Jerusalem was moved to remark in retrospect: “Pragmatism did not realize the indispensability of the theoretical concept of truth for science and because of it incurred many unnecessary disputes.” (1923: 83).

42 See Jerusalem (1923: 328-30, 350-1) and (1924: 204-6)

43 See Jerusalem 1908c and 1909b.

44 For such in-person criticism at Heidelberg, see Mally 1909. For Jerusalem’s view of the ongoing debate, see his 1913, and 1914; for a general overview, see again Kusch 1995.

45 See Carnap, Hahn & Neurath (1929/2012: 90). For the pragmatist sympathies of members of the pre-World War One “first” Vienna Circle, see Uebel 2015, and 2016.

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References

Electronic reference

Thomas Uebel, « Wilhelm Jerusalem, the Social Element in his Pragmatism, and its Antecedent in Völkerpsychologie », European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy [Online], XI-1 | 2019, Online since 19 July 2019, connection on 15 September 2019. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/ejpap/1497 ; DOI : 10.4000/ejpap.1497

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About the author

Thomas Uebel

The University of Manchester
thomas.uebel[at]manchester.ac.uk

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