A FORGOTTEN CONTRIBUTION OF HERBART (1837/1851) TO THE LITERATURE ON THE MEASUREMENT OF SENSATIONS

  • David J. Murray

Abstract

It was in 1824 that J. F. Herbart (1776-1841) presented the most complete version of his Newtonian model of events involving consciously experienced mental representations (Vorstellungen). In 1837, Herbart wrote a fragment (published posthumously, in 1851) concerning the measurability of Vorstellungen. According to Herbart, mental sensation- Vorstellungen differ quantitatively from the physical objects they represent in not possessing spatial dimensions, and in having magnitudes on a psychological dimension as opposed to a physical dimension (with the boundaries of the former differing qualitatively from those of the latter). Because, in Herbart’s model, interactions between Vorstellungen always demand the simultaneous presence of at least two Vorstellungen, Herbart contended that the laboratory measurement of the strength of a single sensation is not necessarily relevant to the establishment of either the validity or the reliability of his model. This opinion anticipated present-day viewpoints such as that of Laming (1997) concerning sensation measurability.

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