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Dessoir, Max (1867-1947)

Dessoir, Max (1867-1947)

German psychologist who had a special interest in parapsychology he coined the term during or before 1889. He also had both talent and interest in art and aesthetics. A precocious child, he was an accomplished musician who played the violin for the German emperor. His experiments in muscle reading and thought-transference were undertaken in 1885 at the age of 18 and reported in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research (1885). Three years later he founded the Gesellschaft fur Experimental Psychologie (Society for Experimental Psychology), dedicated to the study of hypnosis and paranormal phenomena.

Dessoir collaborated with Albert Moll on experiments in hypnotic rapport. He originated a theory of "Doppel-Ich" or double ego, suggesting that human consciousness is not a unit merely to our own consciousness, but actually consists of at least two distinguishable personalities, each held together by its own chain of memories. Because of this, an action that is quite intelligible can be performed unconsciously (i.e., without the agent noticing what he or she is doing, or even breaking off a conversation).

As he matured, Dessoir saw himself as an instrument for educating the German public on psychical research. He founded the periodical Zeitschrift für kritischen Okkultismus and wrote Vom Jenseits der Seele (1917). He also investigated several mediums including Eusapia Palladino.

Sources:

Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York: Paragon House, 1991.

Dessoir, Max. Aesthetics and the Theory of Art. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1970.

. Einleitung in die Philosophie. N.p., 1946.

. "Experiments in Muscle-Reading and Thought-Transference." Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 4 (1889): 111.

. Das Ich, der Traum, der Tod. N.p., 1947.

. Psychologische Briefe. N.p., 1948.

. Die Rede als Kunst. N.p., 1948.

Hövelman, G. H. "Neglected Figures in the History of Parapsychology. I. Some General Reflections." In Liber Amicorum in Honoue of G. A. M. Zorab, edited by F. W. J. J. Snel. Amsterdam: Nederlander Vereniging voor Parapsychologie, 1986.

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Dessoir, Max

Max Dessoir (mäx dĕswär,´), 1867–1947, German philosopher. He earned doctorates from the universities of Berlin (philosophy, 1889) and Würtzburg (medicine, 1892). He was a professor at Berlin from 1897 until 1933, when the Nazis forbade him to teach. He worked mainly in the area of aesthetics, trying to foster a general science of great art. Dessoir understood an aesthetic object to be one occurring either in nature or in art, the parts of which are related to each other with an intensity beyond that of normal experience. He defined five primary forms of aesthetic experience: beauty, ugliness, comedy, tragedy, and the sublime. He saw the role of art as moral an social and regarded "Art for art's sake" as a futile and fatuous maxim. Dessoir was also interested in parapsychology. Among his few works translated into English are Outlines of the History of Psychology (tr. 1912) and Aesthetics and Theory of Art (tr. 1970).

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