Ziehen, Theodor (1862–1950)

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Theodor Ziehen, the German psychologist and philosopher, was born in Frankfurt am Main and served as professor of psychiatry at the universities of Jena, Utrecht, Halle, and Berlin. He lived as a private scholar in Wiesbaden from 1912 to 1917, when he returned to teaching as professor of philosophy and psychology at the University of Halle. He retired in 1930.

Ziehen's viewpoint in epistemology is in the broadest sense positivistic. Knowledge must start with that which is experientially given, which Ziehen termed "becomings" (gignomene ). From this "gignomenal principle" follows the "principle of immanence," according to which there is no such thing as metaphysical knowledge of the transcendental, and therefore it is nonsensical to want to know that which is not given. The first task of philosophy thus consists in seeking the laws of all that is given (the "positivistic" or "nomistic" principle). According to Ziehen, such a "gignomenological" investigation leads to the conclusion that the traditional antithesis between the subjective, mental world of consciousness and the objective, material external world is inadmissible because the given is "psychophysically neutral." We must, however, distinguish two kinds of law-governed relations: The gignomene are to be called mental insofar as they are considered with regard to their "parallel components" (the mental, subjective ingredients of experiences, which parallel certain physiological processes); and the gignomene are to be understood as physical insofar as attention is fixed on their "reduction ingredients" ("reducts"), which are subject to causal laws.

Thus, Ziehen did not distinguish in the customary manner between material and mental reality; rather, he sought to understand the structure of the given, which he claimed to be the sole reality, in terms of two kinds of regularitiescausal laws and parallel laws. Viewed from this "binomistic" standpoint, which assumes a twofold conformance to law in the given, real things appear as possibilities of perception, as potential perceptions, as "virtual reducts" that are both "transgressive" and "intramental." They lie beyond the boundaries of the individual content of consciousness, but they are nevertheless not situated "behind" experience but are immanent in it. Thus, real things represent certain aspects of experience that are determined by the causal type of laws. The processes governed by causal law ("the laws of nature") go along specific paths with a specific velocity; through the parallel laws that direct mental life, the gignomene are transformed into individual experiences.

Thus, for Ziehen psychology stood in contrast with the other natural sciencesthe causal sciencesas the science of the "parallel component" of the given. Ziehen combated what he considered to be mythologizing faculty psychology, including Wilhelm Wundt's theory of apperception. He advocated a physiologically oriented, analytic, serial, or associationist approach to the subject. To association he added a second factor regulating the course of consciousnessthe "constellation." A constellation arises at a given time from the mutual inhibition and stimulation of ideas, and it selects from the many ideas that are associated and, hence, ready for reproduction. In addition to association and constellation, Ziehen assumed three other basic mental functionssynthesis, analysis, and comparison.

Besides the causal laws and the parallel laws, Ziehen assumed a third, more general kind of regularityconformity to logical lawscommon to and set above the two other kinds of laws.

Ziehen also wrote on the philosophy of religion. He identified God with the regularity governing the world. God must be thought of as the essence or embodiment of "regularity in general"; as the totality of logical regularity, of natural laws, and of the laws of mental and spiritual life. It would be an inadmissible anthropomorphism to look beyond the regularities for a personal source of them.

See also Basic Statements; Epistemology; Laws of Nature; Philosophy of Religion; Positivism; Psychology; Wundt, Wilhelm.


works by ziehen

Leitfaden der physiologischen Psychologie. Jena, Germany: Fischer, 1891; 12th ed., 1924.

Erkenntnistheorie auf psychophysiologischer und physikalischer Grundlage. Jena, Germany: Fischer, 1913; 2nd ed., published as Erkenntnistheorie, 2 parts, 19341939.

Die Grundlagen der Psychologic, 2 vols. Leipzig and Berlin: Teubner, 1915.

Lehrbuch der Logik. Bonn: A. Marcus and E. Weber, 1920.

Autobiography in Die Philosophie der Gegenwart in Selbstdarstellungen, Vol. IV. Edited by Raymond Schmidt. Leipzig: Meiner, 1923.

Vorlesungen über die Ästhetik, 2 parts. Halle: Niemeyer, 19231925.

Die Grundlagen der Religionsphilosophie. Leipzig, 1928.

works on ziehen

Graewe, H. "Theodor Ziehen zum 90. Geburtstag." Die Pyramide (Innsbruck) (11) (1952): 201202.

Peters, Wilhelm. "Theodor Ziehen zum 70. Geburtstag." Kant-Studien 37 (1932): 237240.

Ulrich, Martha. "Der Ziehen'sche Binomismus und sein Verhältnis zur Philosophie der Gegenwart." Kant-Studien 25 (1921): 366395.

Franz Austeda (1967)

Translated by Albert E. Blumberg