From Classicism and Idealism to Scientific Naturalism: Titchener’s Oxford Years and Their Impact Upon His Early Intellectual Development

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Abstract

Edward Titchener (1867–1927) is one of the most prominent figures in the history of American psychology from the early 20th century. Accordingly, his psychological system—structuralism—has received due attention in the secondary literature. However, a closer look at traditional interpretations of the development of Titchener’s ideas reveals a series of missing elements, such as his early studies before going to Leipzig. The central goal of this article is to present the main elements of Titchener’s intellectual education in Oxford, thereby showing the influence of the British tradition of the 19th century upon his early intellectual development. On the basis of hitherto unexplored primary sources, we discuss Titchener’s relationship with British idealism and scientific naturalism, two movements that shaped a significant part of British psychological thinking in the 19th century. We conclude that Titchener’s Oxford years are much more relevant to understanding his intellectual development than the literature has so far assumed.

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