Who Has The Better Claim to Being The “Father of Psychology”, Charles Darwin or Wilhelm Wundt?

A Psychology paper on the foundations of Psychology.

Many people misconceive that Sigmund Freud is the clear ‘father of psychology’. However Freud’s work was preceded by a vast majority of significant, and unlikely, sources which contributed to both nineteenth and twentieth century psychology. His work fell after the renaissance of scientific thought and industrialization. It is impossible, by definition, to become the father of something that already exists. Psychology is a practice that evolved during the nineteenth century and evoked ideas which gave birth to what we’d associate with modern psychology and the study of the mind. Wilhelm Wundt was a German psychologist. Possibly the first man to be labeled in psychology. The evidence for Wilhelm Wundt to being the father of psychology is profound and clear. Charles Darwin’s claim on the other hand, is not, and mostly indirect.

It would not be unfair to suggest that Wilhelm Wundt has a much clearer bearing towards being the father of psychology than Charles Darwin. His claims are through very clear markers, such as opening the first ever psychological laboratory at the University of Leipzig, Germany, in 1879. He published such founding papers as ‘Principles of Physiological Psychology’. The reason this paper and others like it are important are because of it’s contents, because of the questions Wundt asks of the reader. Questions that had never been asked properly before. ‘What are the characteristics that justify our attributing

mental functions to a living body, an object in the domain of animate nature?’  is such a question that was asked in his paper. And such questions are important because they are still relevant and questionable today. For example if you took a machine and programmed it to be able to play chess independently of human interaction, if you programmed it to be able to beat the best players then would it be considered alive? What constitutes life? Surely the machine just makes logical choices with the facts presented to it, but how does that separate it from the human mind?

Image via Wikipedia - Wundt in his Laboratory, the first of it’s kind.

                  Charles Darwin, on the other hand, has a much more subtle and indirect claim to fathering a discipline that he did not concern himself with in his lifetime. Charles Darwin’s famous work ‘The Origin of Species’ sparked a significant development in scientific thought of the time. His work generated new opinion and ideas.

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