Vygotsky. The Historical Meaning of The Crisis in Psychology: A Methodological Investigation

Chapter 5

We have traced a distinct tendency towards explanation - which already took shape in the struggle between disciplines for supremacy – in the development of particular discoveries into general principles. But in so doing we already proceeded to the second phase of development of a general science which we have mentioned in passing above. In the first phase, which is determined by the tendency towards generalization, the general science is at bottom quantitatively different from the special ones. In the second phase – the phase in which the tendency towards explanation predominates – the internal structure of the general science is already qualitatively distinct from the special disciplines. Not all sciences, as we will see, go through both phases in their development. The majority knows only a general science in its first phase. The reason for this will become clear as soon as we carefully state the qualitative difference of the second phase.

We have seen that the explanatory principle carries us beyond the boundaries of a given science and must interpret the whole unified area of knowledge as a special category or stage of being amidst a number of other categories, i.e., at stake are highly generalized, ultimate, essentially philosophical principles. In this sense the general science is the philosophy of the special disciplines.

In this sense Binswanger [1922, p. 3] says that a general science such as, for example, general biology elaborates the foundations and problems of a whole area of being. Interestingly, the first book that lay the foundation of general biology was called “The philosophy of zoology” (Lamarck). The further a general investigationpenetrates, continues Binswanger, the larger the area it covers, the more abstract and more remote from directly perceived reality the subject matter of such an investigation will become. Instead of living plants, animals, persons, the subject matter of science becomes the manifestations of life and, finally, life itself, just as in physics force and matter replaced bodies and their changes. Sooner or later for each science the moment comes when it must accept itself as a whole, reflect upon its methods and shift the attention from the facts and phenomena to the concepts it utilizes. But from this moment on the general science is distinct from the special one not because it is broader in scope, but because it is organized in a qualitatively different way. No longer does it study the same objects as the special science; rather, it investigates the concepts of this science. It becomes a critical study in the sense Kant used this expression. No longer being a biological or physical investigation, the critical investigation is concerned with the concepts of biology or physics. Consequently, general psychology is defined by Binswanger as a critical reflection upon the basic concepts of psychology, in short, as “a critique of psychology.” It is a branch of general methodology, i.e., of the part of logic that studies the different applications of logical forms and norms in the various sciences in accordance with the formal and material reality of the nature of their objects, their procedures, and their problems.

This argumentation, based on formal logical premises, is only half true. It is correct that the general science is a theory of ultimate foundations, of the general principles and problems of a given area of knowledge, and that consequently its subject matter, methods of investigation, criteria and tasks are different from those in the special disciplines. But it is incorrect to view it as merely a part of logic, as merely a logical discipline, as if general biology is no longer a biological discipline but a logical one, as if general psychology stops being psychology but becomes logic. It is incorrect to view it as merely critique in the Kantian sense, to assume that it only studies concepts. It is first of all incorrect historically, but also according to the essence of the matter and the inner nature of scientific knowledge.

It is incorrect historically, i.e., it does not correspond with the actual state of affairs in any science. There does not exist a single general science in the form described by Binswanger. Not even general biology in the form in which it actually exists, the biology whose foundations were laid by the works of Lamarck and Darwin, the biology which is until now the canon of genuine knowledge of living matter, is, of course, part of logic, but a natural science, albeit of the highest level. Of course, it does not deal with living, concrete objects such as plants and animals, but with abstractions such as organism, evolution of species, natural selection and life, but in the final analysis it nevertheless studies by means of these abstractions the same reality as zoology and botany. It would be as much a mistake to say that it studies concepts and not the reality reflected in these concepts, as it would to say of an engineer who is studying a blueprint of a machine that he is studying a blueprint and not a machine, or of an anatomist studying an atlas that he studies a drawing and not the human skeleton. For concepts as well are no more than blueprints, snapshots; schemas of reality and in studying them we study models of reality, just as we study a foreign country or city on the plan or geographical map.

When it comes to such well developed sciences as physics and chemistry, Binswanger [1922, p. 4] himself is compelled to admit that a broad field of investigations developed in between the critical and empirical poles and that this area is called theoretical, or general, physics, chemistry, etc. He remarks that natural-scientific theoretical psychology, which in principle wishes to be like physics, acts likewise. However abstractly theoretical physics may formulate its subject of study, for example as “the theory of causal dependencies between natural phenomena,” it nevertheless studies real facts. General physics studies the concept of the physical phenomenon itself, of the physical causal link, but not the various laws and theories on the basis of which the real phenomena may be explained as physically causal. The subject matter of investigation of general physics is rather the physical explanation itself.

As we see, Binswanger himself admits that his conception of the general science diverges in one point from the actual conception as it is realized in a number of sciences. They are not differentiated by a greater or lesser degree of abstraction of the concepts – what can be further from the real, empirical things than causal dependency as the subject matter of a whole science? – but by their ultimate focus: general physics, in the end, focuses on real facts which it wishes to explain by means of abstract concepts. The general science is in principle not focused on real facts, but on the concepts themselves and has nothing to do with the real facts.

Admittedly, when a debate between theory and history arises, when there is a discrepancy between the idea and the fact, as in the present case, the debate is always solved in favor of history or fact. The argument from the facts may itself not always be appropriate in the area of fundamental research. Then to the reproach that the ideas and facts do not correspond we are fully justified to answer so much the worse for the facts. In the present case, so much the worse for the sciences when they find themselves in a phase of development in which they have not yet attained the stage of a general science. When a general science in this sense does not yet exist, it does not follow that it will never exist, that it should not exist, that we cannot and must not lay its foundations. We must therefore examine the essence, the logical basis of the problem, and then it will also become possible to clarify the meaning of the historical deviation of the general science from its abstract idea.

It is important to make two points.

1. Every natural-scientific concept, however high the degree of its abstraction from the empirical fact, always contains a clot, a sediment of the concrete, real and scientifically known reality, albeit in a very weak solution, i.e., to every ultimate concept, even to the most abstract, corresponds some aspect of reality which the concept represents in an abstract, isolated form. Even purely fictitious, not natural-scientific but mathematical concepts ultimately contain some echo, some reflection of the real relations between things and the real processes, although they did not develop from empirical, actual knowledge, but purely a priori, via the deductive path of speculative logical operations. As Engels demonstrated, even such an abstract concept as the series of numbers, or even such an obvious fiction as zero, i.e., the idea of the absence of any magnitude, is full of properties that are qualitative, i.e., in the end they correspond in a very remote and dissolved form to real, actual relations. Reality exists even in the imaginary abstractions of mathematics.

16 is not only the addition of 16 unities, it is also the square of 4 and the biquadrate of 2 . ... Only even numbers can be divided by two .. .. For division by 3 we have the rule of the sum of the figures. ... For 7 there is a special law.. .. Zero destroys any other number by which it is multiplied; when it is made divisor or dividend with regard to some other number, this number will in the first case become infinitely large, in the second case infinitely small [Engels, 1925/1978, pp. 522/524].

About both concepts of mathematics one might say what Engels, in the words of Hegel, says about zero: “The non-existence of something is a specific non-existence” [ibid., p. 525], i.e., in the end it is a real non-existence. But maybe these qualities, properties, the specificity of concepts as such, have no relation whatsoever to reality.

Engels [ibid., p. 530] clearly rejects the view that in mathematics we are dealing with purely free creations and imaginations of the human mind to which nothing in the objective world corresponds. Just the opposite is the case. We meet the prototypes of each of these imaginary quantities in nature. The molecule possesses exactly the same properties in relation to its corresponding mass as the mathematical differential in relation to its variable.

Nature operates with these differentials, the molecules, in exactly the same way and according to the same laws as mathematics with its abstract differentials [ibid., p. 531].

In mathematics we forget all these analogies and that is why its abstractions turn into something enigmatic. We can always find

the real relations from which the mathematical relation ... was taken ... and even the natural analogues of the mathematical way to make these relations manifest [ibid., p. 534]

The prototypes of mathematical infinity and other concepts lie in the real world

The mathematical infinite is taken, albeit unconsciously, from reality, and that is why it can only be explained on the basis of reality, and not on the basis of itself, the mathematical abstraction (ibid., p. 534)

If this is true with respect to the highest possible, i.e., mathematical abstraction, then bow much more obvious it is for the abstractions of the real natural sciences. They must, of course, be explained only on the basis of the reality from which the system and not on the basis of themselves, the abstraction.

2. The second point that we need to make in order to present a fundamental analysis of the problem of the general science is the opposite of the first. Whereas the first claimed that the highest scientific abstraction contains an element of reality, the second is the opposite theorem: even the most immediate, empirical, raw, singular natural scientific fact already contains a first abstraction. The real and the scientific fact are distinct in that the scientific fact is a real fact included into a certain system of knowledge, i.e., an abstraction of several features from the inexhaustible sum of features of the natural fact. The material of science is not raw, but logically elaborated, natural material which has been selected according to a certain feature. Physical body, movement, matter – these are all abstractions. The fact itself of naming a fact by a word means to frame this fact in a concept, to single out one of its aspects; it is an act toward understanding this fact by including it into a category of phenomena which have been empirically studied before. Each word already is a theory, as linguists have noted for quite some time and as Potebnya [1913/1993] has brilliantly demonstrated.

Everything described as a fact is already a theory. These are the words of Goethe to which Munsterberg refers in arguing the need for a methodology. When we meet what is called a cow and say: “This is a cow,” we add the act of thinking to the act of perception, bringing the given perception under a general concept. A child who first calls things by their names is making genuine discoveries. I do not see that this is a cow, for this cannot be seen. I see something big, black, moving, plowing, etc., and understand that this is a cow. And this act is an act of classification, of assigning a singular phenomenon to the class of similar phenomena, of systematizing the experience, etc. Thus, language itself contains the basis and possibilities for the scientific knowledge of a fact. The word is the germ of science and in this sense we can say that in the beginning of science was the word.

Who has seen, who has perceived such empirical facts as the heat itself in steam-generation? It cannot be perceived in a single real process, but we can infer this fact with confidence and to infer means to operate with concepts.

In Engels we find a good example of the presence of abstractions and the participation of thought in every scientific fact. Ants have other eyes than we have. They see chemical beams that are invisible to us. This is a fact. How was it established? How can we know that “ants see things that are invisible to us”? Naturally, this is based on the perceptions of our eye, but in addition to that we have not only the other senses but the activity of our thinking as well. Thus, establishing a scientific fact is already a matter of thinking, that is, of concepts.

To be sure, we will never know how these chemical beams look to the ants. Who deplores this is beyond help [Engels, 1925/1978, p. 507].

This is the best example of the non-coincidence of the real and the scientific fact. Here this non-coincidence is presented in an especially vivid way, but it exists to a certain degree in each fact. We never saw these chemical beams and did not perceive the sensations of ants, i.e., that ants see certain chemical beams is not a real fact of immediate experience for us, but for the collective experience of mankind it is a scientific fact. But what to say, then, about the fact that the earth turns around the sun? For here in the thinking of man the real fact, in order to become a scientific fact, had to turn into its opposite, although the earth’s rotation around the sun was established by observations of the sun’s rotations around the earth.

By now we are equipped with all we need to solve this problem and we can go straight for the goal. If at the root of every scientific concept lies a fact and, vice versa, at the basis of every scientific fact lies a concept, then from this it inevitably follows that the difference between general and empirical sciences as regards the object of investigation is purely quantitative and not fundamental. It is a difference of degree and not a difference of the nature of the phenomenon. The general sciences do not deal with real objects, but with abstractions. They do not study plants and animals, but life. Their subject matter is scientific concepts. But life as well is part of reality and these concepts have their prototypes in reality. The special sciences have the actual facts of reality as their subject matter, they do not study life as such, but actual classes and groups of plants and animals. But both the plant and the animal, and even the birch tree and the tiger, and even this birch tree and this tiger are already concepts. And scientific facts as well, even the most primitive ones, are already concepts. Fact and concept form the subject matter of all disciplines, but to a different degree, in different proportion. Consequently, general physics does not cease being a physical discipline and does not become part of logic because it deals with the most abstract physical concepts. Ultimately, even these serve to know some part of reality.

But perhaps the nature of the objects of the general and the special disciplines is really the same, maybe they differ only in the proportion of concept and fact, and the fundamental difference which allows us to count the one as logic and the other as physics lies in the direction, the goal, the point of view of both investigations, so to speak, in the different role played by the same elements in both cases?

Could we perhaps put it like this: both concept and fact participate in the development of the subject matter of any science, but in one case – the case of empirical science – we utilize concepts to acquire knowledge about facts, and in the second – general science – we utilize facts to acquire knowledge about concepts? In the first case the concepts are not the subject matter, the goal, the objective of knowledge, but its tools, means, auxiliary devices. The goal, the subject matter of knowledge are the facts. As a result of the growth of knowledge the number of known facts is enhanced, but not the number of concepts. Like any tool of labor the concepts,in contrast, suffer wear and tear in their use, become worn down, in need of revision and often of replacement. In the second case it is the other way around; we study the concepts themselves as such, their correspondence with the facts is only a means, a way, a method, a verification of their suitability. As a result we do not learn of new facts, but acquire either new concepts or new knowledge about the concepts. After all, we can look twice at a drop of water under the microscope and this will be two completely distinct processes, although both the drop and the microscope will be the same both times: the first time we study the composition of the drop of water by means of the microscope; the second time we verify the suitability of the microscope itself by looking at a drop of water – isn’t it like that?

But the whole difficulty of the problem is exactly that it is not like that. It is true that in a special science we utilize concepts as tools to acquire knowledge of facts. But using tools means at the same time to test them, to study and master them, to throw away the ones that are unfit, to improve them, to create new ones. Already in the very first stage of the scientific processing of empirical material the use of a concept is a critique of the concept by the facts, the comparison of concepts, their modification. Let us take as an example the two scientific facts mentioned above, which definitely do not belong to general science: the earth’s rotation around the sun and the vision of ants. How much critical work on our perceptions and, thus, on the concepts linked with them, how much direct study of these concepts – visibility, invisibility, apparent movement – how much creation of new concepts, of new links between concepts, how much modification of the very concepts of vision, light, movement etc. was needed to establish these facts! And, finally, does not the very selection of the concepts needed to know these facts require an analysis of the concepts in addition to the analysis of the facts? After all, if concepts, as tools, were set aside for particular facts of experience in advance, all science would be superfluous: then a thousand administrator-registrators or statistician-counters could note down the universe on cards, graphs, columns. Scientific knowledge differs from the registration of a fact in that it selects the concept needed, i.e., it analyzes both fact and concept.

Any word is a theory. To name an object is to apply a concept to it. Admittedly, by means of the word we wish to comprehend the object. But each name, each application of the word, this embryo of science, is a critique of the word, a blurring of its form, an extension of its meaning. Linguists have clearly enough demonstrated how words change from being used. After all, language otherwise would never be renewed, words would not die, be born, or become obsolete.

Finally, each discovery in science, each step forward in empirical science is always at the same time an act of criticizing the concept. Pavlov discovered the fact of conditional reflexes. But didn’t he really create a new concept! at the same time? Did we really call a trained, well-learned movement a reflex before? And it cannot be otherwise: if science would only discover facts without extending the boundaries of its concepts, it would not discover anything new. It would make no headway in finding more and more new specimens of the same concepts. Each tiny new fact is already an extension of the concept. Each newly discovered relation between two facts immediately requires a critique of the two corresponding concepts and the establishment of a new relation between them. The conditional reflex is a discovery of a new fact by means of an old concept. We learned that mental salivation develops directly from the reflex, more correctly, that it is the same reflex, but operating under other conditions. But at the same time it is a discovery of a new concept by means of an old fact: by means of the fact “salivation occurs at the sight of food,” which is well known to all of us, we acquired a completely new concept of the reflex, our idea of it diametrically changed. Whereas before, the reflex was a synonym for a premental, unconscious, immutable fact, nowadays the whole mind is reduced to reflexes, the reflex has turned out to be a most flexible mechanism, etc. How would this have been possible if Pavlov had only studied the fact of salivation and not the concept of the reflex? This is essentially the same thing expressed in two ways, for in each scientific discovery knowledge of the fact is to the same extent knowledge of the concept. The scientific investigation of facts differs from registration in that it is the accumulation of concepts, the circulation of concepts and facts with a conceptual return.

Finally, the special sciences create all the concepts that the general science studies. For the natural sciences do not spring from logic, it is not logic that provides them with ready-made concepts. Can we really assume that the creation of ever more abstract concepts proceeds completely unconsciously? How can theories, laws, conflicting hypotheses exist without the critique of concepts? How can we create a theory or advance a hypothesis, i.e., something which transcends the boundaries of the facts, without working on the concepts?

But perhaps the study of concepts in the special sciences proceeds in passing, accidentally as the facts are being studied, whereas the general science studies only concepts? This would not be correct either. We have seen that the abstract concepts with which the general science operates possess a kernel of reality. The question arises what science does with this kernel – is it ignored, forgotten, covered in the inaccessible stronghold of abstractions like pure mathematics? Does one never in the process of investigation, nor after it, turn to this kernel, as if it did not exist at all? One only has to examine the method of investigation in the general science and its ultimate result to see that this is not true. Are concepts really studied by pure deduction, by finding logical relations between concepts, and not by new induction, by new analysis, the establishing of new relations, in a word – by work on the real contents of these concepts? After all, we do not develop our ideas from specific premises, as in mathematics, but we proceed by induction – we generalize enormous groups of facts, compare them, analyze and create new abstractions. This is the way general biology and general physics proceed. And not a single general science can proceed otherwise, since the logical formula “A is B” has been replaced by a definition, i.e., by the real A and B: by mass, movement, body, and organism. And the result of an investigation in a general science is not new forms of inter-relations of concepts, as in logic, but new facts: we learn of evolution, heredity, inertia. How do we learn of this, how do we reach the concept of evolution? We compare such facts as the data of comparative anatomy and physiology, botany and zoology, embryology and photo and zootechnics etc., i.e., we proceed as we proceed with the individual facts in a special science. And on the basis of a new study of the facts elaborated by the various sciences we establish new facts, i.e., in the process of investigation and in its result we are constantly operating with facts.

Thus, the difference between the general and the special science as concerns their goal, orientation, and the elaboration of concepts and facts, again appears to be only quantitative. It is a difference of degree of one and the same phenomenon and not of the nature of two sciences. It is not absolute or fundamental.

Finally, let us proceed to a positive definition of the general science. It might seem that if the difference between general and special science as to their subject matter, method, and goal of study is merely relative and not absolute, quantitative and not fundamental, we lose any ground to distinguish them theoretically. It might seem that there is no general science at all as distinct from the special sciences. But this is not true, of course. Quantity turns into quality here and provides the basis for a qualitatively distinct science. However the latter is not torn away from the given family of sciences and transferred to logic. The fact that at the root of every scientific concept lies a fact does not mean that the fact is represented in every scientific concept in the same way. In the mathematical concept of infinity reality is represented in a way completely different from the way it is represented in the concept of the conditional reflex. In the concepts of a higher order with which the general science is dealing, reality is represented in another way than in the concepts of an empirical science. And the way, character, and form in which reality is represented in the various sciences in every case determines the structure of every discipline.

But this difference in the way of representing reality, i.e., in the structure of the concepts, should not be understood as something absolute either. There are many transitional levels between an empirical science and a general one. Binswanger [1922, p. 4] says that not a single science that deserves the name can “leave it at the simple accumulation of concepts, it strives rather to systematically develop concepts into rules, rules into laws, laws into theories.” The elaboration of concepts, methods, and theories takes place within the science itself during the whole course of scientific knowledge acquisition, i.e., the transition from one pole to the other, from fact to concept, is accomplished without pausing for a single minute. And thereby the logical abyss, the impassable line between general and special science is erased, whereas the factual independence and necessity of a general science is created. Just like the special science itself internally takes care of all the work of funneling facts via rules into laws and laws via theories into hypotheses, general science carries out the same work, by the same method, with the same goals, but for a number of the various special sciences.

This is entirely similar to Spinoza’s argumentation about method. A theory of method is, of course, the production of means of production, to take a comparison from the field of industry. But in industry the production of means of productionis no special, primordial production, but forms part of the general process of production and itself depends upon the same methods and tools of production as all other production.

Spinoza [1677/1955, pp. 11-12] argues that

we must first take care not to commit ourselves to a search going back to infinity, that is, in order to discover the best method for finding the truth, there is no need of another method to discover such method; nor of a third method for discovering the second, and so on to infinity. By such proceedings, we should never arrive at the knowledge of the truth, or, indeed, at any knowledge at all. The matter stands on the same footing as the making of material tools, which might be argued about in a similar way. For, in order to work iron, a hammer is needed, and the hammer cannot be forthcoming unless it has been made; but in order to make it, there was need of another hammer and other tools, and so on to infinity. We might thus vainly endeavor to prove that men have no power of working iron. But as men at first made use of the instruments supplied by nature to accomplish very easy pieces of workmanship, laboriously and imperfectly, and then, when these were finished, wrought other things more difficult with less labor and greater perfection; and so gradually mounted from the simplest operations to the making of tools, and from the making of tools to the making of more complex tools, and fresh feats of workmanship, till they arrived at making, with small expenditure of labor, the vast number of complicated mechanisms which they now possess. So, in like manner, the intellect, by its native strength, makes for itself intellectual instruments, whereby it acquires strength for performing other intellectual operations, and from these operations gets again fresh instruments, or the power of pushing its investigations further, and thus gradually proceeds till it reaches the summit of wisdom.

The methodological current to which Binswanger belongs also admits that the production of tools and that of creative work are, in principle, not two separate processes in science, but two sides of the same process which go hand in hand. Following Rickert, he defines each science as the processing [Bearbeitung] of material, and therefore for him two problems arise in every science – one with respect to the material and the other concerning its processing. One cannot, however, draw such a sharp dividing line, since the concept of the object of the empirical science already contains a good deal of processing. And he (Binswanger, 1922, pp. 7-8) distinguishes between the raw material, the real object [wirklichen Gegenstand] and the scientific object [wissenschafthichen Gegenstand]. The latter is created by science from the real object via concepts. When we raise a third cluster of problems – aboutthe relation between the material and its processing, i.e., between the object and the method of science – the debate must again focus on what is determined by what: the object by the method, or vice versa. Some, like Stumpf, suppose that all differences in method are rooted in differences between the objects. Others, like Rickert, are of the opinion that various objects, both physical and mental, require one and the same method. But, as we see, we do not find grounds for a demarcation of the general from the special science here either.

All this only indicates that we can give no absolute definition of the concept of a general science and that it can only be defined relative to the special science. From the latter it is distinguished not by its object, nor by the method, goal, or result of the investigation. But for a number of special sciences which study related realms of reality from a single viewpoint it accomplishes the same work and by the same method and with the same goal as each of these sciences accomplish for their own material. We have seen that no science confines itself to the simple accumulation of material, but rather that it subjects this material to diverse and prolonged processing, that it groups and generalizes the material, creates a theory and hypotheses which help to get a wider perspective on reality than the one which follows from the various uncoordinated facts. The general science continues the work of the special sciences. When the material is carried to the highest degree of generalization possible in that science, further generalization is possible only beyond the boundaries of the given science and by comparing it with the material of a number of adjacent sciences. This is what the general science does. Its single difference from the special sciences is that it carries out its work with respect to a number of sciences. If it carried out the same work with respect to a single science it would never come to the fore as an independent science, but would remain a part of that single science. The general science can therefore be defined as a science that receives its material from a number of special sciences and carries out the further processing and generalization of the material which is impossible within each of the various disciplines.

The general science therefore stands to the special one as the theory of this special science to the number of its special laws, i.e., according to the degree of generalization of the phenomena studied. The general science develops out of the need to continue the work of the special sciences where these end. The general science stands to the theories, laws, hypotheses and methods of the special sciences as the special science stands to the facts of the reality it studies. Biology receives material from various sciences and processes it in the way each special science does with its own material. The whole difference is that [general] biology begins where embryology, zoology, anatomy etc. stop, that it unites the material of the various sciences, just as a [special] science unites various materials within its own field.

This viewpoint can fully explain both the logical structure of the general science and the factual, historical role of the general science. If we accept the opposite opinion that the general science is part of logic, it becomes completely inexplicable why it is the highly developed sciences, which already managed to create and elaborate very refined methods, basic concepts and theories, which produce a general science. It would seem that new, young, beginning disciplines are more in need of borrowing concepts and methods from another science. Secondly, why does only a group of adjacent disciplines lead to a general science and not each science on its own – why do botany, zoology and anthropology lead to biology? Couldn’t we create a logic of just zoology and just botany, like the logic of algebra? And indeed such separate disciplines can exist and do exist, but this does not make them general sciences, just as the methodology of botany does not become biology.

Like the whole current, Binswanger proceeds from an idealistic conception of scientific knowledge, i.e., from idealistic epistemic premises and a formal logical construction of the system of sciences. For Binswanger, concepts and real objects are separated by an unbridgeable gap. Knowledge has its own laws, its own nature, its a priori, which it projects unto the reality that is known. That is why for Binswanger these a priori, these laws, this knowledge, can be studied separately, in isolation from what is cognized by them. For him a critique of scientific reason in biology, psychology, and physics is possible, just like the critique of pure reason was possible for Kant. Binswanger is prepared to admit that the method of knowing determines reality, just as in Kant reason dictated the laws of nature. For him the relations between sciences are not determined by the historical development of these sciences and not even by the demands of scientific experience, i.e., in the final analysis they are not determined by the demands of the reality studied by this science, but by the formal logical structure of the concepts.

In another philosophical system such a conception would be unthinkable, i.e., when we reject these epistemological and formal logical premises, the whole conception of the general science falls immediately. As soon as we accept the realistic, objective, i.e., the materialistic viewpoint in epistemology and the dialectical viewpoint in logic and in the theory of scientific knowledge, such a theory becomes impossible. With that new viewpoint we must immediately accept that reality determines our experience, the object of science and its method and that it is entirely impossible to study the concepts of any science independent of the realities it represents.

Engels [1925/1978, p. 514] has pointed out many times that for dialectical logic the methodology of science is a reflection of the methodology of reality. He says that

The classification of sciences of which each analyzes a different form of movement, or a number of movements that are connected and merge into each other, is at the same time a classification, an ordering according to the inherent order of these forms of movement themselves and in this resides their importance.

Can it be said more clearly? In classifying the sciences we establish the hierarchy of reality itself

The so-called objective dialectic reigns in all nature, and the so-called subjective dialectic, dialectical thinking, is only a reflection of the movement by opposition, that reigns in all nature [ibid., p. 481].

Here the demand to take account of the objective dialectic in studying the subjective dialectic, i.e., dialectical thinking in some science, is clearly expressed. Of course, by no means does this imply that we close our eyes to the subjective conditions of this thinking. The same Engels who established a correspondence between being and thinking in mathematics says that “all laws of number are dependent upon and determined by the system that is used. In the binary and ternary system 2 x 2 does not = 4, but = 100 or = 11” [ibid., p. 523]. Extending this, we might say that subjective assumptions which follow from knowledge will always influence the way of expressing the laws of nature and the relation between the different concepts. We must take them into account, but always as a reflection of the objective dialectic.

We must, therefore, contrast epistemological critique and formal logic as the foundations of a general science with a dialectic “which is conceived of as the science of the most general laws of all movement. This implies that its laws must be valid for both movement in nature and human history and movement in thinking”[ibid., p. 530]. This means that the dialectic of psychology – this is what we may now call the general psychology in opposition to Binswanger’s definition of a “critique of psychology” – is the science of the most general forms of movement (in the form of behavior and knowledge of this movement), i.e., the dialectic of psychology is at the same time the dialectic of man as the object of psychology, just as the dialectic of the natural sciences is at the same time the dialectic of nature.

Engels does not even consider the purely logical classification of judgments in Hegel to be based merely on thinking, but on the laws of nature. This he regards as a distinguishing characteristic of dialectical logic.

What in Hegel seems a development of the judgment as a category of thinking as such, now appears to be a development of our knowledge of the nature of movement based on empirical grounds. And this proves that the laws of thinking and the laws of nature correspond necessarily with each other as soon as they are known properly [ibid., p. 493]

The key to general psychology as a part of dialectics lies in these words: this correspondence between thinking and being in science is at the same time object, highest criterion, and even method, i.e., general principle of the general psychology.