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Ueberwasser's and Fürstenberg's commitment to psychology as an independent scientific discipline clearly exceeds the emphasis that is typically found in academic discussions of empirical psychological during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century (Meier, 1757; Schmid, 1791; Herbart, 1824/1825).
Furthermore, these developments seem to parallel the well-known, later achievements of Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) with his Lectures on Human and Animal Psychology (Wundt, 1863; Ger.: “Vorlesungen über die Menschen- und Thierseele”) and his official foundation of the Leipzig laboratory in 1879 (Wontorra et al., 2004).
These developments did not allow for Ueberwasser's legacy to strive, and his former pupils arranged with the new order by moving to clerical schools in the Münster area (Hegel, 1971). Dessen Leben und Wirken nebst Seinen Schriften über Erziehung und Unterricht [Franz von Fürstenberg.
It seems well possible that—without being overshadowed by such drastic political events—Ueberwasser's legacy might have outlasted his death in 1812. His Life and Achievements, Accompanied by his Writings on Education and Teaching.].
This argument notwithstanding, Ueberwasser still seems to be the first academic to have considered himself a psychologist so that Ueberwasser as well as Fürstenberg certainly deserve prominent places in the (pre-) history of scientific psychology.
Both authors were involved in the historiographical research leading to this opinion paper. Die Tätigkeit des Ministers Franz Freiherrn von Fürstenberg auf dem Gebiet der inneren Politik des Fürstbistums Münster 1763 – 1780 [The Work of Minister Franz Freiherr von Fürstenberg on the Subject of Inner Politics of the Prince-Bishopric of Münster].
For instance, both emphasize the utility of physiological processes for understanding psychology, while simultaneously arguing against physiological reductionism.
Thus, physiology is mainly seen as providing methods and approaches for testing and validating psychological accounts.
In addition to these structural similarities, Ueberwasser's and Wundt's conceptions of scientific psychology also converge on a number of critical theoretical aspects.These commonalities beg the question of whether Ueberwasser's legacy should be construed either as an early precursor of contemporary psychology or, alternatively, whether it deserves even stronger recognition in terms of a founding date of scientific psychology?We believe that—despite being outstanding and unparalleled at their time—Ueberwasser's achievements still fall short of a true foundation of scientific psychology, for the sole reason that his works did not establish a continued tradition of scientific psychology in the academic system nor do they seem to have been pivotal at inspiring later developments, particularly early psychophysical work (e.g., Fechner, 1860), or Wundt's comprehensive approach to psychology (cf. Rather, Ueberwasser's legacy seems to have disappeared relatively quickly, so that only few references to his work appear even in writings that were published shortly after his death, i.e., at the outset of the nineteenth century (Carus, 1808; Biunde, 1832). Prior to his academic appointments, Ueberwasser had been a novice in the Society of Jesus, thus pursuing a clerical career.Following traditional procedures, the foundation of the university was authorized by Pope Clement XIV., and later ratified by Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II.The university itself was inaugurated in 1780 and comprised of four canonical faculties: Philosophy, providing general education for all students, and the three applied faculties of Jurisdiction, Medicine, and Theology.
But were these developments groundbreaking enough to advocate for pre-dating the beginnings of scientific psychology?