In John Lachs and Robert Talisse (ed.), American Philosophy: an Encyclopedia. ROUTLEDGE. pp. 628-9 (2007)
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Corcoran, J. 2007. Psychologism. American Philosophy: an Encyclopedia. Eds. John Lachs and Robert Talisse. New York: Routledge. Pages 628-9. Psychologism with respect to a given branch of knowledge, in the broadest neutral sense, is the view that the branch is ultimately reducible to, or at least is essentially dependent on, psychology. The parallel with logicism is incomplete. Logicism with respect to a given branch of knowledge is the view that the branch is ultimately reducible to logic. Every branch of knowledge depends on logic. Psychologism is found in several fields including history, political science, economics, ethics, epistemology, linguistics, aesthetics, mathematics, and logic. Logicism is found mainly in branches of mathematics: number theory, analysis, and, more rarely, geometry. Although the ambiguous term ‘psychologism’ has senses with entirely descriptive connotations, it is widely used in senses that are derogatory. No writers with any appreciation of this point will label their own views as psychologistic. It is usually used pejoratively by people who disapprove of psychologism. The term ‘scientism’ is similar in that it too has both pejorative and descriptive senses but its descriptive senses are rarely used any more. It is almost a law of linguistics that the negative connotations tend to drive out the neutral and the positive. Dictionaries sometimes mark both words with a usage label such as “Usually disparaging”. In this article, the word is used descriptively mainly because there are many psychologistic views that are perfectly respectable and even endorsed by people who would be offended to have their views labeled psychologism. A person who subscribes to logicism is called a logicist, but there is no standard word for a person who subscribes to psychologism. ‘Psychologist’, which is not suitable, occurs in this sense. ‘Psychologician’, with stress on the second syllable as in ‘psychologist’, has been proposed. In the last century, some of the most prominent forms of psychologism pertained to logic; the rest of this article treats only such forms. Psychologism in logic is very “natural”. After all, logic studies reasoning, which is done by the mind, whose nature and functioning is studied in psychology—using the word ‘psychology’ in its broadest etymological sense.
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