Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-19, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 23 January, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2019.


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core definition

Psychologism is the theory that psychology is the foundation of philosophy.

explanatory context

This suggests that introspection is the most appropriate method of philosophical enquiry.

Originally propounded in the early 19th century by two German philosophers J. K. Fries and F. E. Beneke, psychologism has since been particularly associated with a tendency in logic that dervied from the work of J.S. Mill. Mill claimed, for example, that all mathematical axioms and principles of logic are revealed by introspection.

Psychologism also refers to the attempt to explain social phenomena on the basis of facts and theories about the make-up of individuals. In this sense psychologism denies the reality of social structure or else reduces structure to the 'social setting' in order to provide an explanatory frame. An implication of this is that compounding a series of discrete studies of individuals and their milieux will lead to knowledge of the social structure. In short psychologism rejects the idea that social structure is independent of the individuals that compose it.

Psychologism has also been used as a rather unspecific general term of abuse directed at various forms of positivistic thinking.

In another context, psychologism is arguably manifest in the retreat to introspective knowledge that is evident in postmodernist art and art theory.

analytical review

associated issues


related areas

See also





copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2019


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