I have spent the better part of the last twelve years or so worrying about what it is to psychologize and to depsychologize something. This has provided a specific focus for much of what I have written on Wittgenstein, who is, I believe, the master of masters of depsychologizing, master even of Frege. I take very seriously Cavell’s notion that PI’s business is depsychologizing psychology, both one’s own and others’.
A focus on Frege-influenced forms of depsychologism (re: mathematics, logic) can hide the ubiquity of what Martin Buber, in a fascinating little essay, “On the Psychologizing of the World”, calls Naive Psychologism. What he gives this title could be regarded as a form of egotism (where that is a moral failure) but that is not quite what or at any rate quite all that he is talking about. What he is talking about rather is what we might call a common picture of oneself as beginning and ending at the skin, at the edge of the body. What matters, all that could matter, is what happens on or under our skin. That is all we’ve got. Now, the Naive Psychologizer does not understand what happens on or under our skin in a clearly physical way; he is not clearly thinking of surface irritations or stimulations, or of sub-epidermal electrochemical events. (If he were, he’d perhaps be moving in the direction of what Buber calls Scientific Psychologism.) He is thinking of what happens “in his head”, of what he feels “inside”. (Think of Naive Psychologism as a coarse empirical idealism.) This is what matters. And if anything outside the skin matters, that is only really a function of something on or under the skin mattering.
Buber asserts this Naive Psychologism has affected even the erotic. Our erotic lives have become about nothing more than successive, differentiated “inside” feelings; the erotic partner’s role is to excite those feelings, and if the partner’s “inside” feelings matter, it is only for the sake of insuring more or future “inside feelings” for us. (And of course we may have good “inside” feelings because they are having good “inside” feelings.) The possibility that the erotic could be a form of conversation–dialogue, a meeting of persons–and not merely a causal transaction (a hook up) is barely, if at all, imaginable. That it could edify the persons, well, that is unimaginable. The erotic can satisfy, perhaps, on an “inside” model of that; but it cannot upbuild.
I mention this, and I mention Naive Psychologism, because I want to indicate just how easily psychologism comes to us, even in areas of our lives unlikely as locations for psychologism to disport itself. Naive Psychologism is also important because it reveals that Philosophical Psychologism—about mathematics, logic, psychology—is aided and abetted by a common picture of who and what we are.