by Carrie Bly (MDes '19)
This thesis seeks to understand, to apprehend and to grasp the significance of, the perception of a gap between mind and body, thinking and feeling, at the turn of the twentieth century in German-American discourses of psychology and design. Specifically, this paper follows these discourses as they circulate through Wilhelm Wundt’s Apperception Schema. Wundt is a founding father of psychology, as the discipline is narrated and defined today. The Apperception Schema first emerged circa 1880 in the second edition of his text Grundzüge der physiologischen Psychologie (1874-1911), which immediately became a landmark in 19th century German and European studies of mind. Recently, circa 2000, the Apperception Schema has reappeared in histories of design; specifically in Zeynep Çelik Alexander’s Kinaesthetic Knowing (2017) which examines the formation of Bauhaus pedagogy through its connection to German psychology. Throughout most of Alexander’s book Wundt is a shadow, referred to time and time again to bring contrast and relief to educators, artists and designers grafting psychological techniques and concepts into their respective fields. This thesis takes a close look at Wundt and his Apperception Schema in order to give further definition to his presence in the background of Alexander’s narrative and the context that both German-based psychology and design grew into and out of. The significance of the Apperception Schema in the center of this disciplinarily fractured disquisition is not only its attempt to bridge the perceived gap between irreducible conceptions of mind and body, thinking and feeling, but also to represent and challenge categorical descriptions and knowledges prescribed to each. I explore these bipolar tensions as they take the shape of metaphysical, methodological and institutional debates in late-nineteenth century German psychology and, through Alexander’s work, as they become codified in Bauhaus pedagogy. If the European Enlightenment epitomizes the power of intellectual knowing, and Alexander’s text articulates an equally hegemonic history of bodily knowing, the Apperception Schema lies between these two. It is an entry point to the irresolvable constructions of mind and body, feeling and thinking that gave birth to psychology, that psychology was intended to resolve, that made their way into design pedagogy, and that, like Wundt himself, continue to shadow both fields today.