Research Article Open Access

The Growth of Awareness and Introspection in History. Mystical Interpretations of Mental Activities and of Social or Physical Incidents

Georg W. Oesterdiekhoff1, Jörn Rüsen2 and Helmut Spinner3
  • 1 Karlsruhe Institute for Sociology, Germany
  • 2 Philosophy, KIT, Germany
  • 3 University of Witten-Herdecke, Germany
Journal of Social Sciences
Volume 16 No. 1, 2020, 112-124

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3844/jssp.2020.112.124

Submitted On: 11 June 2020
Published On: 5 August 2020

How to Cite: Oesterdiekhoff, G. W., Rüsen, J. & Spinner, H. (2020). The Growth of Awareness and Introspection in History. Mystical Interpretations of Mental Activities and of Social or Physical Incidents. Journal of Social Sciences, 16(1), 112-124. https://doi.org/10.3844/jssp.2020.112.124

Abstract

Historians, philologists and scholars of antiquity have described how people in pre-modern societies tend to see their own thought processes, decisions and actions as being influenced and made by external forces. It was recognized early on that this mystical interpretation of actions could be an indication of a different structuring of the archaic psyche. It was claimed that this psyche was characterized by a lower reflexivity. Modern cross-cultural psychology has the experimental methods and theoretical concepts to test these bold theses of historians. In particular, Piagetian psychology has carried out countless experiments on people from pre-modern societies, which have served to test the level of reflexivity. Pre-operational thinking is characterized by irreversibility, i.e., by the lack of ability to grasp the starting and end points of actions and the transformations of objects that occur in perception. This corresponds to a lack of introspection and reflexivity. It is therefore possible to connect the merely descriptive procedures of historians and social scientists with the experimental test methods of psychologists. One arrives at surprising results that go so far as to better understand the internal psychology of the people depicted in the Homeric epics.

Download

Keywords

  • Mind
  • Reflexivity
  • Consciousness
  • Psychological Stages
  • Pre-Modern Society
  • Ancient Culture