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Naming the Mind: How Psychology Found Its Language (1997)

Kurt Danziger

Also available in Japanese translation.


Intelligence, motivation, personality, learning, stimulation, behaviour and attitude are just some of the categories that map the terrain of `psychological reality'. These are the concepts which, among others, underpin theoretical and empirical work in modern psychology - and yet these concepts have only recently taken on their contemporary meanings.

In this fascinating work, Kurt Danziger goes beyond the taken-for-granted quality of psychological language to offer a profound and broad-ranging analysis of the recent evolution of the concepts and categories on which it depends. He explores this process and shows how its consequences depend on cultural contexts and the history of an emergent discipline.

Danziger's internationally acclaimed Constructing the Subject examined the historical dependence of modern psychology on the social practices of psychological investigation. In Naming the Mind, he develops a complementary account that looks at the historically changing structure of psychological discourse.

Naming the Mind is an elegant and persuasive explanation of how modern psychology found its language. It will be invaluable reading for students and academics throughout psychology, and for anyone with an interest in the history of the human sciences.


“I wish I had it in my power to make this book by Kurt Danziger required reading for any psychologist who teaches or contemplates teaching a course in the history of the field. Why? Because it eloquently challenges the current view that the category language of the 20th-century American psychology reflects a natural and universal order of psychological phenomena. In Naming the Mind: How Psychology Found Its Language, Danziger shows very convincingly what is wrong with that picture” - Laurel Furumoto, Theory & Psychology

Naming the Mind consolidates a vast body of scholarship on psychological language and offers a persuasive model for appreciating the dynamic play and implications of this expert language....For those researchers concerned with psychology's language, Naming the Mind is a smart read" - Jill Morawski, Feminism & Psychology

"Danziger is to be congratulated for his vision, his courage, and his articulate style in delivering his devastating message that today's psychology is not forever." - Michael Wertheimer, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences

"...helps to reveal the socially constructive character of psychological categories that are often taken as 'natural' entities in a reality independent of sociocultural processes. His method for doing this, however, is not ethnographic, but historical, and his book demonstrates how historical analysis can make an important contribution to the ongoing development of psychology." Harry Heft, The Psychological Record

"Kurt Danziger’s Naming the Mind: How Psychology Found Its Language, published in 1997, has already been highly valued as a must-read book in the domain of history of psychology, theoretical psychology, and critical psychology ... This review will evaluate the book from the viewpoint of the philosophy of mind and its relevant domains in philosophy. My conclusion is that this book is also a must-read for philosophers." - Tetsuya Kono, Philosophy of the Social Sciences


See a preview in Google Books.