Fechner, Gustav Theodor

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Fechner, Gustav Theodor

(go͝os`täf tā`ōdōr fĕkh`nər), 1801–87, German philosopher and physicist, founder of psychophysics, educated at Dresden and Leipzig. He became professor of physics at Leipzig in 1834 but was forced by ill health to leave in 1839. Thereafter he devoted himself largely to the study of the relationship between body and mind, although under the name "Dr. Mises" he also wrote humorous satire. In philosophy he was an animist, maintaining that life is manifest in all objects of the universe. His greatest achievement was in the investigation of exact relationships in psychology and aesthetics. He formulated the rule known as Fechner's, or Weber's, law, that, within limits, the intensity of a sensation increases as the logarithm of the stimulus. Two of Fechner's most important works were Zendavesta (1851) and Elementen der Psychophysik (1860).

Fechner, Gustav Theodor

 

Born Apr. 19, 1801, in Gross-Särchen, near Muskau; died Nov. 18, 1887, in Leipzig. German physicist, psychologist, and idealist philosopher; writer of satire under the pen name of Dr. Mises.

Fechner was one of the founders of experimental psychology and the originator of experimental aesthetics (namely, an approach to aesthetics “from below”—on the basis of experience and induction—rather than from philosophical constructions). He was professor of physics at the University of Leipzig from 1834 to 1840; forced by illness and partial blindness to abandon the study of physics, he turned to philosophy. Sharing in many respects the views of F. von Schelling, Fechner interpreted them in the spirit of panpsychism, positing an animated universe and regarding the material as the obverse of the psychic. As further developed in his writings, Fechner’s psychophysics was a special science dealing with the relationship between psychic and physical phenomena, or what he called psychophysical parallelism. Using the language of mathematics, Fechner described the experimentally established correlation between a sensation and its stimulus known as the Weber-Fechner law.

WORKS

Elemente der Psychophysik. Leipzig, 1860.
Zend-Avesta, oder iiber die Dinge des Himmels und des Jenseits, 5th ed., vols. 1–2. Leipzig, 1922.
Vorschule der Ästhetik, 3rd ed., vols. 1–2. Leipzig, 1925.

REFERENCES

Iaroshevskii, M. G. Istoriia psikhologii. Moscow, 1966. Chapter 9.
Kuntze, J. Gustav Theodor Fechner. Leipzig, 1892.

M. G. IAROSHEVSKII