Külpe, Oswald

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Külpe, Oswald


Born Aug. 3, 1862, in Kandava, now Tukums Raion, Latvian SSR; died Dec. 30, 1915, in Munich. German psychologist and idealist philosopher. In philosophy, an exponent of critical realism. Student of the German psychologist W. Wundt. Professor at Würzburg (1894–1909), Bonn (1909–13), and Munich (from 1913).

The main theme of Külpe’s work is the psychological foundations of the theory of knowledge. According to Külpe, the act of consciousness contributes to the “realization” of the object— that is, its disclosure in the experience of the subject. This act can be observed only after its achievement—that is, by means of retrospective reflection. Developing Wundt’s ideas in the direction of an original psychology of the spirit and relying on the idealist principles of phenomenology for philosophical support, Külpe turned to the study of higher psychic processes: thought and volition. He considered the domain of psychological research to be “empirical thinking”—those mental acts and states that actualize “pure thinking,” that is, thinking subject to the rules of formal logic. According to Külpe, the specific characteristics of thinking consist of its lack of imagery and the presence of special “meanings” that impart unity, stability, and direction. The Würzburg school created by Külpe devoted itself to bringing to light the specific content of thinking. The works of Külpe and his disciples (N. Ach, K. Bühler, and others) served as a starting point for the experimental psychology of thinking of the 20th century.


Die Realisierung, vols. 1–3. Leipzig, 1912–23.
Vorlesungen über Psychologie, 2nd ed. Leipzig, 1922.
In Russian translation:
Vvedenie v filosofiiu. St. Petersburg, 1901.
Sovremennaia filosofiia v Germanii. Moscow, 1903.
“Sovremennaia psikhologiia myshleniia.” In Novye idei v filosofii, no. 16. St. Petersburg, 1914.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.