Sunday, 22 January 2017

What was phrenology?


Franz Joseph Gall
Phrenology was a science of character divination, faculty psychology, theory of brain and what the 19th-century phrenologists called "the only true science of mind." Phrenology came from the theories of the idiosyncratic Viennese physician Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828). The basic tenets of Gall's system were:
1.The brain is the organ of the mind.
2. The mind is composed of multiple, distinct, innate faculties.
3. Because they are distinct, each faculty must have a separate seat or "organ" in the brain.
4. The size of an organ, other things being equal, is a measure of its power.
5. The shape of the brain is determined by the development of the various organs.
6. As the skull takes its shape from the brain, the surface of the skull can be read as an accurate index of psychological aptitudes and tendencies. (For a description in Gall's own words see: Letter to von Retzer)
So it was believed that by examining the shape and unevenness of a head or skull, one could discover the development of the particular cerebral "organs" responsible for different intellectual aptitudes and character traits. For example, a prominent protuberance in the forehead at the position attributed to the organ of Benevolence was meant to indicate that the individual had a "well developed" organ of Benevolence and would therefore be expected to exhibit benevolent behaviour. The organ of Benevolence compared from Combe 1850.
However, like so many popular sciences, Gall and the phrenologists sought only confirmations for their hypotheses and did not apply the same standard to contradictory evidence. Any evidence or anecdote which seemed to confirm the science was readily and vociferously accepted as "proof" of the "truth" of phrenology. At the same time, contradictory findings, such as a not very benevolent and disagreeable person having a well-developed organ of Benevolence were always explained away. This was often done by claiming that the activity of other organs counteracted Benevolence. What was never accepted by phrenologists, however, was that admitting that the activity of a particular faculty could be independent of the size of its organ undermined the most fundamental assumptions of the science- and thereby rendered all of its conclusions inconsistent and meaningless. (For a more in depth account of the origins of phrenology see: van Wyhe-Read more

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At moment my posts on various blogs may be just a link to the headline and not my normal standard so I just like to say I am sorry. Hopefull...