The Nomothetic Function of the Idiographic Approach: Looking from Inside Out

2016-04-21, 16:47:18   Jaan Valsiner
: pages 5–15
DOI: 10.17505/jpor.2016.02
Abstract: Three innovations are necessary in psychology if it were to become person-oriented: (1) looking for the universal in the particulars, (2) accepting the irreversibility of developmental life events, and (3) conceptualizing transformation of complexity in terms of qualitative structures of dynamic hierarchical order. Psychology can only be a science if it resolves its ideological opposition to conceptualizing the work of general developmental principles in each and every particular instance of human experience. Wilhelm Windelband’s introduction of the concepts of nomothetic and idiographic perspectives in science in the 1890s has been misinterpreted in psychology by treating these as if they were irreconcilable opposites, while the original intention was to show how generalizations can be possible precisely on the basis of single specimens. Each experience—given the irreversibility of time—is necessarily unique (with maximum frequency of occurrence 1). Considering similarity of the new with what had occurred before leads to looking at qualitative transformation of psychological phenomena—hence allowing a focus on development. Person-Oriented developmental psychology has the chance to study the emergence and disappearance of Gestalts of various levels of organization – as was suggested by Christian von Ehrenfels hundred years ago– through considering the temporal unification of the real (what has already emerged) and the imaginary (what might emerge–leading the possible emergence). This requires a radical change in the formal languages used in developmental science. An extension of the use of number system from real to complex numbers is suggested, with a focus on the dynamics of vector movements in the plane of the complex number.
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Keywords: nomothetic idiographicity, similarity, sameness, Aktualgenese, complex and imaginary numbers, irreversibility of time, Gestalt purity and level, Ehremfels, Windelband.
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