2016 | 4 | 295-304
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Gestalt as a Specialized Term: Its Conceptual Definition in Psychology and Philosophy

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In the present paper the author attempts to reconstruct the process of terminologization of the expression Gestalt in the philosophical and psychological debates which laid the way for the emergence of the Berlin School of Gestalt Theory. Gestalt (English translations are: “form,” “shape,” “configuration,” “aspect”) is a German word, which is already documented in Old High German (gistalt) as meaning “appearance, way of appearing.” From the end of the 18th century onward, the word had a very interesting semantic enrichment and found uses in the arts and sciences, since it started to be used in specific domains (literature, philosophy, psychology) to designate an organic whole. In the first few decades of the 20th century, it became a specialized term − a terminus technicus in philosophical and psychological thought − as Gestalt psychology and Gestalt theory emerged as a new scientific and philosophical orientation. The exact conceptual definitions of Gestalt, Gestalt qualities and Gestalt perception were heatedly discussed in the philosophical and psychological debates that raged in the first two decades of the 20th Century after the publication of the famous paper by Christian von Ehrenfels — On Gestalt Qualities (1890)—and it was developed in various psychological schools (the Berlin School, the Graz School) and philosophical orientations (phenomenology, neokantism), till the formulation in 1923 of the Gestalt laws by Max Wertheimer. In the concluding part of the paper, the author attempts to trace the development of the Gestalt approach after the Second World War.
  • University of Warsaw, Department of Applied Linguistics, ul. Szturmowa 4, 02-678 Warsaw, Poland
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