From We to I. The Rise of Aesthetics between Rational and Empirical Psychology

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


While Christian Wolff’s empirical psychology is distinguished by its focus on what we can observe about the soul, Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten concentrates on the case of the I (ego), or my soul. How does this affect the relationship between empirical and rational psychology? The intent of both authors is to start from the empirical data collected by empirical psychology, and then to move to a more abstract and formalistic justification of these data in rational psychology. However, despite the undeniable methodological relevance Wolff attributes to empirical data as the beginning of the cognitive process, rationalistic formalism still seems irreducible in his conception of experience. Baumgarten’s rational psychology also cannot avoid relying on the observations and the consequent definitions stated in empirical psychology, but Baumgarten’s employment of the I within the Psychologia empirica can be regarded as testifying to his deeper concern of the knowing subject in his sensible experience. Baumgarten’s concept of experience, even if apparently similar to Wolff’s, is indeed much more focused on the possibility of discovering a form of rationality that is peculiarly detectable from the sensible experience of the singular I. Thus, since Wolff’s concept of perception still relies on attention, he partially underpins even the possibility of experience on purely rational principles. Baumgarten instead puts his treatment of the “Sensus” soon after the exposition of the inferior cognitive faculty, as an independent source of the “Scientia sensitive cognoscendi et proponendi”, a discipline that he defines as Aesthetics.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFrom Hamann to Kierkegaard
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventFirst Workshop of the international Project “Experimentation and Dissidence” - Università di Lisbona
Duration: 15 Dec 201616 Dec 2016


WorkshopFirst Workshop of the international Project “Experimentation and Dissidence”
CityUniversità di Lisbona


  • Baumgarten, Wolff, Kant, Empirical Psychology, Rational Psychology, Subjectivity, Aesthetics


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