Throwing spatial light: on topological explanations in Gestalt psychology

Bartłomiej Skowron , Krzysztof Wójtowicz


It is a well-known fact that mathematics plays a crucial role in physics; in fact, it is virtually impossible to imagine contemporary physics without it. But it is questionable whether mathematical concepts could ever play such a role in psychology or philosophy. In this paper, we set out to examine a rather unobvious example of the application of topology, in the form of the theory of persons proposed by Kurt Lewin in his Principles of Topological Psychology. Our aim is to show that this branch of mathematics can furnish a natural conceptual system for Gestalt psychology, in that it provides effective tools for describing global qualitative aspects of the latter’s object of investigation. We distinguish three possible ways in which mathematics can contribute to this: explanation, explication (construed in the spirit of Carnap) and metaphor. We hold that all three of these can be usefully characterized as throwing light on their subject matter, and argue that in each case this contrasts with the role of explanations in physics. Mathematics itself, we argue, provides something different from such explanations when applied in the field of psychology, and this is nevertheless still cognitively fruitful.
Author Bartłomiej Skowron (FASS / DPEA)
Bartłomiej Skowron,,
- Department of Philosophy and Ethics in Administration
, Krzysztof Wójtowicz
Krzysztof Wójtowicz,,
Journal seriesPhenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, ISSN 1568-7759, e-ISSN 1572-8676
Issue year2020
Publication size in sheets1.05
Keywords in EnglishTopological explanations, explications, metaphors; Kurt Lewin; topological psychology; topology; Gestalt psychology
ASJC Classification2805 Cognitive Neuroscience; 1211 Philosophy
Languageen angielski
Score (nominal)100
Score sourcejournalList
ScoreMinisterial score = 100.0, 13-08-2020, ArticleFromJournal
Publication indicators Scopus SNIP (Source Normalised Impact per Paper): 2018 = 1.155
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