The Loose Foundations of Criticism against Phrenology
The Position of Academic Psychology against PhrenologyIn today's psychological environment, it has become fashionable to criticise and reject Phrenology. One should look at some basic textbooks of psychology to see how the science is disdained and despised: one can read statements like "Phrenology is unscientific", "Phrenology is a quackery" and other crap of this kind. In most these cases, these rejections are stated without prior assessment of the values of Phrenology as a science.
This leads to a derisory attitude to phrenology among the psychologic community and the "intelligent" public. They "knew", because their teachers had told them so, that phrenology was a pseudo-science, discredited, and of no value. And so generations of medical and psychological students have been only too happy to pursue their studies with a distorted view of what phrenology is and has to offer.
The classical works about Phrenology went into oblivion: With so much essential reading to do, which student is going to waste time reading what authority has told him is unnecessary ?
The brave psychologists who recognise Phrenology's values have often to do so in secret, out of fear of being ostracised by their colleagues.
The History of Criticism against PhrenologyThis criticism goes back very far in history. In fact, in 1808 Dr. Gall presented a Memoire to the Institute of France which was referred to a committee of five, including Cuvier. At first the Committee considered the claims of Gall favourably, but when Napoleon Bonaparte came to hear about it, he severely reprimanded the Institute for submitting to be taught anatomy by a German, who even had the impertinence to state that the Emperor had no philosophical mind (Napoleon had in fact the sloped front of the practical realist)! With the result that the Committee was forced to present an unfavourable report. Since then Gall and his teachings were ridiculed and attacked in virulent words. And as Bernard Hollander wrote (cited by Frances Hedderly): "Forthwith the journals, schools and academics formed a sort of holy alliance against the system of Gall, and all would have been over with it long ere now, were it possible for the triumph of any alliance over truth to continue for ever."
Without any further objective investigation of the science, this criticism is held up to today, and handbooks and encyclopaedias copy each other's negative propaganda about Phrenology since nearly 200 years.
This absurdly based criticism is further illustrated in the following
Why Criticism is wrongIt would be an absurdity to reject Phrenology as such, without first assessing thevalue of the science, as is unfortunately too often done today.
Extensive experimental verification of the Phrenological localisations have proven their practical value. The Phrenological analysis of personality remains of incomparable value to assess the character.
A Critical Appraisal of Modern Phrenology
Phrenology and the influence of the environmentPhrenology is a science based on observation. It is experimental and constructed on an analytical-synthetical base.
Starting from the measurements made on a subject's skull, it is possible
to state which character faculties are more or less developed. The combination
of these faculties yields an overview of the subject's character and personality.
These are the innate propensities of the subject, the real foundations
of the personality, which may be adjusted but not changed by external factors
like environment an education.
Errors in the Phrenological diagnosisSome errors in the diagnosis may however occur. They can be attrituted to the following causes which can easily be recognised:
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