|Carl Stumpf was born in Bavaria to a family with a medical background.
Stumpf’s father was a physician for the county court and other family members
had careers in science and academics. Stumpf became very familiar
with science at an unusual age of 6. Although he was acquainted with
science, his main interest at the age of 7 was music and he eventually
mastered 6 instruments in a short period of time. Stumpf was composing
music at the age of 10 years old. Stumpf joined a gymnasium close
to home and also started to plan for career other than music, for he did
not think he was good enough to make any money in the music industry. Stumpf
went on to begin his college career at the University of Wurzburg and studied
esthetics for one semester and law the following semester.
At Wurzburg, he became very interested in the work of a phenomenologist,
Franz Brentano and put most of his attention towards philosophy and science.
Brentano encouraged Stumpf to attend the University of Gottingen, and in
1868, he was granted his doctoral degree from Rudolph Hermann Lotze, a
perceptual theorist. Stumpf had a busy academic schedule, and focused
much of his attention to the new psychology. Stumpf returned to Wurzburg
in 1873 and entered a catholic seminary, which he then studied theology.
His career plans with the seminary were ruined by the dilemma of the dogma
of papal infallibilty, which was the circumstance concerning the downfall
of Christian dogmatic theology. Although his future plans were delayed,
he still remained in the church until 1921. Stumpf eventually desired
to leave the seminary to go on to become an instructor at Gottingen, in
the Department of Philosophy. Stumpf met Weber and Fechner at Gottingen
and participated in their psychological experiments.
When Stumpf turned 25, he went back to become a Philosophy professor
at the University of Wurzburg. At this time Brentano was forced to
leave, leaving Stumpf the head of the Philosophy Department and the only
teacher for the department. With Stumpf’s busy schedule, he was still
able to publish a book, called “An Examination of Visual Perception and
Particularly Depth Perception”(Hothersall, 1984). This book focused
on a justification on depth perception. He stressed that there was
more to perception than just secondary elements. Stumpf considered
himself to be a psychologist, but he studied phenomena such as tones, colores
and images. He says that these phenomena were either imaginary or
In 1894, Stumpf was offered one of the most valued positions in German
psychology at the University of Berlin, (Schultz, et al, 2000). He
became the director of the Berlin Psychological Institute. At the
University, Stumpf created his own laboratory, which became an important
research facility for the department.
In 1896, Stumpf took charge of the Third International Congress of Psychology
(Hothersall, 1984). The meeting took place in Munich and at the meeting,
Stumpf delivered his mind and body address to the congress. This
address supported “an interactionist position, which he contrasted with
the psychophysical parallelism prevalent at the time” (Hothersall, 1984,
Opposing introspection, Stumpf was known to be one of Wundt’s major
rivals (Schultz, et al, 2000). With Stumpf’s knowledge, he taught
two of the founders of Gestalt Psychology, which also opposed Wundt’s views.
The two students that Stumpf trained were Wolfgang Kohler and Kurt Koffka.
Stumpf’s writing included the perception of space and music. Stumpf’s
two volumes of “Psychology of Tone” were published in 1883 and 1890.
Stumpf and Helmholtz were greatly acknowledged for their work in the psychology
of music (Schultz, et al, 2000). He started experimenting with music and
composed a seminol experiment where he investigated tonal fusion, consonance,
and dissonance. He observed two different sound combinations that
are percieved to be one tone (cohering), when listening to them simultaneously
(Consonance and Dissonance, 2002). He eventually threw out this theory
because he was not satisfied with it (Consonance and Dissonance, 2002).
Brentano’s influence on Stumpf led to his belief that phenomena was
the primary data for psychology and he taught “the whole is greater
that the sum of its parts”(Bowman, et al, 2000). In 1904, Stumpf
was appointed the head commission of a committee that determined the genuineness
of a horse, named Clever Hans, that was known to count and do arithmetic.
Stumpf and the rest of the committee proved that the horse did not have
the academic abilities that amazed the public so much.
Stumpf created a theory of Phenomenology. This theory was
a type of introspection that Stumpf preferred and it “examined the
experience as it occurred and did not try to reduce experience to elementary
elements”(Schultz, et al, 2000, p.101). Wundt and Stumpf engaged in a series
of literary battles about introspection and tone. Stumpf moved on
and created the Berlin Association of Child Psychology, while writing about
music. Stumpf also opened a facility that he created, which served as an
archive for an assortment of music from other countries.