Piaget Before Piaget

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Harvard University Press, 1994 - Biography & Autobiography - 276 pages
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The great Swiss psychologist and theorist Jean Piaget (1896-1980) had much to say about the developing mind. He also had plenty to say about his own development, much of it, as Fernando Vidal shows, plainly inaccurate. In the first truly historical biography of Piaget, Vidal tells the story of the psychologist's intellectual and personal development up to 1918. By exploring the philosophical, religious, political, and social influences on the psychologist's early life, Vidal alters our basic assumptions about the origins of Piaget's thinking and his later psychology.

The resulting profile is strikingly dissimilar to Piaget's own retrospective version. In Piaget's own account, as an adolescent he was a precocious scientist dedicated to questions of epistemology. Here we find him also--and increasingly--concerned with the foundations of religious faith and knowledge, immersed in social and political matters, and actively involved in Christian and socialist groups. Far from being devoted solely to the classification of mollusks, the young Piaget was a vocal champion of Henri Bergson's philosophy of creative evolution, an interest that figured much more prominently in his later thinking than did his early work in natural history. We see him during World War I chastising conservatism and nationalism, espousing equality and women's rights, and advocating the role of youth in the birth of a new Christianity.

In his detailed account of Jean Piaget's childhood and adolescence--enriched by the intellectual and cultural landscape of turn-of-the-century Neuchâtel--Vidal reveals a little-known Piaget, a youth whose struggle to reconcile science and faith adds a new dimension to our understanding of the great psychologist's life, thought, and work.

 

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Contents

Neuchâtel an Orderly Little Town
10
Mollusk Taxonomy
23
Natural History
34
The Friends of Nature
44
Piaget Discovers Bergson
51
Natural History and Creative Evolution
57
At the Threshold of Biology
72
The Protestant Context
92
The Problem of Religion
113
From Catechism to Philosophy
123
The Mission of the Idea
132
The Making of a New Identity
162
Recherche
182
From Personal Crisis
195
Copyright

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About the author (1994)

Fernando Vidal teaches in the Department of Psychology and in the History of Science Unit at the University of Geneva, Switzerland.

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