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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index W > Max Wertheimer Quotes

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Max Wertheimer
(15 Apr 1880 - 12 Oct 1943)

Czech psychologist who co-founded the Gestalt movement in psychology


Science Quotes by Max Wertheimer (8 quotes)

“Pieces” almost always appear 'as parts' in whole processes. ... To sever a “'part” from the organized whole in which it occurs—whether it itself be a subsidiary whole or an “element”—is a very real process usually involving alterations in that “part”. Modifications of a part frequently involve changes elsewhere in the whole itself. Nor is the nature of these alterations arbitrary, for they too are determined by whole-conditions.
— Max Wertheimer
From 'Untersuchungen zur Lehre von der Gestalt, I', Psychol. Forsch. (1922), 1, 47-58. As translated in 'The General Theoretical Situation' (1922), collected in W. D. Ellis (ed.), A Source Book of Gestalt Psychology (1938, 1967), Vol. 2, 14.
Science quotes on:  |  Alteration (30)  |  Appear (118)  |  Arbitrary (26)  |  Change (595)  |  Condition (357)  |  Determine (144)  |  Element (310)  |  Frequently (21)  |  Involve (90)  |  Modification (55)  |  Nature (1928)  |  Occur (150)  |  Organized (9)  |  Part (222)  |  Piece (37)  |  Process (423)  |  Real (149)  |  Sever (2)  |  Subsidiary (5)  |  Usually (176)  |  Whole (738)

Given a situation, a system with a Leerstelle [a gap], whether a given completion (Lueckenfuellung) does justice to the structure, is the “right” one, is often determined by the structure of the system, the situation. There are requirements, structurally determined; there are possible in pure cases unambiguous decisions as to which completion does justice to the situation, which does not, which violates the requirements and the situation.
— Max Wertheimer
From 'Some Problems in the Theory of Ethics', collected in Mary Henle (ed.), Documents of Gestalt Psychology (1961), 36.
Science quotes on:  |  Completion (22)  |  Decision (91)  |  Determine (144)  |  Gap (33)  |  Justice (39)  |  Possible (554)  |  Pure (292)  |  Requirement (63)  |  Right (452)  |  Situation (113)  |  Structurally (2)  |  Structure (346)  |  System (537)  |  Unambiguous (5)  |  Violate (3)

Man is not only part of a field, but a part and member of his group. When people are together, as when they are at work, then the most unnatural behavior, which only appears in late stages or abnormal cases, would be to behave as separate Egos. Under normal circumstances they work in common, each a meaningfully functioning part of the whole.
— Max Wertheimer
Lecture at the Kantgesellschaft (Kant Society), Berlin (17 Dec 1924), 'άber Gestalttheorie', as taken down in shorthand. Translated by N. Nairn-Allison in Social Research (1944), 11, 91.
Science quotes on:  |  Behavior (86)  |  Circumstance (136)  |  Circumstances (108)  |  Common (436)  |  Concern (228)  |  Ego (17)  |  Enterprise (54)  |  Field (365)  |  Function (229)  |  Group (78)  |  Independent (67)  |  Late (118)  |  Man (2249)  |  Meaningful (17)  |  Most (1729)  |  Mutual (53)  |  Part (222)  |  People (1005)  |  Separate (143)  |  Stage (143)  |  Together (387)  |  Unnatural (15)  |  Whole (738)  |  Work (1351)

Science is rooted in the will to truth. With the will to truth it stands or falls. Lower the standard even slightly and science becomes diseased at the core. Not only science, but man. The will to truth, pure and unadulterated, is among the essential conditions of his existence; if the standard is compromised he easily becomes a kind of tragic caricature of himself.
— Max Wertheimer
Opening statement in 'On Truth', Social Research (May 1934), 1, No. 2, 135.
Science quotes on:  |  Become (815)  |  Caricature (6)  |  Condition (357)  |  Core (18)  |  Disease (332)  |  Essential (200)  |  Existence (460)  |  Fall (230)  |  Himself (461)  |  Kind (557)  |  Lower (11)  |  Man (2249)  |  Pure (292)  |  Root (120)  |  Science (3880)  |  Stand (274)  |  Standard (57)  |  Tragic (17)  |  Truth (1062)  |  Will (2354)

The basic thesis of gestalt theory might be formulated thus: there are contexts in which what is happening in the whole cannot be deduced from the characteristics of the separate pieces, but conversely; what happens to a part of the whole is, in clearcut cases, determined by the laws of the inner structure of its whole.
— Max Wertheimer
Lecture at the Kantgesellschaft (Kant Society), Berlin (17 Dec 1924), 'άber Gestalttheorie', as taken down in shorthand. Translated by N. Nairn-Allison in Social Research (1944), 11, 84.
Science quotes on:  |  Basic (139)  |  Case (99)  |  Characteristic (148)  |  Clear-Cut (10)  |  Context (29)  |  Conversely (2)  |  Deduce (25)  |  Determine (144)  |  Formulate (15)  |  Gestalt (3)  |  Happen (275)  |  Happening (58)  |  Inner (71)  |  Law (895)  |  Part (222)  |  Piece (37)  |  Separate (143)  |  Structure (346)  |  Theory (972)  |  Thesis (15)  |  Whole (738)

There are still psychologists who, in a basic misunderstanding, think that gestalt theory tends to underestimate the role of past experience. Gestalt theory tries to differentiate between and-summative aggregates, on the one hand, and gestalten, structures, on the other, both in sub-wholes and in the total field, and to develop appropriate scientific tools for investigating the latter. It opposes the dogmatic application to all cases of what is adequate only for piecemeal aggregates. The question is whether an approach in piecemeal terms, through blind connections, is or is not adequate to interpret actual thought processes and the role of the past experience as well. Past experience has to be considered thoroughly, but it is ambiguous in itself; so long as it is taken in piecemeal, blind terms it is not the magic key to solve all problems.
— Max Wertheimer
In Productive Thinking (1959), 65.
Science quotes on:  |  Actual (117)  |  Adequate (46)  |  Aggregate (23)  |  All (4107)  |  Ambiguous (13)  |  Application (242)  |  Approach (108)  |  Appropriate (61)  |  Basic (139)  |  Blind (95)  |  Both (494)  |  Connection (162)  |  Consider (416)  |  Develop (268)  |  Differentiate (19)  |  Dogmatic (7)  |  Experience (470)  |  Field (365)  |  Gestalt (3)  |  Interpret (19)  |  Investigate (103)  |  Key (50)  |  Long (789)  |  Magic (86)  |  Misunderstanding (12)  |  Oppose (24)  |  Other (2236)  |  Past (337)  |  Piecemeal (3)  |  Problem (679)  |  Process (423)  |  Psychologist (16)  |  Question (622)  |  Role (85)  |  Scientific (940)  |  Solve (130)  |  Still (613)  |  Structure (346)  |  Tend (124)  |  Term (349)  |  Terms (184)  |  Theory (972)  |  Think (1086)  |  Thoroughly (67)  |  Thought (954)  |  Through (849)  |  Tool (117)  |  Total (94)  |  Try (283)  |  Underestimate (7)  |  Whole (738)

Thinking consists in envisaging, realizing structural features and structural requirements; proceeding in accordance with, and determined by, these requirements; thereby changing the situation in the direction of structural improvements.
— Max Wertheimer
In Productive Thinking (1959), 235.
Science quotes on:  |  Change (595)  |  Consist (223)  |  Direction (175)  |  Envisage (2)  |  Feature (44)  |  Improvement (110)  |  Proceeding (38)  |  Realize (147)  |  Requirement (63)  |  Situation (113)  |  Structural (29)  |  Thinking (415)

Truth and falsity, indeed understanding, is not necessarily something purely intellectual, remote from feelings and attitudes. ... It is in the total conduct of men rather than in their statements that truth or falsehood lives, more in what a man does, in his real reaction to other men and to things, in his will to do them justice, to live at one with them. Here lies the inner connection between truth and justice. In the realm of behavior and action, the problem recurs as to the difference between piece and part.
— Max Wertheimer
From 'On Truth', collected in Mary Henle (ed.), Documents of Gestalt Psychology (1961), 28.
Science quotes on:  |  Action (328)  |  Attitude (82)  |  Behavior (86)  |  Conduct (69)  |  Connection (162)  |  Difference (337)  |  Do (1908)  |  Falsehood (28)  |  Falsity (16)  |  Feeling (252)  |  Feelings (52)  |  Indeed (323)  |  Inner (71)  |  Intellectual (255)  |  Justice (39)  |  Lie (364)  |  Life (1799)  |  Live (629)  |  Man (2249)  |  More (2559)  |  Necessarily (135)  |  Other (2236)  |  Part (222)  |  Piece (37)  |  Problem (679)  |  Purely (110)  |  Reaction (104)  |  Real (149)  |  Realm (85)  |  Recur (4)  |  Remote (83)  |  Something (719)  |  Statement (142)  |  Thing (1915)  |  Total (94)  |  Truth (1062)  |  Understanding (514)  |  Will (2354)



Quotes by others about Max Wertheimer (1)

Fortunately I experienced Max Wertheimer's teaching in Berlin and collaborated for over a decade with Wolfgang Kφhler. I need not emphasize my debts to these outstanding personalities. The fundamental ideas of Gestalt theory are the foundation of all our investigations in the field of the will, of affection, and of the personality.
From A Dynamic Theory of Personality. Selected papers (1935), 240.
Science quotes on:  |  Affection (43)  |  All (4107)  |  Debt (13)  |  Decade (59)  |  Emphasize (23)  |  Field (365)  |  Foundation (173)  |  Fundamental (251)  |  Gestalt (3)  |  Idea (845)  |  Investigation (231)  |  Wolfgang Kφhler (6)  |  Outstanding (16)  |  Personality (62)  |  Teaching (188)  |  Theory (972)  |  Will (2354)


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  • 15 Apr - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Wertheimer's birth.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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