- Dilthey, Wilhelm
- (1833–1911)German philosopher, literary critic, and historian. Dilthey taught at a variety of universities, and succeeded Lotze at the university of Berlin in 1882. He is especially remembered for his studies in the methodology of the social sciences, or Geisteswissenschaften . For Dilthey these are distinguished from natural science by the use of a method of understanding, or verstehen , whereby we comprehend the meaning of a human expression, such as words or actions. In his earlier writings verstehen is thought of as the reliving (nacherleben ) of the mental states of others, inferred by analogy and on the basis of a knowledge of our own experiences. However, the subjective and psychological basis of this process was replaced in later years, when verstehen becomes not the semi-scientific attempt to find the idea or mental modification that caused an expression, but rather the location of the expression in an objective framework of human meaning, to which context, language, and cultural climate all contribute. These are ‘objectifications of life’, and the object of study in the various human sciences. In this sense the process of verstehen is never complete, since different aspects of the way in which meanings ‘hang together’ (zusammenhängen ) can always be uncovered. Dilthey never completed a systematic treatise. His Einleitung in die Geisteswissenschaften (‘Introduction to the Social Sciences’) of 1883 was the first volume of an uncompleted work. His voluminous writings on many aspects of history, biography, the study of culture, and philosophy were collected as the Gesammelte Schriften (‘Collected Writings’) of which more than eighteen volumes exist. He was a major influence on methodological reflections in sociology, particularly through Weber, on subsequent hermeneutics, and latterly on discussions of the epistemology of ‘ folk psychology ’.
Philosophy dictionary. Academic. 2011.