Positivism, Positive School
Verstehen is associated with
the writing of Max Weber (1864-1920). Verstehen is now seen as a concept and a method
central to a rejection of positivistic social science (although Weber appeared to think
that the two could be united).
Verstehen (pronounced ferchaen) is the use of empathy in
the sociological or historical understanding of human action and behaviour.
Verstehen literally means understanding or comprehension.
Verstehende is comprehend employing Verstehen.
Verstehen refers to
understanding the meaning of action from the actor's point of view. Verstehen is entering
into the shoes of the other, and adopting this research stance requires treating the actor
as a subject, rather than an object of your observations.
Verstehen also implies that
unlike objects in the natural world human actors are not simply the product of the pulls
and pushes of external forces. Individuals are seen to create the world by organizing
their own understanding of it and giving it meaning.
To do research on actors
without taking into account the meanings they attribute to their actions or environment is
to treat them like objects.
Max Weber, Interpretive Sociology, and the Sense of
Historical Science: a Positivistic Conception of Verstehen
Thomas Burger - The Sociological Quarterly - Volume 18 - March 1977
Weber's advocacy of understanding and an interpretive sociology is shown to be a
consequence of the anthropological premises of his theory of concept formation in history.
These premises, which are implied in his Rickertian conception of value-relevance as the
foundation of historical knowledge, are that men are interested in understandable
historical developments because of their practical involvement in societythey rely
on historical knowledge in their efforts to make sense out of the present. While
acknowledging this indispensable function of history Weber insists, however, that
historical knowledge can strictly justify neither the meaning given to the present nor
man's conduct in practical affairs. This is why, in opposition to the mainstream of the
Verstehen tradition, he argues against a valuing historical and social science. Yet this
separation of values and facts does not entail an option for an irrational decisionism in
value matters. On the contrary, it provides the very basis for their rational discussion.
Those who impute to Weber the position that empirical knowledge has nothing to contribute
to a social praxis but instrumental recommendations do not realize that this makes
nonsense of his justification of historical knowledge. - blackwell-synergy.com
Dilthey, Empathy and Verstehen A Contemporary
Austin Harrington, UNIVERSITY OF LEEDS, UK
Wilhelm Dilthey's late nineteenth-century doctrine of `re-experiencing' the thoughts and
feelings of the actors whose lives the social scientist seeks to understand has been
criticized by several commentators as entailing a `na´ve empathy view of understanding'
in which social scientists are said to transport themselves into other cultural contexts
in a wholly uncritical, unreflective manner. This article challenges such criticisms by
arguing that Dilthey's writings on hermeneutics amount to a highly sophisticated defence
of the role of psychological feeling in understanding that should still be of interest to
contemporary social theorists. Beginning with a review of the reception of Dilthey's work
by Max Weber and the Neo-Kantians, the article goes on to enumerate a number of
significant parallels between Dilthey's insights and more recent approaches in social and
cultural theory. - est.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/4/3/311
The Operation Called VERSTEHEN - Tomasi, Timothy J.
Descriptors: Cognitive Processes; Educational Objectives; Higher Education; Intellectual
Development; Learning Processes; Teaching Methods
Journal/Source Name: Improving College and University Teaching
Journal Citation: 21, 2, 157-158, Spr 73
Abstract: Verstehen, the understanding of human behavior, can be of value to teacher and
student alike, bringing both to an increased level of sophistication in the learning
process. - eric.ed.gov