Sociology Index


Verstehen is associated with the writing of Max Weber. Verstehen is now seen as a concept and a method central to a rejection of positivistic social science or Positive School, though Weber appeared to think that the two could be united. Verstehen (ferchaen) is the use of empathy in the sociological or historical understanding of human action and behavior.

Verstehen refers to understanding the meaning of action from the actor's point of view. Verstehen is entering into the shoes of the other. Verstehen requires treating the actor as a subject, rather than an object of your observations. To do research on actors without taking into account the meanings they attribute to their actions or environment is to treat them like objects.

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. Verstehen literally means understanding or comprehension. Verstehende is comprehend employing Verstehen.

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 theory is shown to be a consequence of the anthropological premises of his theory of concept formation in history. This is why, in opposition to the mainstream of the Verstehen tradition, he argues against valuing historical sociology and social science.

Dilthey, Empathy and Verstehen A Contemporary Reappraisal 
Austin Harrington, UNIVERSITY OF LEEDS, UK 

The Operation Called VERSTEHEN - Tomasi, Timothy J. 
Descriptors: Cognitive Processes; Educational Objectives; Higher Education; Intellectual Development; Learning Processes; Teaching Methods - Journal: Improving College and University Teaching
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.