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 society, they 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 valuing historical and social
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.
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 - 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