idiographic/nomothetic methods

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Wilhelm Windelband (1848—1915)


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Distinction in method drawn by the historian Wilhelm Windelband. An idiographic method is concerned with individual matters of fact, as in history, or map-making. A nomothetic method is concerned to formulate general laws. Windelband was concerned to show that the human sciences, or Geisteswissenschaften, such as history, had their own methods and discipline, in spite of their dissimilarity from natural science. The extent to which disciplines such as economics are nomothetic or idiographic is debatable: roughly speaking, while mapmakers do not draw morals, make predictions, or give explanations of what they map, historians and economists like to do all three.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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