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Verstehen


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(German, understanding)

A term especially associated with Dilthey and Weber, to denote the understanding we have of human activities. In the Verstehen tradition these are understood from within, by means that are opposed to knowing something by objective observation, or by placing it in a network of scientific regularities (see theory-theory). The exact difference is controversial: one approach is that understanding a human expression is a matter of knowing what in oneself would gain expression that way, and ‘reliving’ by a process of empathy the mental life of the person to be understood. But other less subjective suggestions are also found. The question of whether there is a method distinct from that of science to be used in human contexts, and so whether Verstehen is necessarily the method of the social as opposed to the natural sciences, is still open. see also simulation theory.

Subjects: Philosophy — Social Sciences.


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