What man is, only his history tells.
Wilhelm Dilthey (1833 - 1911) was a German historian, psychologist, sociologist, student of
Hermeneutics, and philosopher, who made important
contributions to a methodology of human science.
His idea of Erlibnis (Inner or Lived Experience) became the concept of the Vivencia (see also The Vivencia).
- Founder of philosophical Hermeneutics,
Erlibnis - literally "what has been lived through" - Lived Experience,
Verstehen - literally "understanding",
- The concepts of Erlebnis and Verstehen played a crucial role in Dilthey's endeavors to
liberate the methodology of human science from that of natural science.
- He opposed the idea that the human science should emulate the methodology of the natural science, and
tried to establish the humanities as sciences in their own right.
- He aimed to find the philosophical foundations for human science - history, philosophy, religion,
psychology, art, literature, law, politics and economics.
- The purpose of human science is not necessarily to explain human behavior, but to understand it.
Hermeneutics can be thought of as the art of
- The ability to understand things from somebody else's point of view,
- To appreciate the cultural and social forces that may have influenced their outlook,
- Applying this understanding to interpreting the meaning of written texts and symbolic artifacts.
Erlebnis (Lived Experience)
Erlebnis is connected with the process of self-understanding:
- By itself, Erlebnis does not provide self-understanding,
- The world is not simply observed - our relationship to the world and its meaning is socially
- Social phenomenon must be understood as they are experienced or made meaningful by human beings
within specific social contexts,
- Self-understanding is only obtained when the self relates to itself as it relates to others,
- Even so Erlebnis remains the psychological source the experiential potential that is
articulated and conceptualized in understanding.
Verstehen is connected with our understanding of
- Understanding requires not just rationality, but also intuition, creativity, and imagination,
- Consciousness plays an active role in understanding - humans are active meaning makers,
- Humans have the ability to re-live the experience of another through socio-historical analysis and
through the use of imagination,
- Others can only be understood by imagining oneself in their position, although this imagining always
takes place within the limits set by one's own time and culture,
- This can be contrasted with the external objectification third-person perspective of explanation in
natural science and of social structures in sociology.