Intersubjectivity in the Hermeneutic School claims that it is more important tounderstand the object than to just observe it. Positivism was a school thatreached to explain the reality of an object that the scientist observes, itdoesn’t reach to understand the object as in the hermeneutic tradition. Thehermeneutic approach strives to self-understanding or world disclosure with thehelp of special elements of cultural constructions. This approach implies arelationship between the science and its object, even though it is a passiveone (Delanty 2005: 42).
Historical development of Hermeneutics Hermeneuticsdeveloped as a substitute to the positivist approach that had dominated sciencesince its beginning and has contributed to the separation of social sciencefrom natural science and its establishment as a field of its ownHermeneutics hasits beginning in the 17th century and in German philosophy concernedwith the interpretation of biblical texts. Protestant theology reacted to thepapal authority in interpreting biblical texts; that is the hermeneuticaltradition creates as text interpretation, aiming to expose the hidden meaningsof texts. During the Enlightenment hermeneutics broadens its scope fromreligious texts to text interpretation in general. According to Delanty (2005)it was the 19th century German philosopher/theologian FriedrichSchleiermacher who established hermeneutics as the “science of human meaning”,in applying the interpretation of meaning in all aspects of communicationSchleiermacher differentiates between grammatical (language) and psychological(perception) interpretation, the goal being for the reader to enter the mind ofthe author through a dialogical relation. (Delanty 2005: 45)Hermeneutics alsoinvolved in the study of history and culture and maintained the thesis thatnatural and human sciences must to be separated since the laws of society andnature are distinct from each other and historyis exclusive to human societies. However societies have lawsthat can be studied objectively.
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One of the very first advocates of this wasthe 18th century Italian Historian and philosopher Giambattista Vico, who argued for aninterpretative approach to the study of History by the use of empathy and historical awareness.Kant has been agreat influence in the hermeneutical tradition. Kant?s critical idealismconstituted of the idea that while objective reality can be known to man, thiscan only be achieved through internal forms of the mind, resulting in a non-passiveperception of reality. In other words there is an objective reality but we onlyperceive it through phenomena; that is to the extent that our senses allow.(Delanty 2005)Neo-Kantians A greatlyinfluential school of hermeneutics was the German Historical School, or neo-Kantianism (neo-idealism), associated with a turn to historical thought in themid-19th century. Neo-Kantians rejected the ideas of Kant as beingtoo closely connected with natural sciences thus not being able to provide atheory for the social sciences. Defining characteristics of the neo-Kantianschool of thought was the distinction of the social and natural sciences andthe belief in a common human nature which allows for interpretation.
Among itsmost prominent representatives are Dilthey, Rickert and Windelband and laterWeber and Freud who reacted both to the idealist philosophy of Kant as well asto the positivism of the intellectual circles in Germany of their time. Diltheyopposed causal explanation favored by positivism and instead advocatedunderstanding and the lived experience (Erlebnis) which can be understood asthe world of social meaning, alive in history and everyday life hermeneutics.Dilthey was also an important supporter of the independence of social scienceas a discipline. Two other important neo-Kantians were Rickert and Windelbandwho argued that what separates social from natural sciences is not their objectof study but their methodology. (Delanty 2005)Max Weber, whosucceeded in providing social science with an identity of its own, followed the Neo-kantian line of thought of the separationof social and natural science but broke from it inone important aspect. While previousneo-Kantians believed that natural sciences are characterized by explanationand human sciences by understanding, Weber combined explanation andunderstanding in his methodology. Delanty (2005) distinguishes three majorcharacteristics of Webers social sciences:1) The theory of explanatory understanding;explanatory models are interviewed with the hermeneutic approach in a completeway.
The two kinds of understanding are therational understanding and theemphatic understanding, the later one weber calls the explanatory one and the most investigated one by Weber. He sawsocial science as an explanatory and significant science of all meaningfulhuman actions. Furthermore, he wrote that an explanation depended on how thegoals are related to the motives.
Analyses of Weber say that it is important toidentify the motivations to understand the purposes and causes that lead toaction. This theory is different from Durkheims which states that the externalcauses controls the social action (social facts). 2) The theory ofideal types; were used to simplify the interpretation of the reality (thesocial world) because it was too complex to observe directly according toWeber. With ideal a types that was normal as it was easy to apply theconstructed theories. Weber clamed thatthe use of the ideal types was a characterization of the social sciences. Acasual explanation of a motivating meaning was the goal for the explanation inits whole.
3) The ethicneutrality of science; the ethic neutralities of science was very importantto Weber. Weber believed that there was a higher mission in science and heargued that the social scientist to make a sacrifice to not expect science tooffer meaning (Delanty 2005:51-53).