Understanding in the social sciences and history

Inquiry 10 (1-4):151 – 163 (1967)
Understanding in its widest sense is the aim of all rational knowledge. A distinction can be made between interpretation (leading to the understanding of meanings) and explanation (leading to the understanding of facts). The view that in the social sciences facts and meanings are the same is criticized. In respect of the specific understanding of human and social facts empathetic and rational understanding are distinguished and some of the difficulties pointed out inherent in both, in particular with regard to testability. On the other hand, it is found that a purely behaviouristic approach, although possible, would not be completely satisfactory, so that in spite of all difficulties the social sciences (history included) cannot do without specific understanding, as a heuristic device as well as an aim
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DOI 10.1080/00201746708601486
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Carl G. Hempel (1961). Rational Action. Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 35:5 - 23.

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