Main Currents in Sociological Thought: Durkheim, Pareto, Weber - Vol. 2

By Raymond Aron; Richard Howard et al. | Go to book overview
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IV
Philosophy of Values and Sociology of Religion

FOR WEBER, the principal instrument of comprehension is the ideal type in its various forms. In all cases the ideal type is a means rather than an end, the end of the science of culture always being to understand subjective meanings, that is, to understand the meaning men have given to their existence.

I stress this idea that science of culture tries to grasp the subjective meanings of behavior because it is by no means obvious. Many sociologists today are doubtful of it; for them, the true scientific content is the unconscious logic of societies or existences. In Weber, the aim is always to understand life as it is lived, and this orientation of scientific curiosity probably results from the relation that exists in Weber's thought, and particularly in his epistemological theory, between knowledge and action. One of the fundamental themes in Weberian thought is the antithesis between Werturteil, or value judgment, and Wertbeziehung, or value reference. Men make value judgments; they create values; historical existence is essentially a creation and affirmation of values. And the science of culture is a comprehension, through value-reference, of existences that are defined by the creation of values.

This brings us to another aspect of Weber's historico-sociological philosophy; namely, the relation between his philosophy of value and

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