The Routledge Companion to Nineteenth Century Philosophy

By Dean Moyar | Go to book overview

19
DILTHEY AND THE
NEO-KANTIANS:
THE DISPUTE OVER
THE STATUS OF THE
HUMAN AND CULTURAL
SCIENCES

Rudolf A. Makkreel and Sebastian Luft


Introduction

The topic concerning the status of the human and cultural sciences was at the forefront of the work of Wilhelm Dilthey and the neo-Kantians in the latter third of the nineteenth century. In order to understand the discussion concerning these sciences, its ramifications and broader implications, one needs to consider the history of philosophy and science prior to that period. The issue to be dealt with in this chapter derived its urgency from the very successes of the natural sciences at the time. Indeed, it was a reaction to the rise of the experimental natural sciences.

The so-called “collapse of Hegelianism” around the middle of the nineteenth century gave rise to a plethora of new developments in philosophy as well as the sciences. The most immediate result of this widespread disdain for grandiose systems and idealistic constructions was an immense proliferation of the natural sciences. The German Idealists devoted significant amount of time and energy to what they called Naturphilosophie as part of their speculative systems. Here one may mention Fichte, Schelling and Hegel, who made variegated attempts to “deduce” nature and natural science from an intellectual standpoint; attempts, which seem entirely dated from the perspective of modern science. Indeed, it was precisely this “speculative” manner of doing natural science, which became the main target of critique around 1850 as well.

Instead, researchers turned to much more modest aims in natural science, thereby hoping to leave behind the legacy of Idealism. The new natural sciences proceeded

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