Understanding and Social Inquiry

Fred R. Dallmayr

The present volume is a product of the collaboration between a philosopher and a social scientist, more specifically, a political scientist. The initial impulse for the endeavor stemmed from practical and pedagogical considerations. In teaching courses on the philosophy and methodology of the social sciences, we were handicapped by the lack of a suitable compendium of materials dealing with the problematic of Verstehen , or interpretive understanding. The relatively few available texts and collections did not reflect the full range and diversity of the intellectual currents pertinent to the theme. The selection of materials was guided by this pedagogical concern. Rather than propounding a particular doctrine, we have tried to acquaint the reader with the complexity of the issues involved in the interpretive dimension of social inquiry. The materials were arranged with a view to stimulating discussion through the presentation of contrasting positions. This dialectical intention is evident in the volume as a whole-in that the Weberian tradition is contrasted with logical empiricism, which is in turn contrasted with the theory of "language games," phenomenology and hermeneutics--as well as in the individual sections, where the respective position is not only presented and defended but exposed to critical queries and counterarguments.

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