Wilhelm Dilthey—Introductory Remarks


This is the first of a set of seven course notes written in 1998 for a seven week introduction to the thought of Wilhelm Dilthey.

Introductory Remarks

Some General Points:

  1. The text I primarily examine in these notes is Dilthey’s Ideas concerning a Descriptive and Analytic Psychology, translated by Richard Zaner, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1977. The German original, Ideen über eine beschreibende und zergliedernde Psychologie, is to be found in Volume V of Dilthey’s Gesammelte Schriften. This volume, edited by Dilthey’s son-in-law Georg Misch and published in 1923, had a very extensive and influential introduction by Misch, which influenced Heidegger and was subsequently published independently under the title Lebensphilosophie und Phänomenologie. Of all the volumes in Dilthey’s massive corpus, this volume has probably been the most influential, followed closely by Volume I, which contains Dilthey’s work of 1883, Einleitung in die Geisteswissenschaften (Introduction to the Human Sciences).

  2. I have quoted using the German pagination, which is indicated in the margins of the English translation. References to the German will be given in brackets as follows: ‘(S.xyz)’ (The letter ‘S’ abbreviates the German ‘Seite’, i.e., ‘page’.)

The Meaning and Origin of the Term ‘Geisteswissenschaften’.

As Rudolf Makkreel points out, there is no completely satisfactory English translation of the word ‘Geisteswissenschaften’. This is ironic because the word first came into its own right as a term of art when J. Schiel, the translator of John Stuart Mill’s System of Logic, used it to translate Mill’s term ‘moral sciences’. Since Schiel’s use of the term as a translation for what Mill intended by the ‘moral sciences’, it has acquired further meanings. As it is used by Dilthey, the term “… encompasses what we would now call the humanities and the social sciences. It covers not only psychology, anthropology, political economy, law, and history, for which Mill’s expression “moral sciences” might still have served, but also such disciplines as philology and aesthetics.”1

The Intellectual Background to Dilthey’s Work—German Philosophy in the late Eighteen and early Nineteenth Centuries

Kant and Critique of Pure Reason:

In the Introduction to his Critique of Pure Reason Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) compares the state of traditional metaphysics with the steady, cumulative progress of natural science. Naturally, the comparison is invidious: whereas natural science, i.e., physics, marches forward from strength to strength, all the time succeeding in generating broad consensus amongst its practitioners, metaphysics is distinguished only by incessant squabbling and frenetic running on the spot. This, he says, is cause enough to ask a new kind of question: Just what are the bounds and limits of human knowledge which determine these differences? Under what conditions it is possible for us to make genuine knowledge-claims in any field of inquiry, that is to say, claims to truth which are objective in the sense that there are clear means by which anyone called upon to acknowledge the claim as true can rationally decide the issue? Kant believes that if we set out to give a general critique of the kinds of knowledge-claim we are wont to make in natural science, mathematics and metaphysics, we will discover how it is possible for us in physics and mathematics to make legitimate knowledge-claims which are objective in this sense and thus capable of securing agreement; and why, in the case of metaphysics as thus far practised, such success has eluded, and must elude us.

Early modern metaphysics has always sought to demonstrate such propositions as the following:

  1. The world is a causally regular place, where things occur in accordance with causal law.
  2. God exists.
  3. We humans have an immortal soul.
  4. We humans are genuinely free; not all of our actions are simple causal functions of our biological and psychological make-up, our past conditioning and socialisation, etc.

Previously, however, metaphysics had assumed that these are conceptual truths, like the proposition that all bachelors are unmarried males. But as Hume (1711-1776) had shown, the first proposition, the principle of causality, cannot be a conceptual truth like the triviality about bachelors. That everything that happens has a cause2 does not follow from the concepts which make this proposition up. In particular, the concept of something’s happening, or coming into existence, does not entail that there is something which caused it to happen, or come into existence. The concept of a bachelor, by constrast, contains within it, so to speak as part of its definition, the ideas of unmarriedness and maleness. It is not hard to see that the same goes for the other three propositions. Kant himself showed in his critique of the ontological proof that the proposition that God exists does not follow from the concept of God.

It is because these propositions are not as traditional metaphysics took them to be that there is such strife and disagreement in metaphysics. Traditional metaphysics had been a series of attempts to derive significant conclusions from mere concepts; the unending strife has derived from the almost definitional differences which had tacitly been built into the relevant concepts. Clearly, if this diagnosis of traditional metaphysics is right, 3 if traditional metaphysics has so radically misunderstood its own task and nature, then it must be given up as a hopeless enterprise. Kant’s critique shows its pretensions to be vain and empty.

At the same time, Kant does not follow Hume in rejecting the central propositions of traditional as either meaningless or incapable of any kind of rational support. In fact, the point of Kant’s critique is not at all just to diagnose and dispense with traditional metaphysics. Integral to Kant’s conception of a critique of pure reason is the idea that critique essentially improves the chances of an enterprise, i.e., that it shows how one is really able to do what it subjects to critique. In other words, it is essential to Kant’s notion of critique that it not be merely negative and destructive. In particular, since metaphysics, unlike physics and mathematics, turns out to be a problematic area of inquiry which has not achieve the steady, progressive and consensual character of a true science, the critique of pure reason shows how one might more satisfactorily understand the nature of metaphysical propositions and thus suggest how they might be given the rational grounding appropriate to them. As Kant himself suggests, his critique is a prolegomenon or propadeutic to a new kind of metaphysics. In other words, it seeks to redefine the very concept of metaphysics, to give this concept a new sense.

This goal of redefinition and revision is achieved so to speak by redistribution. The proposition that the world is a causally regular place in which things do not happen arbitrarily is a crucial presupposition of the theoretical activities we call physics. If it did not make this assumption, it would hardly be possible. Similarly, the notion that we are free, that we are at least able to behave in a way which is not just the causal result of our physical, biological, psychological and/or social constitution seems an essential presupposition of moral activity. According to Kant, the propositions that there is a God and that we have an immortal soul are similarly necessary presuppositions of moral action.4 So what Kant does is to say that metaphysics, properly understood, is the investigation of the presuppositions of diverse kinds of rule-governed practice, in particular, of empirical theoretical activity such as physics; of moral action; and of aesthetic sensibility and judgement. The task that traditional metaphysics sought to accomplish can now so to speak be distributed across these three kinds of rational praxis—Kant called their totality Reason-with-a-capital-R: traditional metaphysics is transformed into a higher-order discipline which investigates and demonstrates the fundamental presuppositions of the various aspects, facets or dimensions of Reason.

Given the presuppositional status of a principle like that of causality, it is hardly surprising that, as Hume had convincingly argued, one could not verify the principle empirically. It is clear that any attempt to verify the principle of causality by appeal to experience, that is, by means of physical experiment and observation, would simply presuppose its truth and thus be circular. But Kant, unlike Hume, did not think that this meant the principle was something we do and should accept simply because it is convenient for us to do physics under its assumption. Kant said that we have to understand causality as a condition of the possibility of experience: by means of non-empirical, a priori argument Kant claimed to show that this principle was true by showing that if it was not true, then experience of the kind that we humans have would not be possible. Since it is undoubtedly true that we have the kind of experience that we do have, it follows by modus tollens that the causal principle must be true.5 Note the crucial role played in this argument by the appeal to introspective phenomenological reflection on our own experience: Kant shows that for experience of such and such a kind to be possible, the objects of experience must form a causally ordered whole. This proposition has the form ‘If p, then q’; it is purely hypothetical. If experience is thus and so, then such and such must also be true. But Kant gets the antecedent he needs by giving a very involved and highly complex description of how our own experience is as it presents itself to us in first-person reflection on it. He describes the nature of our own experience, the experience we undoubtedly do have. And of course he wants us to follow him in his description of experience so that we, too, will see, will observe, the same things about our experience. Thus, on the basis of this nascently phenomenological study and description of the structures and character of our own experience,6 Kant gets the crucial antecedent he needs and can now conclude, “The objects of our experience must form a causally ordered whole.”7 What I want to stress here is the role played in this argument by first person introspective examination of what it is like for each of us to have experience—by what one might call the view ‘from inside’.

One can see here how in this Kantian kind of argument more is involved that the manipulation of concepts. So this kind of argument is not guilty of the sin of which Kant accused traditional metaphysics. It does not rely on mere analysis of concepts into their conceptual components. This procedure of arguing back to fundamental presuppositions via descriptive self-reflection constitutes a new style of argument, and thus a new style of philosophy. Kant was fully aware of this and thus gave his kind of philosophy a distinctive name: he called it ‘transcendental philosophy’. In keeping with this label, philosophers in the so-called analytical tradition, the tradition of philosophy which has dominated in Anglo-American countries for the last 80 to 90 years,8 call this kind of argument ‘transcendental argument.’9

Kant’s redefinition of traditional metaphysics as transcendental philosophy radically transformed German and indeed European philosophy generally—although just how radical an achievement has never been effectively appreciated in the Anglo-American tradition. For our purposes, it suffices to note the two novel ideas already mentioned.

Firstly, there is the very idea of philosophy as a meta-discipline: philosophy is not a discipline which sits alongside disciplines like physics and mathematics, with its own distinctive set of objects to talk about. It is not as if we can define physics as the study of sensible, i.e., experienceable objects and change, mathematics as the study of unchangeable, insensible objects like numbers and geometric entities and philosophy as the study of the suprasensible objects which sustain and maintain all else. No, philosophy does not relate directly to objects at all, rather it is a higher order discipline deals primarily with the presuppositions and assumptions of the other disciplines as well as with the presuppositions and assumptions of morality and aesthetic activity. This does not preclude its talking in a secondary way about entities like God, our immortal souls, our freedom, purposes in nature and history, etc., but these entities are only talked about as things we must postulate in order that our moral and aesthetic activity be possible.

It is crucial to note an ambiguity in the notion of philosophy as a higher-order discipline. Does this mean that philosophy sits simply on top of the various theoretical, moral and aesthetic practices whose presuppositions it grounds and explicates? The appropriate metaphor here would be that of a building with two storeys, with philosophy on the first floor, and all the other practices on the ground floor. Note that on this picture, philosophy rests upon, hence presupposes the number and arrangement of the ground floor practices. In no sense can it dictate how these practices relate to one another and form a system, or even whether they can and should form an organised system at all.

Or does talk of philosophy as higher-order mean that it somehow encompasses and unifies through its presupposition-grounding activity all the other activities and practices? The actual character of Kant’s work certainly does not give any real foothold for this conception of philosophy as organising all the other practices into an organised, differentiated whole in which each member has its properly assigned place. For Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason has a very baroque structure whose unity is rather artificial. Nonetheless, Kant himself believed in this idea of a system. He thinks that the new kind of argument and ground to which he introduces us in the Critique of Pure Reason needs to be carried out systematically, i.e., in such a way that it generates such an all-encompassing system. The reason why Kant thinks this is not in the least implausible: only if his new kind of philosophy is systematic will it ever be truly able to demonstrate the true sense in which metaphysics is possible.

The thinkers who came immediately after Kant understood Kant’s new conception of philosophy in this way—not inappropriately, since it was certainly how Kant himself understood things. This idea of philosophy as demonstrating and articulating a systematic unity in all the fields of rational endeavour culminated in the philosophy of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), whose work dominated the nineteenth century and whose shadow still falls on us even today. Hegel one either loves or loathes, but never escapes. After Hegel’s death in 1831, however, the idea of philosophy as in any way able to organise the totality of rationally governed practices into a system fell into very great disrepute. This whole idea of philosophy as that discipline which gave a view of the totality of things came to be seen a hubris on the part of the armchair philosophy. In part, this attitude was due to the rise of the modern sciences; during and especially after Kant’s life-time, the natural sciences made rapid advances, opening up new fields such as atomic chemistry, electromagnetics and geology. The more natural science developed, the more it differentiated itself into different fields and extended its grasp on more and more phenomena, the more it seemed to need no tutelage, no organising, systematising help from philosophy. Rather, it had its own agenda, or rather agendas, which were best served by allowing it to grow and develop according to its own internal dynamic. Furthermore—and this is a factor not at all to be underestimated—the more it grew, the more impossible it became for individual practitioners to understand what was going on in fields beyond natural science; and the more it seemed to people in natural science that philosophers outside had nothing to say which would serve their ongoing research interests. The growing specialisation meant, perhaps even required, a certain dulling of sensitivity to possible input from outside the profession. And this dullness meant an impatience with claims and views that were not cast in the immediately understandable jargon of the profession.

But something at least as significant as such psychological and sociological developments as these were the first stirrings of the Geisteswissenschaften, that is to say, of the human studies. Hegel himself had helped to foster an appreciation of how history was more than just the succession of kings, queens and dynasties, but also something which shaped how people thought, historical studies were coming into their own. Crucially, he did not go unaided in this. Before him, thinkers and writers far less sympathetic to the Kant-derived idea of Reason as a rationally ordered totality of rational practices had begun to emphasise the role of one’s own spatial and temporal locality in making one what one is. Thus, Romantic thinkers like Herder (1744-1803) had begun to express the role one’s specific culture, tradition and history had in shaping how one responded to, and thought about things. Unlike Hegel, culture, tradition and history was not seen as an expression of some underlying principle of rational self-organisation, but rather in much vaguer and more nebulous terms as “Volksseele”, the soul of a people, or indeed “Leben”, i.e., life. This tradition emphasised the role of culture, history and tradition as an arational, localising force, not as rational and universalising. This tradition thus inclined people to think that somehow totalising reason obliterated the specific, individual, ineffable and creative aspects of reality. It was this tradition, the tradition of Romanticism and the so-called historical school, both in historiography as such and, for example, in legal theory, which was to play such a decisive role in the years after Hegel’s death. Needless to say, we have here the fundamental roots of so-called Lebensphilosophie, i.e., the philosophy of life, of which both Nietzsche and Dilthey are, in their very different ways, representatives.

Secondly, there is the idea of some kind of descriptive, self-reflective appeal to how things are with us, i.e., how we experience the world. Kant, although he is never explicit about this, admits such an aspect of self-reflection into the very structure of philosophical argument. In this way, he put into the world an idea which was taken up and adapted, often beyond recognition, by, e.g., Herder in his notion of Selbstbesinnung (self-reflection). The idea of the need for a description of our experience and its essential structures occurs explicitly in Franz Brentano (1837-1917), Dilthey himself and ultimately Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) and Heidegger (1889-1976). This is not to say that the idea is taken up directly from Kant; this is certainly not true of Brentano and the early Husserl, who picked up the idea from British empiricism, in particular, via John Stuart Mill, whose System of Logic was a crucial text in the mid- to late-nineteenth century.. It is rather to say that in Kant there is something akin to what these thinkers intend by a description of experience; given this, it would be wrong to conclude that the crucial role description plays in Dilthey (and Brentano, for that matter) indicates a fundamentally anti-Kantian side of his thought.

The Post-Kantian Critique of Modernity

In opposition to Kant (but not just to Kant, nor is it exclusively opposition), there arose in Germany in the late eighteenth century a tradition of hostility to the products of early modernity, a movement which took on protean forms, culminating in Romanticism (Herder, Novalis, Schlegel) and German Idealism (Schelling, Hegel). Although these critics of modernity found many items of detail to criticise in early modernity, their critical attitude to modernity was fundamentally motivated by a general concern about the picture of the world which had arisen in early modernity. (Early modernity is the period which extends from the seventeenth century (Descartes, Galileo, Mersenne, Hobbes, Leibniz and Locke) to Kant (1724-1804), in particular, to Kant’s Critical Philosophy, first outlined in his Dissertation of 1770, but first fully articulated in the Critique of Pure Reason in 1781.) One can conveniently break this concern up into two general directions or dimensions.

Firstly, these early critics of modernity objected to the picture of the world which Newton and the early modern scientist had bequeathed to them. (In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century poets come to regard Newton as a bad guy, in stark contrast to their eulogisation of him in the late 17th and early 18th centuries—see, e.g., Nicolson, Marjorie Hope, Newton demands the Muse: Newton’s Opticks and the Eighteenth Century Poets, History of Ideas Series, No.2, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1946.) On the other, they also objected to the picture of the ‘subject’ or ‘self’ which they saw as implicit in early modern science and the metaphysical picture of the world which underlay this science. This critical stance towards modernity is, however, rather confused. With regard to the first concern, for example, that is, opposition to the early modern scientific worldview, this critical stance is a mix of hostilities to different dichotomies which are never satisfactorily distinguished from one another: (a) opposition to atomism in the name of holism; (b) opposition to the quantitative picture in favour of a more qualitative, less mathematical view; (c) opposition to causal determinism10 in the name of freedom, autonomy and creative spontaneity; and (d) opposition to absolute predicability as defined by the Laplacean image of God11 in the name of the unpredictable, novel and inspirational.

This bundle of inadequately distinguished distinctions made this period and these thinkers, from Fichte (1762-1814) and Jacobi (1743-1819) through the Romantics Herder, Novalis and Schlegel right up to the German Idealists Schelling and Hegel, an inexhaustible mine for all sorts of diverse and very often conflicting 19th century currents of thought. It depended very much on what aspect of the early modern view one wanted to reject. For example, one might attack the early modern world-view for its atomism rather than its determinism, its claim of total predictability and its quantitative, mathematical conception of reality. This kind of move is made by those who in the nineteenth century celebrated the organic and living as somehow eluding the Newtonian paradigm. This celebration of the organic is the root of such developments in the 20th. century as systems theory. That the advocacy of the need to see things holistically, and not in the analytic, atomistic manner of early modern science, is not at all a rejection of early modernity’s determinism and Platonically-inspired mathematical picture of reality is shown by the way systems theory combines so well with non-linear mathematics to enable mathematical modelling of non-linear dynamical systems in physics and biology. In biology, in particular, non-linear approaches, with their holistic trappings and doctrines of emergent properties, have been claimed as overcoming Newton and early modernity precisely in order to extend the original early modern vision of nature as a geometrically ordered whole to living things. Of course, while this kind of anti-Newtonian, anti-mechanist and anti-atomist holism is perfectly compatible with early modern determinism and with the early modern picture of the universe as ultimately quantitative, it is not compatible with the idea of total predictability. But this is a small price to pay for those who, just like Copernicus and Kepler, are fascinated by the geometrical, and thus have fractal art on their walls and Paul Davies on their book shelves.

One can, however, reject early modernity’s picture of the world in a more radical way, namely, by rejecting precisely its Pythagorean and Platonic celebration of the quantitative. Thus, Goethe notoriously tried to replace Newton’s doctrine of colour, while Schelling and the Romantics develop a taste for a pantheist, creativist view of nature as holistically organised whole which was continually bringing forth radically new qualitative properties and conditions in a manner which completely eluded the dessicating, analytical and quantitative methods of natural science. This character of the cosmos was something which could really only be ‘comprehended’ as such by adopting a non-scientific stance, in particular, the standpoint of the artist and poet. Finally, the idealist thinker Hegel, the last and greatest in this valiant post-Kantian attempt to save us from the excesses of early modernity, conceives the world as holistically organised by Reason, or as Hegel called it, the Absolute Idea. This was a principle of maximal order, coherence and intelligibility, a principle which is realised to some degree or other in all things and in all arrangements of things, but realised most perfectly in historical and social development. Hegel called this principle as realised in, and powering along, the socio-historical process Geist, i.e., Spirit. One can see that by Spirit Hegel means nothing mystical; indeed, Hegel despised all contemporary mystical doctrines of the non-conceptual, non-cognitively accessible ineffable—although he had a high regard for the religious mystics of the Middle Ages, e.g., Meister Eckhardt and Jakob Boehme. According to Hegel only philosophy can determine what it means for the world to be structured in this way and to show the necessary truth of this view of things. The ordinary, empirical and mathematical disciplines are, thinks Hegel, ‘finite’ in that they cannot comprehend the underlying, sense-giving principle which structures the entire world, whether natural and socio-historical. Instead, they must blindly presuppose it.

The second direction or dimension of this early critique of modernity concerned the notions of self and subjectivity. This, too, was a jumbled mix of oppositions to insufficiently distinguished dichotomies. Then as now, a superficial opposition to Descartes’ metaphysical distinction between mind and body as two distinct kinds of substance was popular. But this did not really capture what was really driving opposition to the early modern picture of ‘self’. After all, the classically early modern thinker Hobbes was an opponent of Cartesian dualism, but his apparently materialist conception of the ‘self’ would not have pleased the post-Kantian critics of modernity. The real objection is to something common to both Cartesian dualism and monisms such as materialism: the idea that the subject was primarily related to a purely physical, quantitative world such that the qualitative world of everyday existence could only be a mere subjective result of the physical world interacting with the mind of the subject.

This characteristically early modern model of mind underlies the notion of pyscho-physics, and of human cognition and acting as psycho-physical transactions. The term ‘psycho-physics’ itself was introduced by Gustav Fechner (1801-1887, who was a founder of psychology as an independent empirical discipline in the contemporary sense. Fechner introduced this term because he appreciated the above point, namely, that the early modern conception of the ‘self’ and ‘subject’ was actually neutral with regard to metaphysical controversies about the respective merits of dualism and monism. In particular, it was neutral with regard to the issue of whether there was or was not a human soul. All in all, Fechner appreciated, as had Kant before him, that it was confused to think of psychology qua study of the human self, of human cognition and action, as entailing anything about the immateriality or materiality, immortality or immortality of the soul. Psychology qua study of the self, of cognition and action, was not at the same time the study of the soul. By speaking of pyscho-physics and of the ‘self’ as psycho-physical, Fechner was identifying and making explicit that common core notion of the ‘self’ implicit in early modernity which could form, as he thought, the object of a truly natural scientific, quantitative and non-metaphysical study of human personality, cognition, action and the like. In this way, he was making explicit the conception of mind psychology needed in order to establish itself as an independent, empirical discipline which takes its lead from the methods and assumptions of natural science.

Without being really clear about it, the post-Kantian critics of modernity were reacting against this conception of the ‘self’. They disliked the way this model fractured ‘selfhood’ into a collection of independent faculties contingently working together. On the psycho-physical model, e.g., the human faculty of cognition, while associated as a matter of fact with faculties of volition and feeling, could in principle exist without these other faculties. Note that it is much harder to conceive these latter faculties existing without the former. Indeed, even within the one faculty sub-faculties were distinguished which at least according to some thinkers could exist independently. Thus, Descartes and Kant both assume that the ‘understanding,’ i.e., the capacity for discursive, conceptual thought, could exist independently of sense-perception. This is why throughout this period, in thinkers from Herder through to Hegel, we find a withering contempt for talk of faculties (Vermögen).

One reason why they disliked this conception of the self as a collection of faculties was that it seemed to force one to choose between two equally unattractive conceptions of human action: the Humean conception of action and motivation according to which action is simply the causal result of beliefs about the world interacting with arational desires or ‘passions’ to produce behaviour; or the Kantian one according to which while in most everyday cases things work à la Hume, human beings, as free, rational beings, do have the ability to intervene spontaneously in the causal interaction of beliefs and desires to prevent them from initiating morally reprehensible behaviour.

Both views seemed unacceptable, albeit for very different reasons. The Humean picture seemed simply to deny the essential rationality and freedom of one’s actions altogether: these just resulted from one’s particular psychological conditioning, and were directed towards the realisation of goals which ultimately could not be justified in any way. As Hume famously said, Reason is the slave of the passions.

Kant’s view did expressly allow us an innate ability to withstand the conditioning and influence of the past. But it achieved this at the cost of an inelegant dualism between the ‘self’ qua creature of passions or, as Kant called them, ‘Neigungen’ (inclinations); and the ‘self’ qua free agent able to intervene spontaneously in the causal order of nature, in the first instance in the workings of its own psychology, socialisation and conditioning, and thereby in the workings of external nature. In this inelegant dualism two basically incompatible things, freedom and causal necessity, are simply stuck together without any explanation. Perhaps more importantly, however, that any theoretically motivated dislike of a inelegant dualism was the practically and existentially motivated feeling that this picture of human freedom and autonomy was fundamentally repressive and destructive. for it seems to suggest that one is only truly free and autonomous when one is successfully waging war against the demands of all one’s natural, sensual needs, when one is subjecting one’s inclinations (’Neigungen’, as Kant called them) to the discipline of practical reason. This was felt by many to be a gross caricature of our sensual needs; it was also felt to set a too impossible task, one of relentless self-denial, which would make the achievement precisely of freedom and autonomy impossible for humans. It seemed that the arational affective side of human nature, its emotions, feelings and desires, were all downgraded by this picture into external forces always threaten to rob us of our autonomy and freedom of will. And our freedom itself seemed only able to manifest itself in those extreme situations where we successfully resist the pressure of our desires in the name of the moral law. It was felt that this picture made morality not merely arduous, but downright impossible for sensuous beings such as humans are. Indeed, by treating the so-called ‘Neigungen’ as either morally irrelevant or prejudicial to autonomy and freedom, this picture denied the role the affective side of human nature has in establishing and maintaining bonds of social solidarity, friendship and respect. This appeared to be not merely false from a theoretical point of view, but positively dangerous in that it appeared to legitimise the tendencies to social fragmentation and atomisation which were already evident to acute social observers of the time. (It is well-known that Marx’s analysis of the conditions of workers under capitalism is anticipated by Hegel in his Philosophy of Right. Hegel himself worked out his analysis of the destructive character of early capitalism as early as 1805 or so, on the basis of reading Adam Smith and other early writers on economics.)

This protean critique of early modernity and the society it had created had, as already indicated, its apotheosis in Hegel. Hegel sought not just to deny early modernity and its view of the world, but to accommodate and transcend it. He did not want a nostalgic return to pre-modern times. Nor did he think that the answer to the dismal picture of the world which modernity had built up around its greatest accomplishment, namely, natural science, consisted in insisting vehemently on the rights of artistic imagination, as if salvation either at a theoretical or political level could come through the power of poetic fancy. He thought that the only way out consisted in turning the means with which modernity had got itself into this fix against modernity itself. Only through a rational understanding of modernity, of how and why it had come about and assumed the form that it had, could one see a genuine alternative to early modernity and the Enlightenment picture of the world.

We have seen above how Hegel claimed that the world was subject to a rational principle, i.e., by a tendency to organise itself in coherent, systematic ways. Hegel claimed to show this in a work called The Science of Logic. Clearly, what Hegel means by ‘logic’ is not what we understand today. In fact, Hegel’s logic is metaphysics in the grand sense: to use Aristotle’s characterisations, it investigates entities qua entities and does so in order to discover the first principles and causes of all things. That is, it investigates the most fundamental, a priori, necessary structures and features of whatever is, and does so in order to discover a principle which explains why things are as they are and why they have developed as they have developed. Hegel’s enterprise is thus the most extreme, most obvious example of what Heidegger calls onto-theology, an ontological investigation motivated by the theological search for the first causes of all things. Hegel’s philosophy thus represents a quite radical restitution of metaphysics in the face of Kant’s original critique. He rejects completely the constraints and limits Kant sought to place on knowing. Kant said that we could only have knowledge of things that can be given to us in experience. Hegel denies this, and to this extent he wants to turn the clock back.

At the same time, he is not a philosophical reactionary. One can see this in his reasons for rejecting the limits Kant sought to set: while experience does have a categorial structure, this is fixed. According to Hegel, the categories and concepts which structure experience are not fixed for all time, but can in fact evolve. Indeed, they evolve in a strict sequence, getting progressively reacher and deeper as human knowledge progresses towards an understanding of how things really are. Philosophy’s task is amongst other things to track this evolution of categorial structures, to identify its sequence and its necessity. If this is right, if it is possible, then it is a false modesty to restrict thinking to what can be known empirically.

In fact, for Hegel such tracking of the evolution of ever more sophisticated categories and concepts for understanding the world is but one aspect of the central philosophical task of revealing the inherent reasonableness of all things. In particular, the philosopher’s task is to show how the historical development of human society and culture is a reasonable process both tending towards reason and driven by reason: it is a process toward a maximally rational state of social, political and cultural organisation, a process which is itself powered by the chronic instability and contradictoriness of forms of organisation which are not maximally rational.

Given the sheer volume and contingency of historical fact, this identification of the necessary logic of historical development and its culmination in a maximally rational state of socio-political organisation would be impossible unless the philosopher had in advance some idea of the general, rational structure whose evolution he or she is to track. The philosopher must have some independent principle by appeal to which one can distinguish really important, epochal historical facts and events from merely contingent, irrelevant matters of detail and caprice. It is clear that the prior identification of a guiding principle for ascertaining the reasonable structure and sequence of history cannot itself be historical and empirical. It is a matter for first philosophy. This is of course the underlying motivation for Hegel’s Logic. But in taking the principle for showing the reasonable structure of history from his Science of Logic Hegel is in fact giving not merely a contingent, anthropological grounding of the structure of history, but showing it to be but a manifestation of something which goverrns the entire cosmos. For the principle of maximal rational organisation and coherence, the Absolute Idea, which the Logic uncovers is a tendency to self-organisation and systematisation which is inherent in all things and processes, whether natural or historical. So the end state of the historical development described by philosophy turns out to realise in its most perfect form the first cause and principle of the entire cosmos.

One can see here that however much Hegel restores a powerful concept of metaphysics after Kant’s critique, he at the same time introduces something very new into the concept of metaphysics, something that was not present in the metaphysics criticised by Kant. This is the idea that there are historically determined limits on the possibilities of human thought and action; history is not just a succession of events, and the writing of history does not just chronicle the births, deaths, marriages and these days divorces of kings and queens, princes and princesses. Rather, there are times, epochs, periods in the rich sense that these times or epochs set limits to what individuals in these epochs can conceive of.

This Hegelian appreciation of the significance of history, of the historicity of human existence, was to have far reaching consequences. Hegel was by no means the only thinker of his time to take history seriously as something which shaped the very identity of individuals and societies. Indeed, in some ways other thinkers gave much more significance to history. For on Hegel’s scheme of things human existence was only historically conditioned and limited by history in the phases prior to achievement of the final end-state which marked not merely the realisation of humanity, but of Reason and the cosmos itself. At the end of history, historicitiy comes to an end: one . But thinkers like the legal theorist von Savigny took the historicity of human existence to be much more constitutive: he maintained against the likes of Hegel that one could not see various legal systems as diverse manifestations of the one pattern, i..e, reason, but that legal systems were specific to, and arose out of, the peculiar local customs, traditions and habits of mind of a people, so that there was no way of standing outside and assessing the worth or otherwise of the law.

This raised an persistent problem for those who did not like Hegel’s idea of securing a means of interpreting history via a logic. How to secure the objectivity of their historical knowledge?

Some Details about Dilthey’s Life

Dilthey was born in 1833, in a town called Biebrich, which lies on the Rhine, I think in the German state of Hessen and presumably not far from the state capital Wiesbaden, where Dilthey obtained his secondary schooling. Like Nietzsche, he was the son of a protestant minister, in Dilthey’s case, a minister of the so-called Reformed Church. In 1852 he went to study theology at the University in Heidelberg, about 100 km to the south. During this first year of university study, he came under the influence of Kuno Fischer, a great nineteenth century historian of philosophy who impressed upon Dilthey the importance of studying the history of philosophy. When in 1853 he learnt that Fischer had been dismissed by religious conservatives because of his pantheism, Dilthey transferred to the unversity in Berlin. In Berlin, he came to find theology too narrowing, thus becoming more interested in history and philosophy. In particular, he was very much influenced by thinkers from various disciplines who all emphasised the essentially historical character of human existence: August Böckh, Leopold von Ranke, Theodor Mommsen and Jakob Grimm. He was particular impressed by von Ranke’s discourses on universal history, which he saw as a masterful embodiment of the growing appreciation in the nineteenth century of the importance of historical development and change. He was also deeply influenced by the philosopher Friedrich Adolf Trendelenburg’s seminar on Aristotle. Interestingly, Trendelenburg also taught Franz Clemens Brentano (1838-1917); Brentano was a principal source for the phenomenological movement and also insisted on the importance of undertaking descriptive psychology as a preliminary to what he called genetic psychology.

In 1860 Dilthey wrote an essay on the theories of textual interpretation of the Protestant theologian and philosopher, Friedrich Daniel Schleiemacher (1768-1834). This essay won Dilthey a prize and an invitation to write a biography on Schleiermacher and edit his correspondence. Dilthey wrote the first of the two promised volumes but the second was never completed. In 1861 he dropped theology altogether and undertook doctoral work in philosophy under Trendelenburg. He got his doctorate and his habilitation in 1864; the former was entitled “De principiis ethices Schleiermacheri” (“On the principles of Schleiermacher’s Ethics) and the latter “Versuch einer Analyse des moralischen Bewußtseins” (“Attempt at an Analysis of Moral consciousness”). In 1866 he moved to Switzerland to take up a chair at the university in Basel, which is, as I recall, also where Nietzsche taught. In 1968 he took up a chair at Kiel in the far north of Germany. In 1871 he moved to the university of Breslau, which is now in Poland and where (as I recall) Gadamer later studied. Finally, in 1882, he succeeded Hermann Lotze at the University of Berlin; here he stayed until his retirement in 1905. He died in 1911.

Dilthey’s life was itself uneventful and spent entirely in academia. Right from beginnings of his academic career, as early as 1865, Dilthey started to investigate what is involved in the study of human, historical reality and what made such studies different from natural scientific investigations of nature. But his first significant work on this topic was the essay “Über das Studium der Geschichte der Wissenschaften vom Menschen, Gesellschaft und dem Staat” (“On the Study of the History of the Sciences of Humanity, Society and the State”); this appeared in 1875. This work was a preparation for Dilthey’s Einleitung in die Geisteswissenschaften (Introduction to the Human Sciences) of 1883. It is in this work that Dilthey first speaks of the project with which his name is so often associated, namely, the critique of historical reason (GS 1:ix).

What Dilthey means by this is a study of the development of the human sciences and a philosophical investigation of the realm of reality which these sciences investigate which culminate in a systematic, critical grounding of the possibility of historical knowledge. Dilthey wanted to provide a philosophical founding for the kinds of empirical historical studies which were being undertaken by those members of the so-called historical school whom he admired so much. This grounding of the historical sciences was to be a critical one. That is to say, it was to be Kantian in spirit and inspiration; it would attempt, as Kant had attempted for the natural sciences, to outline the conditions under which the human sciences were possible as cognitive enterprises, as well as demarcate the limits of such knowledge. Nonetheless, while Dilthey’s critique of historical reason was certainly inspired by Kant, there are crucial differences in the detail, differences which spring from Dilthey’s recognition of the subsequent critique of Kant by the German idealists, in particular, Hegel; and from Dilthey’s appreciation of subsequent developments in the individual sciences.

As we have seen, Kant had attempted to ground the fundamental presuppositions underlying the natural sciences by showing that these are conditions of the possibility of experience such as we have it. While such fundamental truths could not be true in the way logical or mathematical truths are, he thought that one could show them to be more than just contingent, empirical truths by showing how they are conditions of the possibility of experience: in order for there to be the kind of self-conscious experience and awareness of things that we have, the objects of our experience must form a unified whole ordered according to causal law.

As already indicated, the kind of argument which according to Kant shows truths like the principle of causality to be true in their own special way, namely, as conditions of the possibility of experience, is called a transcendental argument. And a philosophy which uses such transcendental argument for these purposes is called transcendental philosophy. Dilthey was, as we shall see, not happy with Kant’s idea of showing by some kind of a priori argument how and in what way the basic assumptions of physics and natural science generally are true. The way in which the basic assumptions, the very possibility of the human sciences, is to be shown cannot, he thinks, model Kant’s exactly, even though Dilthey accepts Kant’s general idea of a critical grounding. As we shall see, Dilthey thinks that it will not be transcendental philosophy à la Kant. Rather, it will be something he calls descriptive psychology. From a late twentieth century standpoint this term is particularly misleading, for we think of psychology these days very much as an empirical discipline quite distinct from all philosophy. But Dilthey is writing in the mid to late 19th century, at a time when psychology as we know it today, in particular, natural scientifically oriented psychology, was just getting going.12 One of the crucial issues of Dilthey’s time was thus precisely whether there could be such a psychology, and Dilthey takes a position in this debate which not many would accept today. For he belongs to in the tradition of so-called ‘philosophical psychology’.

In order to understand this, we have in this as in so many other things to go back to Kant. In a part of the Critique of Pure Reason known as the “Paralogisms of Pure Reason”13 Kant had basically argued that the kinds of substantial metaphysical conclusions about the nature of the self which various philosophers such as Descartes and Moses Mendelsohn had drawn from various facts about self-consciousness were all fallacious, in other words, paralogisms. One cannot conclude, as Descartes had done, from the fact that I cannot doubt my own existence, that I am as thinking, etc., that the word ‘I’ denotes a simple, immaterial and thus presumably immortal substance. As already mentioned, the lesson of this critique was taken so much to heart in the 19th century that Fechner used it as a means of arguing for the possibility of a scientific study of consciousness and subjectivity which was neutral with regard to such existentially and religiously important doctrines as that of the soul. Kant had shown that these were not the kinds of thing about which objectively assessable, hence genuine knowledge-claims could be made; they were thus matters of individual faith. But the facts of consciousness could be the basis for a genuinely objective study. This represents the decisive break with the long-standing identification of the study of the self and subjectivity with the study of the soul; psychology, the study of the psyché, was no longer of theological or religious significance.

This claim to autonomy, however, immediately raises the question of just how one could properly study the kinds of thing people had used so to speak as data in earlier, metaphysically oriented psychology, that is, in so-called rational psychology, which had argued from these facts to non-empirical, necessary truths such as that the self was an immortal soul. Some, e.g., Kant’s successor at Königsberg, Johann Friedrich Herbart (1776-1841) were convinced that the mathematical methods of physics should be used. In 1816 he wrote his Lehrbuch der Psychologie, i.e., Textbook of Psychology, and in 1824 his Psychologie als Wissenschaft, i.e., Psychology as Science. These constitute an early systematic attempt to formulate a natural scientifically oriented academic discipline of psychology, which was free of all metaphysics and did not see itself as an adjunct or application of some philosophical doctrine. Indeed, it seems that in his time Herbart was seen as something of a Newton of psychology.

As we have also seen, there was also a fairly long tradition of thinking according to which this was precisely the wrong way to think about selfhood, consciousness and subjectivity. Such people typically belonged to, or were influenced by, the various traditions of opposition to Enlightenment scientism, which saw in natural science, that is, Newtonian physics, a model for all forms of knowledge, indeed, they saw in it a model for the design and construction of better social and political institutions as well as something whose progress would inevitably emancipate humanity. In Germany, people like the great poet and playwright Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749-1832) and Romantic thinkers like Herder had seized upon notion of the whole, and in particular, of the organism and the organic, as displaying an ontological structures which precluded cognition in the manner of natural science, which, as they saw it, attempted to construe all things as the mere behavioural sums of the behaviours of their parts. Some late eighteenth and nineteenth century thinkers seized upon this kind of idea in order to show that while it was quite appropriate to demand an empirical psychology which sought neither to ground metaphysical doctrines nor used such doctrines as premisses in its arguments, but rather relied on ascertainable empirical facts, it was very inappropriate to assume that this demand could be met only by modelling psychology on mathematical physics. In other words, such thinkers argued that while psychology had to be genuinely autonomous of metaphysics and genuinely empirical, it was wrong to assume that the only kind of metaphysically neutral experience and knowledge was one that took physics as its model. One prominent figure in this regard was Carl Friedrich Carus (1789-1869); he regarded the mathematico-physical model of science which Herbart sought to apply in psychology as an illegitimate reduction or truncation of psychological phenomena. Precisely this kind of claim makes visible a rather curious feature at least implicit in this kind of rejection of the idea of a natural scientifically oriented psychology: people who adopt this Romantic line could plausibly argue that they, and not the advocates of the natural scientific approach, were the ones who were genuinely anti-metaphysical and open to the empirical. From this perspective, the vision of a mathematically oriented psychology is merely a transfiguration of metaphysically laden rational psychology. For underlying the idea that the methods of natural science can be extended to the psychology is the metaphysical assumption that everything in nature, in particular, human selves and other psychological beings, for example, the animals, were natural in the more specific sense of being members in the universe of discourse of some possible natural science. This is precisely the claim to totality which underlay the notion of natural philosophy in its hey-day from Descartes and Galileo through to Kant, when people, most notably Kant himself, stopped talking about natural philosophy and began talking about natural science (Naturwissenschaft). The idea of natural philosophy is the distinctly metaphysical idea that reality as it really is, that is to say, at that level at which one describes the real causal processes which account for why things are as they are, is capturable with the mathematical means and methods of mathematico-physical natural science. Thus, underlying the idea that psychology must be done as one more natural science is precisely this early modern metaphysical idea. So those who call for the extension of mathematical natural science to the psychological realm are in fact attempt to preserve, not overcome, metaphysics. They are in fact those who are metaphysically biased, not those who talk in terms of the irreducibility of psychological or organic wholes to their parts, i.e., of the irreducibility of life (das Leben) in its various forms, be these forms psychological, biological or social, cultural and historical.

This fact indicates a distinctive feature of the Romantic conception of psychology from which Dilthey draws: it stresses over and over again the dependence of psychology on philosophy, and of course also the converse: while philosophy needs to have a basis in the various facts of human consciousness and subjectivity, hence in this rather unusual sense must be empirical, it is equally true that psychology remains inextricably bound up with philosophy. It cannot, as those who yearn to make psychology a natural science imagine, be made into a completely autonomous discipline which can only enter relation with philosophy in order to instruct the latter and correct its a priori hubris. With this, the Romantic conception of psychology shows itself to be fundamentally committed to what in the nineteenth century was known as philosophical psychology. Psychology, unlike physics, stands in a relation of dependence to philosophical reflection, admittedly a kind of philosophical reflection which is non-metaphysical in character and empirically sensitive. In relation to psychology, philosophy has two indispensable tasks: firstly, philosophy must subject the various models and metaphors which underly concrete empirical theories of consciousness and subjectivity to conceptual analysis; and secondly it must determine the extent to which these models constitute adequate general ways of thinking about psychological facts and other kinds of facts, e.g., social, cultural and historical, which imply the existence and activity of psychological beings.14 (An example of the role of philosophy in relation to such models would be the philosophical investigation and critique of the information-processing model as a way of modelling intelligent behaviour, or again, the Shannon and Weaver “sender/receiver model” of communication as a general way of picturing what goes on in human communication.)

We will come back to all this. In the meantime, let us note that, as with so many of his projects, Dilthey never finished what he set out to do in the Introduction. The whole work was originally intended to consist of five books, whereby the first two would form Volume 1 and the remaining three Volume 2. In fact, Dilthey only wrote the first two books of Volume 1. The first book outlines the individual human sciences, attempts to show that they form a systematic whole and then deals with their epistemology. The second book gives an overview of the initial history of the human sciences, during which they were according to Dilthey subservient to a priori metaphysical speculation.

In Volume 2, which was never written, Dilthey wanted to add a further study of the human sciences in recent times, during which the human sciences were in the process of casting off the metaphysical yoke and establishing themselves as independent disciplines. He also wanted to outline the epistemological problems of the human sciences and provide his own foundation for them. A number of drafts for the second volume were written, and several of the essays which Dilthey wrote in the 80’s and 90’s were meant to be included in the Volume 2 of the Introduction, e.g., “Beiträge zur Lösung der Frage vom Ursprung unseres Glaubens an die Realität der Außenwelt und seinem Recht” (“A Contribution to the Solution of the Question concerning the Origin of Our Belief in the Reality of the External World and Its Legitimacy”) from 1890. During this period, Dilthey wrote extensively on matters to do with aesthetics, e.g., “Dichterische Einbildungskraft und Wahnsinn” (“Poetic Imagination and Madness”), published in 1886, and “Die Einbildungskraft des Dichters: Bausteine für eine Poetik” (“The Imagination of the Poet: Elements for a Poetics”), published 1887.

In 1894 Dilthey wrote the work that we will mainly be looking at: Ideen über eine beschreibende und zergliedernde Psychologie (Ideas concerning a Descriptive and Analytic Psychology). The point of this work was to provide the kind of descriptively psychological base for the human sciences which Dilthey thought necessary. It is not clear to me whether this work was or was not to be part of the general project associated with Dilthey’s Introduction. Whatever the case is here, in this work Dilthey argues against the idea that psychology could be a natural science, hence could profitably model itself and its methods on, says, physics. In Dilthey’s time, experimental and natural scientifically oriented psychology was just starting to emerge; one of its proponents, Gustav Fechner, was described its task as that of a psycho-physics, i.e., of demonstrating the various causal laws governing the production of psychological states and experiences by physical things.15 Dilthey himself thought that the idea of a psychology based on natural science was wrong. Such a conception misconstrued the task of psychology as explanation, i.e., the identification of the causes of psychological phenomena and the laws according to which these psychological effects were produced. Instead, Dilthey thought that psychology should be descriptive, i.e., provide descriptions of the structure of psychological life and its products.

In 1896, Dilthey gave up the project of the Introduction, and returned to historical studies; he wrote studies on Leibniz and his age, Frederick the Great and the German Enlightenment, and on the eighteenth century and the historical world. Then, in 1900 Dilthey published the short essay “The Rise of Hermeneutics”, which I will discuss later. This essay sketches a somewhat different conception of what the point and task is of the human sciences. This different conception is now much more hermeneutic in the sense that now Dilthey sees the task of the human sciences as one of understanding expressions rather than with psychological description.

From 1905 until his death in 1911, Dilthey picked up the threads of his critique of historical reason again. In 1910 he published a work called “The Construction of the Historical World in the Human Studies”. He claimed that this was simply a resumption of his original project as outlined in the Introduction. This is not quite right; in this work, the new, more hermeneutical approach outlined in the essay of 1900 is more prominent. The year 1910 is also the year in which Dilthey wrote the essay “On the Understanding of Other Persons and Their Life-Expressions”, which I examine in the seventh set of notes.


  1. Makkreel, Rudolf A., Dilthey—Philosopher of the Human Studies, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1975, pp.36-37.

  2. Actually, the proposition that everything that happens has a cause is somewhat stronger than the proposition that the world is a causally regular place. Kant and Hume, however, understood the causal regularity of the world to mean that everything has its cause.

  3. There is, of course, something seriously wrong with this diagnosis. After all, if this analysis were right, then it is almost inconceivable that philosophers should not have become aware of it much earlier. One cannot imagine strife persisting long over whether bachelors are or are not unmarried males.

  4. The details here are not relevant. Suffice to say that the kernel of truth in claims such as these is that without some prospect that our ‘existential needs’ can be met, moral demands are empty and hollow. For a being to able to be moral, it must be at home in the world. I have subsequently found this idea intimated in Novalis, who says in a fragment, “Die Philosophie ist eigentlich Heimweh, ein Trieb überall zu Hause zu sein.” (Novalis, Schriften, Hg. J. Minor, Jena 1923. Bd.2 S.179, Fragment 21.)

  5. Kant summarises the result of this argument in what he calls the highest principle of all synthetic judgements: “Ein jeder Gegenstand steht unter den notwendigen Bedingungen der synthetischen Einheit des Mannigfaltigen der Anschauung in einer möglichen Erfahrung.” (Kritik der reinen Vernunft, A 158/B 197)

  6. It is because of this element of ‘description’ in Kant that Husserl, with whose name we associate the phenomenological movement in philosophy, could eventually overcome his hostility to Kant and recognise the essentially ‘transcendental’ character of phenomenology. It is indeed interesting that philosophers like Brentano and the early Husserl, who themselves emphasised the essential role of description in psychology and philosophy, were at first hostile to Kant, even though the very idea of this essential role is clearly discernible in, and original to, Kant. The reason for their hostility no doubt has to do with the fact that in their time the leading exponents of Kant’s philosophy, e.g., Hermann Cohen, were inclined to downplay this role.

  7. Note that this kind of argument is not and cannot be directed against the Cartesian sceptic who argues that the existence of the objects of our experience is illusory. Kant’s point is not at all to show that there is something absurd about evil demons or brains in vats, but to show that a certain causal orderliness is intrinsic to the objects of our experience.

  8. The founding fathers of analytical philosophy are Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) and G. E. Moore (1873-1958) in England, and the logical positivists in Vienna, e.g., Moritz Schlick (1882-1936), Rudolf Carnap (1891-1970), Otto Neurath (1882-1945), and others. They all claim to be drawing out the philosophical implications of the great German mathematician Gottlob Frege (1849-1925).

  9. See, e.g., P.F. Strawson’s The Bounds of Sense, London: Methuen, 1966. It is characteristic of the analytical tradition that it does not see or appreciate the ‘descriptive’ or ‘phenomenological’ element in transcendental argument. That is why they are puzzled by its non-deductive character, and why so many analytical philosophers like to describe the task of philosophy as ‘conceptual analysis.’ Taken literally, conceptual analysis could lead to no significant, non-trivial results; this is the fundamental lesson of Moore’s so-called paradox of analysis. But in fact, analytical philosophers, with their penchant for talk about intuitions and the like, do not do ‘conceptual analysis’ in any literal sense. The inability of this tradition to reflect adequately on its own self is one of its most significant features and naiveties.

  10. Causal determinism does not necessarily mean strict determinism of the kind no longer regarded as valid at least at the quantum-theoretical level. It is simply the idea that the future of all things is a mathematical function of its past and present.

  11. According to Laplace, if one knew the mathematical functions which described the behaviour of all things, one could, given enough information about initial conditions, predict the futures of all things in their entirety. Since God presumably has this knowledge, He must indeed have predicted all things that will occur, or have ever occurred.

  12. German philosophers and psychologists of the 19th century were central in the rise of a natural scientifically oriented psychology, just as they were central in the creation of the modern university, with its distinction into relatively autonomous faculties and disciplines. Thus, in 1879 Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) set up the first autonomous institute for psychological research based on techniques adopted from natural science.

  13. These are to be found in the first main part of the second book of the so-called Transcendental Dialectic.

  14. See Sachs-Hombach, p.14.

  15. The crucial thing about Fechner’s notion of psycho-physics was that it was forged in order to provide a conception of psychology which did not conceive itself as the science of the soul in any way, but, taking a stand neither for or against the existence of the soul, simply studied thought processes and psychological processes empirically.