Wilhelm Dilthey

(redirected from Dilthey)

Dilthey, Wilhelm


Born Nov. 19, 1833, in Biebrich am Rhein; died Oct. 1, 1911, in Seis. German cultural historian and idealist philosopher; representative of the philosophy of life; professor at Basel, Kiel, Breslau, and Berlin.

The philosophical views of Dilthey (a student of F. Trendelenburg) were formed under the influence of German idealism and romanticism, with their emphasis on the subjective world and their interest in culture and history. His philosophical ideas were also influenced by English and French positivism (J. S. Mill and A. Comte; the anti-metaphysical position and method of psychologism as the analysis of the immediate data of consciousness). The neo-Kantian views of the Baden school also had some influence on Dilthey (the opposition between the natural sciences and cultural-historical knowledge).

The concept of life as man’s mode of being, as cultural-historical reality, is central for Dilthey. According to him, man has no history but is history, and only history can reveal what kind of being man is. Dilthey sharply divides the world of nature from the human world of history. In Dilthey’s opinion, the task of philosophy as the “study of the spirit” is to “understand life, taking our point of departure from life itself (see Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 5, Leipzig-Berlin, 1924, p. 4). In connection with this, Dilthey proposed the method of “understanding” as a direct comprehension of a certain spiritual wholeness (the integral experience). Dilthey contrasted understanding, which he considered akin to intuitive penetration into life, with the method of “explanation” used in the “sciences of nature,” which deal with external experience and are connected with the constructive activity of reason. Understanding of one’s own inner world is achieved with the aid of introspection (self-observation) and understanding of someone else’s world, by “living in,” “co-experience,” and “empathy.” With respect to the culture of the past, understanding acts as a method of interpretation, called “hermetics” by Dilthey. That is, individual phenomena are interpreted as moments (elements) of the integral spiritual and emotional life of the period being reconstructed.

In his later works Dilthey turned away from introspection as a psychological means of understanding, concentrating instead on examining the culture of the past as a product of the “objective spirit.” Here, Dilthey to a large extent anticipates neo-Hegelianism. However, he had a negative attitude toward panlogism. In contrast to Hegel, Dilthey always maintained a romantic inclination to acknowledge the “last secret” of life, which the interpreter can approach but cannot reach. Like the romantics, Dilthey examines the integrity of historical formations through the prism of the wholeness of the human personality—his basic historical research centered on the principle of combining a number of individual biographies. Moreover, the determining trait of Dilthey’s historicism is relativism. This also characterizes his doctrine of the three basic types of world view, understood as the expression of a total personal attitude: naturalism, the idealism of freedom, and objective idealism. Dilthey has exerted great influence on the development of 20th-century bourgeois philosophy, particularly existentialism. In his social views Dilthey was a representative of bourgeois liberalism.


Gesammelte Schriften, 2nd ed., vols. 1-12. Stuttgart-Göttingen, 1957-60.
In Russian translation:
Opisatel’naia psikhologiia. Moscow, 1924.
“Tipy mirovozzreniia i obnaruzhenie ikh v metafizicheskikh sistemakh.” In the collection Novye idei vfilosofii, no. 1. St. Petersburg, 1912.


Kon, I. V. “Dil’tei i ego ’kritika istoricheskogo razuma’.” In the collection Kritika noveishei burzhuaznoi istoriografii. Leningrad, 1967.
Gaidenko, P. P. “Kategoriia vremeni v burzhuaznoi evropeiskoi filosofii istorii 20 veka.” In the collection Filosofskie problemy istoricheskoi nauki. Moscow, 1969.
Spranger, E. W. Dilthey. Leipzig, 1912.
Hodges, H. A. The Philosophy of W. Dilthey. London, 1952.
Bollnow, O. F. Dilthey, 2nd ed. Stuttgart, 1955.


References in periodicals archive ?
One could trace the origins of critical psychology back to the work of Dilthey (1961) who asserted that scientific psychology and its 'explanatory' approach to the psyche, was unable to grasp the complexity and specificity of the human mind (Teo, 1999).
The path elected to undertake the work of finding philosophical-hermeneutical Kantian's roots faces objection in Gadamer, which are, at first identified: [a] Gadamer understands that the Critics of Kantian Judgment incur in subjective deviations that are not suitable to offer a model for the hermeneutical thought; [b] following Heidegger's line of thought, Gadamer's hermeneutics would be incompatible with an ethics engendered in modern critical spirit; [c] there is a centrality of ethics in the "Gadamerian way" (from Dilthey to Gadamer, passing through Heidegger), prevailing the aesthetic and ontological interest.
La deuda intelectual es declarada desde el inicio con Henri-Irenee Marrou, especialmente con su obra De la connaissance historique (1954), deudor a su vez el historiador frances "de la llamada filosofia critica de la historia, heredada de Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911), Georg Simmel (1858-1918), Heinrich Rickert (1863-1936) y Max weber (1864-1920), y continuada por Raymond Aron (1905-1983)" (7).
Throughout, he engages with ideas of Leopold von Ranke, Wilhelm Dilthey, Heinrich Rickert, Martin Heidegger, Mircea Eliade, Jean-Paul Sartre, Michel Foucault, and Hannah Arendt.
It is rooted in Hegel's work, the Phenomenology of Spirit (1), first written in 1807, followed by a development of phenomenology by Husserl (2) and Heidegger (3), writings on hermeneutics by Gadamer (4) (philosophical hermeneutics), Adorno and Horkheimer (5) (objective hermeneutics) and Habermas (6) (hermeneutics and dialectics) and comprehensive historicism by Dilthey (7).
Ademas de sus propias contribuciones a la filosofia, en textos como Confesiones profesionales (1938), De la filosofia (1962) o Del hombre (1970), tradujo para el Fondo de Cultura Economica De Leibniz a Goethe (1945) de Wilhelm Dilthey, La experiencia y la naturaleza (1948) de John Dewey, La filosofia desde el punto de vista de la existencia (1953) de Karl Jaspers, Ideas relativas a una fenomenologia pura y una filosofia fenomenologica (1949) y Meditaciones cartesianas (1985) de Edmund Husserl y, desde luego, El ser y el tiempo (1951) de Martin Heidegger.
La aproximacion a la experiencia sugerida inicialmente en este numero especial se incardina en las ciencias del espiritu y se vincula con el concepto "Erlebnis" estudiado por Dilthey, Spranger o Gadamer.
1) La crisis de la filosofia de la identidad, en debate con la filosofia perenne de Trendelenbug, que a su vez daria lugar a la nocion hegeliana de filosofia como critica, con sus derivaciones posteriores: el resurgir de la metafisica de Schopenhauer como reaccion a la filosofia del absoluto hegeliana, el resurgir y posterior caida del ideal neo-kantiano relativo a un idealismo subjetivo aun mas sofisticado, la metafisica de la ciencia de Edward von Hartmann, y las visiones del mundo de Dilthey en un contexto ya claramente historicista:
Ricoeur identifies critical moments in the modern development of hermeneutics by referring to such major contributors as Schleiermacher, Dilthey, Heidegger, and Gadamer.
An author who spent his life studying, analyzing, and publishing his critical reflections on this subject was Wilhelm Dilthey (8) (1833-1911), a German Historian, Psychologist, Sociologist, and Hermeneutic Philosopher.
Interfaces possiveis entre historia, psicologia e literatura no horizonte da epistemologia nao reducionista de Wilhelm Dilthey