Wilhelm Dilthey

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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 ?
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).
En mi opinion, el enfoque Fermandois esta en sintonia con el historicismo de Wilhelm Dilthey, Friedrich Meinecke y Jose Ortega y Gasset.
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.
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.
Throughout his work, German philosopher and historian Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911), who shaped the development of hermeneutics and phenomenology, aimed at establishing the epistemological grounding for the human sciences (Geisteswissenschaften) on the multifaceted notion of Erlebnis, deeply influenced by Kant's transcendental epistemology and by British empiricism.
Interfaces possiveis entre historia, psicologia e literatura no horizonte da epistemologia nao reducionista de Wilhelm Dilthey
The word was introduced to popular usage by Wilhelm Dilthey in Poetry and Experience (1906), though he had already used the term in the earlier life of Schleiermacher (1870), a book that fittingly appeared on the eve of German unification under Bismarck.
Tal pretension se alcanza mediante un analisis critico del pensamiento sobre el modelo explicativo y el modelo interpretativo de hacer conocimiento y, sobre la vision del dilema explicacion-comprension en la obra de pensadores como Hans-Georg Gadamer, Wilhelm Dilthey, Richard Rorty y Paul Ricouer.
If this impression proves correct, we have here the possibility of further understanding the implicit dialogue that pragmatism in general, and Mead in particular, engaged in with the Hegelian and Neo-Kantian strands of thought developing in continental Europe at the turn of the 20th century (especially with the cultural sciences and Geisteswissenschaften traditions in Germany, where Mead spent his doctoral years in the late 1880s and early 1890s, studying with Wilhelm Wundt, and later with Wilhelm Dilthey, among others).
Sus autores son: Ernst Cassirer, Francis Macdonald Comford, Wilhelm Dilthey, Eugenio Garin, Carl Jung, Raimon Panikkar, Alfonso Reyes, Miguel de Unamuno, Maria Zambrano y algunos otros.
Taken together, these volumes thus mark a new stage in Shpet scholarship, a shift from earlier representations of him as primarily a Russian phenomenologist (indebted especially to Edmund Husserl, the principal founder of phenomenology) to appreciation and assessment of his staggering overall significance for the humanities, or for what Wilhelm Dilthey (whose ideas had a major impact on him (1)) termed the human sciences (Geisteswissenschaften).
In the 18th and 19th centuries, however, figures such as August Ernesti (note that the name of the main character in the novel, Ernesto, differs by only one letter), Friedrich Schleiermacher and Wilhelm Dilthey transformed hermeneutics into the basis of a general methodology of textual interpretation for the humanities.