Windelband, Wilhelm

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Windelband, Wilhelm


Bora May 11, 1848, in Potsdam; died Oct. 22, 1915, in Heidelberg. German idealist philosopher; leader of the Baden school of neo-Kantianism. Professor at Zürich (1876), Freiburg (1877), Strasbourg (1882), and Heidelberg (1903).

Windelband is known for his works on the history of philosophy, History of Ancient Philosophy (1888; Russian translation, 1893) and History of Modern Philosophy (vol. 1-2, 1878-80; Russian translation, vol. 1-2, 1902-05), in which the philosophical systems of the past are presented from a Kantian position. In a characteristically neo-Kantian spirit Windelband eliminates the concept of thing-in-itself from Kant’s doctrine and attempts thereby to overcome the dualism of Kantian philosophy in a subjectivistic way. Windelband defines philosophy as “the critical study of values of universal validity” (Preliudii [Praludien], St. Petersburg, 1904, p. 23) and as a normative doctrine based on value judgments and on the cognition of what ought to be. He contrasts philosophy with the natural sciences, which are based on theoretical judgments and empirical data of what is. Windelband interprets values as being a priori, transcendental, and universally valid. By acknowledging mankind’s self-determination in accordance with an “ethical ideal” as the ultimate aim of historical progress, Windelband reduces social problems to ethical ones. He declares the dualism of the world of reality and the world of values to be a “sacred mystery” revealing the limitation of our knowledge and directs us into the sphere of religious values.

In evolving a methodology of the sciences he breaks down the sciences into nomothetic sciences, which deal with laws, and idiographic sciences, which study specific phenomena in their uniqueness. “The former are the sciences of laws, the latter are the sciences of events” (ibid., p. 320). In this way Windelband denies that the discovery of laws is the guiding principle of historical knowledge.


Geschichte und Naturwissenschaft, 3rd ed. Strasbourg, 1904.
Uber Willensfreiheit, 4th ed. Tubingen, 1923.
Lehrbuch der Geschichte der Philosophic, 15th ed. Tübingen, 1957.
In Russian translation:
O svobode voli. Moscow, 1905.
Platon, 4th ed. St. Petersburg, 1909.
Filosofiia v nemetskoi dukhovnoi zhizni 19 stoletiia. Moscow, 1910.


Plekhanov. G. “O knige V. Vindel’banda.” In Soch., vol. 17. Moscow, 1925. Pages 155-59.
Iakovenko, B. “Vil’gel’m Vindel’band.” In Voprosy filosofii i psikhologii, 1916, books 132-33.
Blonskii, P. Sovremennaia filosofiia, part 1. Moscow, 1919.
Rickert, H. Wilhelm Windelband, 2nd ed. Tubingen, 1929.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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