Windelband Wilhelm(1848-1915) NEO KANTIAN German philosopher, remembered largely for his distinction between two contrasting ‘focuses of interest’ in social studies: IDIOGRAPHIC AND NOMOTHETIC, the latter concerned with the discovery of scientific laws and the former the distinctive approach required when dealing with individual historical phenomena. Along with RICKERT, Windelband argued that whilst economics and sociology, in seeking to establish generalizations, could quite properly adopt a natural science methodology, it must also be recognized that historical and cultural studies often required the use of idiographic methods. One important emphasis in Windelband's work was the significance of values in the selection of problems for study in the cultural realm, a view which influenced WEBER (see VALUE RELEVANCE), although, unlike him, Windelband held open the possibility that universally valid ethical norms might be established.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000