idiographic and nomothetic
idiographic and nomotheticdivergent orientations to social enquiry (and their associated methods): an idiographic focus is on cultural and historical particulars, using methods such as ETHNOGRAPHY and biography; while a nomothetic focus seeks to establish general laws following an explicitly natural-science model of knowledge. The distinction was first conceptualized in these terms by the German neo-Kantian philosopher, WINDELBAND. In the late 19th century METHODENSTREIT, German theorists such as DILTHEY, RICKERT and Windelband debated which methods best suited particular social sciences, or whether the two methods could be combined (see Fig. 14). These concerns also influenced Max WEBER, who, like many sociologists subsequently, sought to combine both methods. See also GEISTESWISSENSCHAFTEN AND NATURWISSENSCHAFTEN, MEANINGFUL UNDERSTANDING AND EXPLANATION, IDEAL TYPE, VERSTEHEN, HERMENEUTICS. DOUBLE HERMENEUTIC.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000