Verstehen is a German word signifying the "understanding" and "interpretation" of meaning and human activities. It is pronounced|fərˈʃteːən "fehr-SHTEH-ehn", and is used as an adjective in phrases such as "Interpretative Sociology" ("verstehende Soziologie"). There is also a tendency in modern English not to follow the German-language practice of capitalizing nouns.

Wilhelm Dilthey and Hermeneutics

It was introduced into philosophy and the human sciences ("Geisteswissenschaften") by the German philosopher Wilhelm Dilthey to describe the first-person participatory perspective that agents have on their individual experience as well as their culture, history, and society. In this sense, it is developed in the context of the theory and practice of interpretation (hermeneutics) and contrasted with the external objectivating third-person perspective of explanation ("Erklärung") in which human agency, subjectivity, and its products are analyzed as effects of impersonal natural forces in the natural sciences and social structures in sociology.

Twentieth-century philosophers such as Martin Heidegger and Hans-Georg Gadamer have criticized what they considered to be the romantic and subjective character of "Verstehen" in Dilthey, although both Dilthey and the early Heidegger were interested in the "facticity" and "life-context" of understanding, and sought to universalize it as the way humans exist through language on the basis of ontology. "Verstehen" also played a role in Edmund Husserl and Alfred Schutz's analysis of the "lifeworld." Jürgen Habermas and Karl-Otto Apel further transformed the concept of "Verstehen", reformulating it on the basis of a transcendental-pragmatic philosophy of language and the theory of communicative action.

Max Weber and the Social Sciences

Max Weber and Georg Simmel introduced interpretive understanding ("Verstehen") into the individual social sciences, where it has come to mean a systematic interpretive process in which an outside observer of a culture (such as an anthropologist or sociologist) relates to an indigenous people or sub-cultural group on their own terms and from their own point-of-view, rather than interpreting them in terms of his or her own concepts. "Verstehen" can mean either a kind of empathic or participatory understanding of social phenomena. In anthropological terms this is sometimes described as cultural relativism. In sociology it is an aspect of the comparative-historical approach, where the context of a society like twelfth century "France" can be potentially better understood ("Besserverstehen") by the sociologist than it could have been by people living in a village in Burgundy. It relates to how people in life give meaning to the social world around them and how the social scientist accesses and evaluates this "first-person perspective". This concept has been both expanded and criticized by later social scientists. Proponents laud this concept as the only means by which researchers from one culture can examine and explain behaviors in another. While the exercise of "Verstehen" has been more popular among social scientists in Europe, such as Habermas, "Verstehen" was introduced into the practice of sociology in the United States by Talcott Parsons, an American follower of Max Weber. Parsons incorporated this concept into his 1937 work, "The Structure of Social Action".


Critics of the social scientific concept of "Verstehen" such as Mikhail Bakhtin and Dean MacCannell counter that it is simply impossible for a person born of one culture to ever completely understand another culture, and that it is arrogant and conceited to attempt to interpret the significance of one culture's symbols through the terms of another (supposedly superior) culture. Such criticisms do not necessarily allow for the possibility that "Verstehen" does not involve "complete" understanding. Just as in physical science all knowledge is asymptotic to the full explanation, a high degree of cross-cultural understanding is very valuable. The opposite of "Verstehen" would seem to be ignorance of all but that which is immediately observable, meaning that we would not be able to understand any time and place but our own. A certain level of interpretive understanding is necessary for our own cultural setting, however, and it can easily be argued that even the full participant in a culture does not fully understand it in every regard.

See also

* antinaturalism
* antipositivism
* emic and etic
* hermeneutics
* lifeworld
* Wilhelm Dilthey
* Max Weber
* Jürgen Habermas

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См. также в других словарях:

  • verstehen zu — verstehen zu …   Deutsch Wörterbuch

  • Verstehen — ist das inhaltliche Begreifen eines Sachverhalts, das nicht nur in der bloßen Kenntnisnahme besteht, sondern auch und vor allem in der intellektuellen Erfassung des Zusammenhangs, in dem der Sachverhalt steht. Verstehen bedeutet nach Wilhelm… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Verstehen — Verstehen, verb. irreg. S. Stehen, welches in doppelter Gattung gebraucht wird.i. Als ein Neutrum mit dem Hülfsworte seyn, über die gehörige Zeit stehen, am häufigsten von Pfändern. Das Pfand ist verstanden, ist verfallen. Verstandene Pfänder,… …   Grammatisch-kritisches Wörterbuch der Hochdeutschen Mundart

  • verstehen — V. (Grundstufe) etw. genau hören Beispiele: Kannst du etwas verstehen? Wir konnten jedes Wort verstehen. verstehen V. (Grundstufe) die Bedeutung von etw. kennen Synonym: begreifen Beispiele: Verstehst du meine Frage? Ich verstehe kein Deutsch.… …   Extremes Deutsch

  • Verstehen — es un término alemán que traducido al español significa comprensión, divulgado por Max Weber. El comprensivismo es una rama de la filosofía de la ciencia (o epistemología, si se quiere hablar en términos contemporáneos) que surge en Alemania,… …   Wikipedia Español

  • verstehen — [Basiswortschatz (Rating 1 1500)] Auch: • begreifen • (ein)sehen • kapieren • einschlagen • ankommen • …   Deutsch Wörterbuch

  • verstehen — verstehen, versteht, verstand, hat verstanden 1. Ich kann Sie kaum verstehen. Sprechen Sie bitte lauter. 2. Den Satz verstehe ich nicht. 3. Ich verstehe nichts von Computern. 4. Unsere beiden Kinder verstehen sich sehr gut …   Deutsch-Test für Zuwanderer

  • verstehen — Vst. std. (8. Jh.), mhd. verstān, verstēn, ahd. farstān, farstantan, as. farstandan Stammwort. Wie afr. forstān, ae. forstandan. Die Ausgangsbedeutung ist offenbar davor stehen , doch ist die Präfigierung schon von Anfang an übertragen gebraucht …   Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen sprache

  • verstehen — ↑kapieren …   Das große Fremdwörterbuch

  • verstehen — peilen (umgangssprachlich); spannen (ugs.); begreifen; blicken (umgangssprachlich); raffen (umgangssprachlich); checken (umgangssprachlich); kapieren (umgangssprachlich); …   Universal-Lexikon

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