Phenomenology Online

A Resource for Phenomenological Inquiry

Dilthey, Wilhelm(1833-1911) is a German philosopher of history and culture, whose theories have especially influenced theology and sociology. Born in Biebrich on the Rhine, he studied at Heidelberg and Berlin. As professor of philosophy at the universities of Basle, Kiel, Breslau, and Berlin, he fought the domination of learning by the “objective” natural sciences; he sought to establish a “subjective” science of the humanities (Geisteswissenschaften). According to Dilthey, these subjective human studies (including law, religion, art, and history) should concentrate on a “human-social-historical reality.” He held that the study of the human sciences involves the interaction of personal experience; the reflective understanding of experience; and an expression of the spirit in gesture, words, and art. Dilthey argued that all learning must be seen in the light of history; without this perspective, knowledge and understanding can be only partial.