Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Mark Bevir & Asaf Kedar
Historical understanding (Verstehen) has to do with grasping the intentional content attached to human actions. It is a distinctive approach to the human sciences, typically based on the idea that the meaningful nature of human action requires a distinct epistemology in the form of historical understanding. Philosophers who study historical understanding have generally focused on three interwoven but analytically distinctive concerns. The first concern is to articulate the ontological conditions for the possibility and grounds of historical understanding. The second is to clarify the epistemological nature of historical understanding itself: What does it mean to understand actions that took place in the past? The final concern is to specify the role of understanding in historical explanation: Does understanding have to be accompanied by additional explanatory operations in order to secure its empirical validity? It is important to dispel two myths about historical understanding. The first myth is that it is ...