Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 August 2010
In 1883, with the publication of the first and second volumes of Introduction to the Human Sciences, Wilhelm Dilthey endeavored to establish the human sciences within the same conceptual framework as the natural sciences – “a complex of propositions (1) whose elements are concepts that are completely defined … (2) whose connections are well grounded, and (3) in which finally the parts are connected into a whole for the purpose of communication” (Dilthey, Introduction, 57). The Geisteswissenschajten, because they studied human understanding first, saw the natural law as a guide for human practice, and saw the life of man incommensurable with the world without human interaction with it (Introduction, 56–9). That is to say, Dilthey once and for all distinguished between the natural world as behaving exterior to (or perhaps behind the back of) human cognition on the one hand, and human cognition and resultant social practice on the other. Natural science established the conceptual systems by which nature could presumably be studied and mapped; the human sciences used similar methodologies to study the possibility that such a mapping could be accomplished at all.
Much has changed in the 100 or so years since the Introduction's publication. Most significantly, the natural sciences have been problematized to such an extent that the division imposed by Dilthey between the human and the natural sciences has been blurred, if not (according to some) completely effaced.