Thursday, January 5, 2012

Two forms of understanding

Max Weber, who lived from 1864 to 1920, is known both as a historian, economist and sociologist. His general view is best known as the "Verstehende Soziologie". In the book Wirtschaft und Gesellshaft, which was published after fis death in 1921 without being completely finished, Weber defines sociology in this interesting way:"Sociology ... is a science that tries to give an interpretive understanding of social action in order thereby to arrive at a clausal explanation of the social actions processes and effects. The action is included all human behaviour ... and includes all actions which can be given a subjective meaning. Action in this sense can be either external or purely internal or subjective. It can be a positive intervention in a situation, or deliberately refraining from such intervention, or a passive acceptance of the situation. "

What is interesting here is the view of humanity and society that are the basis for this definition. Weber defines sociology as a science that is primarily concerned with meaningful phenomenon, human action, and that only takes into account non-meaningful phenomenon to the extent that they are conditions for meaningful actions. 

Weber distinguishes between two forms of understanding. These are observational understanding and motivational understanding. Immediate observational understanding of meaning is about spoken and written statements, facial expression, emotional expression, etc. Mening is about to what is "given" at face value. Motivational understanding gives the actor a motive to understand and explain why he / she acts as he / she does. But first we must understand what is being done. Motivational understanding is therfore based on observational understanding. 

Observations as in the need to test a hypothesis, falls under what Weber calls an observational understanding. Most "objective" social facts that have been found, according to Weber, come from observational understanding. 

Weber says that action must be examined on the basis of its subjective meaning. Subjective meaning means here that are not widely available. The fact that meaningful action is subjective, means only that the actor or subject is the "author" of the meaningful action.

No comments:

Post a Comment