Concepts and Indicators in Humanistic Sociology

  • Stefan Nowak
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 94)


A sociologist in the late thirties or early forties looking for a philosophical creed which could deliver him a set of guiding rules in his investigations would have faced an uneasy choice between two obviously incompatible orientations. One of these orientations stressed the basic difference between social and natural sciences. According to it social sciences deal with basically different subject matter than the natural ones — their subject matter consists of meaningful human behaviors and culturally meaningful objects. Therefore their goal (and at the same time their method) is to understand these meanings properly, and to come to certain generalized conclusions about them. The term ‘understanding’ (Verstehen) referring to the special character of the approach to social phenomena was introduced by W. Dilthey in the 19th century, but — as it was stressed by Alfred Schutz1 and many others — the ‘practice of Verstehen’ is as old as society itself, if not older. Whenever in the history of mankind one man has observed the behavior of others, he would also try to guess the purpose of this behavior, the motives of the behaving persons, etc. He would also try to guess how others would perceive and react to his own behavior.


Social Reality Social Meaning Overt Behavior Behavioral Sequence Theoretical Hypothesis 
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© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1976

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  • Stefan Nowak

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