The Constitutive Components of Scientific Inquiry: Bridging the Subject/Object Dichotomy

  • Basit Bilal Koshul


Weber notes that the cultural sciences investigate and provide “knowledge of reality with respect to its cultural significance” (OSS, 75). In other words, meaning (Sinn) is the “what?” that the cultural sciences study. But keeping in mind that meaning cannot be characterized as either a “fact” or a “value” in some absolutely “objective” sense, the question emerges regarding the “objective” character of knowledge provided by the scientific investigation of meaningful cultural phenomena. Weber describes the presupposition implicit in this question in these terms:

When we distinguished in principle between “value-judgment” and “empirical knowledge,” we presupposed the existence of an unconditional valid type of knowledge in the social sciences, i.e., the analytical order of empirical social reality. (OSS, 63)

Even though meaning (Sinn) is simultaneously a fact and a value, Weber posits that a distinction can be drawn between the two different aspects and that scientific inquiry requires an “objective” distinction between the two. This claim is itself based on the presupposition that there exists an “unconditional valid type” of knowledge by means of which this distinction can be drawn. Speaking of this presupposition, Weber notes: “This presupposition now becomes our problem in the sense that we must discuss the meaning of objectively ‘valid’ truth in the social sciences” (OSS, 63). In other words, how do we arrive at objectively valid scientific knowledge (or “truth”)? The manner in which Weber investigates and eventually resolves this question parallels and complements the manner in which he investigates and resolves the question: What does scientific inquiry investigate?


Abstract Concept Knowledge Claim Empirical Reality Cultural Phenomenon Concrete Experience 
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© Basit Bilal Koshul 2005

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  • Basit Bilal Koshul

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