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The general rationale for contrasting the natural and the human sciences becomes clearer when we look at specific attempts to argue for the division. The obvious place to start is with Windelband’s “History and Natural Science” (Windelband 1894/1980). It is relatively clear and succinct.[1] It was enormously influential on the discussion that followed. And we also know that Carnap read this paper. In order to treat Windelband in some depth, I will make only brief reference to other writers such as Rickert and Dilthey.

Windelband begins by distinguishing the non-empirical sciences of mathematics and philosophy from the empirical ones, and it is within the latter that he draws the natural/human sciences distinction.[2] In discussing Windelband’s attempt to distinguish two kinds of sciences, it will be useful for us to do so under four headings: (1) laws vs unique particulars, (2) abstraction vs perceptuality, (3) values, and (4) human indeterminacy and freedom.

  • [1] This is not the case for Rickert. See (Rickert 1896-1902/1986 and 1899/1962).
  • [2] In this Windelband obviously differs from the discussion above in which philosophy was taken asa paradigm case of the human sciences. And not everyone in his tradition followed Windelband inthis.
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