Nomothetic versus idiographic research

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The epistemological distinction between nomothetic and idiographic research goes back to Wilhelm Windelband's speech “History and Natural Science” , which he gave in 1894 when he took up his rectorate at the University of Strasbourg .

Windelband initially distinguished mathematics and philosophy as rational sciences from empirical sciences . He then divided the latter into the nomothetic natural sciences and the idiographic humanities .

(from Greek nomos : 'law' and thesis : 'build up') denotes a research direction in which the goal of scientific work is generally applicable laws. Their methods are experimental, often reductionist , and the data collected are quantitative. Nomothetic theories abstract from the phenomena. This way of thinking is typical of the natural sciences .
(from the Greek idios : 'own' and graphein : 'describe') is a research direction in which the goal of scientific work is the comprehensive analysis of specific objects that are unique in terms of time and space. Its main area of ​​application is the humanities .

Heinrich Rickert pointed out that an idiographic approach - as with the nomothetic - must be abstracted. Rickert speaks (therefore) of the individualizing and generalizing method. The former aims to work out the culturally significant individuality of something (for which one must abstract from many culturally irrelevant aspects of qualitative individuality), the latter to subsume something under general terms or laws, whereby everything that is not relevant for this subsumption is ignored .

In the middle between the two stands psychology , which explores quantitative and qualitative inter- and intra-individual differences in order to find objective laws that can be applied to individuals. According to Windelband, psychology examines humanities content using scientific methods. The discussion of this distinction was introduced into personality psychology by Gordon Allport (1937) .

For the legal philosophy , Max Ernst Mayer adopts Windelband's distinction between what is always and what was once .

As an example from ethics , Kant's Categorical Imperative can stand for the nomothetic way of thinking, Sartre's counter-argument “Should I look after my sick mother or join the Resistance ?” For the idiographic one.

Wilhelm Kamlah understands idiographical as empirical particular statements , nomothetic as empirical universal statements and criticizes Windelband's separation as outdated. It has been shown that the science of history also make general statements ("The Greek Colony Foundations ..."), and also the natural sciences make particular statements ("Jupiter ...").


Individual evidence

  1. ^ Wilhelm Windelband: History and Science , 3rd edition. Strasbourg: Heitz 1904 [ digitized versionhttp: //vorlage_digitalisat.test/1%3D~GB%3D~IA%3Dgeschichteundnat01wind~MDZ%3D%0A~SZ%3D~doppelseiten%3D~LT%3D~PUR%3D ].
  2. ^ Heinrich Rickert: Cultural studies and natural science . Mohr, Freiburg 1899; Heinrich Rickert: The limits of scientific concept formation. A logical introduction to the historical sciences. Fifth, improved to include an appendix a. a register increased circulation . Mohr, Tübingen & Leipzig 1929.
  3. M. Sader, H. Weber: Psychology of personality . Munich: Juventa 1996, p. 103 ff.
  4. Amelang, M. et al .: Differential Psychology and Personality Research , Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 6th edition 2006.
  5. ^ Logical propaedeutics. Preschool of Sensible Speaking. Bibliographical Institute, Mannheim; 2. improve u. extended 1973 edition

Web links

Wiktionary: nomothetic  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: idiographic  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations