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Wilhelm Dilthey 1833-1911


The  Wilhelm Dilthey quotation given below is from Alastair J Reid’s blog.

He is from Cambridge in the UK and writes that he is ‘a historian of social movements in modern Britain, especially those that come from and contribute to a pluralistic perspective. I also have a longstanding engagement with literature and spiritual traditions, and am interested in ways scholarship can interact with personal experience.’ and ‘thst ‘Wilhelm Dilthey, summarising his own approach to cultural history and philosophy, also got close to the heart of the issues being explored’ in his blog.

The historical consciousness of the finitude of every historical phenomenon and of every human or social state, and of the relativity of every kind of faith, is the final step toward the liberation of human beings. With historical consciousness human beings attain the sovereignty to enjoy every experience to the full, to surrender themselves to it completely and unencumbered, as if there were no system of philosophy or faith that could bind them. Life is freed from conceptual cognition, and spirit rises above all the cobwebs of dogmatic thought. When everything beautiful, everything holy, every sacrifice is re-experienced and interpreted, they open up perspectives that disclose a reality. And in the same way we accept what is evil, frightful, and ugly as having a place in the world, as containing some reality that must be justified in the world system and cannot be wished away …

… The doctrine of an objective value of life is a metaphysics that surpasses what can be experienced. We do experience, however, a connectedness of life and of history in which every part has a meaning. Like the letters of a word, life and history have a sense. There are syntactical moments of life and history that are like particles or conjugations, and they have a meaning, which is sought by every kind of human being. Previously, life used to be conceived on the basis of the world. But the only route possible is to proceed from the interpretation of life to the world …

From ‘Drafts for a Critique of Historical Reason’, translated by Rudolf A. Makkreel and William H. Oman, in Wilhelm Dilthey, Selected Works. Volume 3. The Formation of the Historical World in the Human Sciences (Princeton University Press, 2002), pp. 310-11.


October 28, 2010 at 8:55 am

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