Who is Heinrich Rickert?June 25, 2021
He is a student of Windelband. He worked as a professor in Heidelberg.
Besides trying to develop the philosophy of values in the footsteps of his teacher, he was also intensely interested in the distinction between natural sciences and history/spiritual/cultural sciences.
Rickert is mainly credited with attempting to move from Kant’s transcendental idealism to a critical ontology. He wanted to develop a kind of “value ontology” especially when he was interested in value problematic. According to him, there is no doubt that values are the carriers of culture and determine their cultural life. So much so that, according to him, value also precedes knowledge; because, finally, knowledge is nothing but the realization of a value (True).
In this regard, he followed Fichte and defended the priority of practical reason over theoretical reason. Rickert’s classification of sciences and the way he grounded the “cultural sciences” as he called it, especially influenced his friend and student Max Weber’s understanding of science and his grounding of sociology as a science.
Another student of his, Martin Heidegger, of whom he was also a PhD teacher, was also influenced by his science criticism. According to Rickert, the positivist understanding of science is based on a dogmatic naturalism, which, since Comte, has guided the attempt to establish the “cultural sciences”, which positivists call “social sciences”, on the model of natural science. Since positivists limited the concept of “science” to “experiential science”, they could not understand the decisive role of values that cannot be the subject of sensory experience in social life.
According to Rickert, who was influenced by Dilthey on this subject, Comte, by establishing his “sociology” as he called it, according to such a limited understanding of science, a “positive science” model, revealed an incomplete and even wrong science. According to Rickert, as in Kant, knowledge is a construction, a fiction of the subject. And what is decisive in this construction, the thing that forms the basis, is logic, as Windelband also states. Therefore, both the natural sciences and the cultural sciences are on the same ground in terms of their logical foundations. However, they use different methods. Because they have different informational interests and informational goals. The interest of the natural sciences, as Windelband points out, is to know their subject under the design of generality, and its aim is to reveal general laws (laws of nature).
In contrast, the interest of the cultural sciences is to treat their subjects as one-off events, as Windelband also points out; its goal is to grasp these events as one-off ensembles. This difference in interests and goals makes natural sciences generalizing sciences and cultural sciences singularizing sciences. In addition, cultural sciences consider the social reality, which is the subject, as a reality that is formed under the guidance of values. Again, as Windelband points out, social reality encompasses everything that people do under common values (or value classes) such as True, Good, Beautiful. However, Rickert states that values are adopted in different ways in every period and age, and the task of cultural sciences is to establish and comprehend the link between values whose meanings change in every age and period and human actions. The aspect that makes them singular is that each period and age itself remains specific. The cultural sciences should pursue this specificity. Understanding the link between values and human actions is possible through understanding.
Understanding, as hermeneuticists (for example, his contemporary Dilthey) stated, is the way and method of comprehending history and culture. According to Rickert, nature lacks value; hence it can be perceived and explained, but not understood. Concept formation in natural sciences is carried out on the basis of the law-fact relationship. In cultural sciences, on the other hand, concepts can only be established by considering the value-action relationship. In conclusion, cultural sciences are sciences of specificity and singularity. For this reason, cultural sciences stand closer to reality than generalizing natural sciences, which exclude or subordinate the specific and singular. Because the real is the specific and the singular; the general/universal is just an abstraction.
Max Weber (1864-1920) worked as a professor in Berlin. It is not directly related to the Heidelberg School. As a friend and student of Rickert, he was a follower of his science teaching and developed an understanding science and understanding sociology that tried to reconcile Dilthey’s hermeneutics with Rickert’s science teaching.