DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DC055-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 22, 2024, from

6. The Southwest German School: Windelband

Although the real development of the Southwest German system was the work of Rickert, and Windelband merely sketched his systematic approach in a collection of essays with the descriptive title Präludien (Preludes) (1884) as well as in his Einleitung in die Philosophie (Introduction to Philosophy) (1914), the importance of Windelband as an initiator is not to be underestimated. Windelband understands philosophy as a whole to be concerned with values. He rejects a purely objectivist conception of value and attempts instead to solve the problem of the objectivity of values in a transcendental manner by having recourse to an archetypal consciousness (Normalbewußtsein) which is able to make value judgments, and for which the Kantian ‘Pure Consciousness’ (Bewußtsein überhaupt) serves as a foil. He traces the traditional division of philosophy into the disciplines of logic, ethics and aesthetics back to the way in which these disciplines are orientated to the values of Truth, Goodness and Beauty. Like Cohen, Windelband also attributes a special role to religion. According to him, the sphere of human value judgments is exhausted by these logical, ethical and aesthetic values. Religion, whose proper concern is with the sacred, does not represent a separate cultural domain. Correspondingly, the sacred does not represent a specific class of values with universal validity alongside truth, goodness and beauty; it embodies all these values inasmuch as they are all related to a supersensible reality.

Like the philosophers of the Marburg School, Windelband also sees the significance of Kant in his re-establishment of the relationship between science and philosophy. At the same time he criticizes Kant – and this distinguishes him from the Marburg School – for his bias in favour of the mathematically orientated natural sciences. In the face of the triumphant emergence of the historical sciences throughout the nineteenth century he sees this as an anachronism. Therefore his efforts are directed towards bringing out their special structure in contrast to the natural sciences. In his speech as Rector of Strasbourg University he defined his approach: the natural sciences operate with universal, apodeictic judgments. They aim at universal statements, which explains their interest in a reality which always remains constant. Their approach is nomothetic, because their aim is to reveal relationships between laws. The price paid for this method is a tendency to abstraction. The historical sciences mitigate this by means of singular, assertive judgments. They are directed towards the particular, which explains their interest in what reveals itself as a unique, intrinsically determined content of reality. Their approach is idiographic, because what they aim to make visible are concrete configurations. For this reason their procedure depends upon intuitive self-presentation.

The main emphasis of Windelband’s publications lay in the sphere of the history of philosophy. He was the author of, among other works, a two-volume Geschichte der neueren Philosophie (History of Modern Philosophy) (1878–80) and a Lehrbuch der Geschichte der Philosophie (Textbook of the History of Philosophy) (1892), which was continued by Heimsoeth and is still reprinted regularly today. In Windelband’s view, the history of philosophy has a threefold task. It should:

  1. Establish precisely what can be ascertained concerning the living conditions, the intellectual development and the doctrines of the individual philosophers from the existing sources;

  2. Reconstruct from this information the genetic process in such a way that in the case of each philosopher it is possible to understand the relationship of his teachings to those of his predecessor, to the general ideas current at the time, to his individual character, culture and education;

  3. To judge from an observation of the whole what value can be ascribed to the teachings which have been discovered and whose origins have been explained in the light of the history of philosophy in its totality.

  4. (Windelband 1902: 13)

Citing this article:
Ollig, Hans-Ludwig. The Southwest German School: Windelband. Neo-Kantianism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DC055-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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