How is Sociological Knowledge Possible? Influences of Kantian Epistemology in Max Weber’s ‘Verstehende Soziologie’ and the Problem of Objectivity


Kantian epistemology embedded in Weber’s ‘Verstehende Soziologie’
Kant’s ‘Copernican Revolution’ and transcendental idealism
Weberian methodology
Weberian ideal-type construction
Ideal types and understanding
ideal types and objectivity
causality in social sciences
the problem of objectivity


Kant’s ‘Copernican Revolution’ has caused a radical change in the common-sense theory of knowledge. The subject became the centre and the necessary premise for the validity of the objective world. This change in the understanding of knowledge has best manifested itself in Weber’s ‘Verstehende Soziologie’. Therefore, in order to understand the Weberian sociological method and to be able to detect the possible problems that may arise from his sociology, a better grasp of what Kantian epistemology is and in what ways it has influenced Weberian sociology is needed. Accordingly, this paper will firstly analyse Kantian epistemology with a special emphasis on transcendental idealism, and will expand and explain in detail Weber’s ‘Verstehende Soziologie’. Next, the paper will show how Weberian sociology relates to Kantian epistemology through the construction of ideal types. Before concluding, the focus moves to the objectivity claim of both Kantian epistemology and Weberian sociology and shows how objectivity arises from subjectivity through the establishment of causality. Finally, the paper will propose an objection to the objectivity claim of Weberian sociology and will argue that Kantian epistemology, when adopted as a method of sociology, becomes reflexive and threatens to deprive sociology of its objectivity claim.
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