World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Human science

Article Id: WHEBN0007703977
Reproduction Date:

Title: Human science  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Sociology, Humanities, Management, Social science, Idiographic image
Collection: Human Sciences, Social Sciences
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Human science

Human science is the study and interpretation of the experiences, activities, constructs, and artifacts associated with human beings. The study of the human sciences attempts to expand and enlighten the human being's knowledge of their existence, its interrelationship with other species and systems, and the development of artifacts to perpetuate the human expression and thought. It is the study of human phenomena. The study of the human experience is historical and current in nature. It requires the evaluation and interpretation of the historic human experience and the analysis of current human activity to gain an understanding of human phenomena and to project the outlines of human evolution. Human science is the objective, informed critique of human existence and how it relates to reality.


  • Meaning of 'science' 1
  • History 2
    • Early development 2.1
    • Later development 2.2
  • Objective vs. subjective experiences 3
  • References 4
  • Bibliography 5
  • External links 6

Meaning of 'science'

Ambiguity and confusion regarding usage of the terms 'science', 'empirical science', and 'scientific method' have complicated the usage of the term 'human science' with respect to human activities. The term 'science' is derived from the Latin scientia meaning 'knowledge'. 'Science' may be appropriately used to refer to any branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged to show the operation of general laws.

However, according to Positivists, the only authentic knowledge is scientific knowledge which comes from positive affirmation of theories through strict scientific method. As a result of the positivist influence, the term science is frequently employed as a synonym for empirical science. Empirical science is knowledge based on the scientific method, a systematic approach to verification of knowledge first developed for dealing with natural physical phenomena and emphasizing the importance of experience based on sensory observation. However, even with regard to the natural sciences, significant difference exist among scientists and philosophers of science with regard to what constitutes valid scientific method[1] — for example, evolutionary biology, geology and astronomy, studying many events that cannot be repeated, can use a method of historical narratives[2] More recently, usage of the term has been extended to the study of human social phenomena as well. Thus, the natural sciences and social sciences are commonly classified as science, whereas the study of classics, languages, literature, music, philosophy, history, religion, and the visual and performing arts are referred to as the humanities. Ambiguity with respect to the meaning of the term science is aggravated by the widespread use of the term formal science with reference to any one of several sciences that is predominantly concerned with abstract form that cannot be validated by physical experience through the senses, such as logic, mathematics, and the theoretical branches of computer science, information theory, and statistics.


Human science (also, humanistic social science, moral science and human sciences) refers to the investigation of human life and activities via a phenomenological methodology that acknowledges the validity of both sensory and psychological experience. It includes but is not necessarily limited to humanistic modes of inquiry within fields of the social sciences and humanities, including history, sociology, anthropology, and economics. Its use of an empirical methodology that encompasses psychological experience contrasts to the purely positivistic approach typical of the natural sciences which exclude all methods not based solely on sensory observations. Thus the term is often used to distinguish not only the content of a field of study from those of the natural sciences, but also its methodology.[3]

Early development

The term moral science was used by Hume in his Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals to refer to the systematic study of human nature and relationships. Hume wished to establish a "science of human nature" based upon empirical phenomena, and excluding all that does not arise from observation. Rejecting teleological, theological and metaphysical explanations, Hume sought to develop an essentially descriptive methodology; phenomena were to be precisely characterized. He emphasized the necessity of carefully explicating the cognitive content of ideas and vocabulary, relating these to their empirical roots and real-world significance.[4]

A variety of early thinkers in the humanistic sciences took up Hume's direction. Adam Smith, for example, conceived of economics as a moral science in the Humean sense.[5]

Later development

Partly in reaction to the establishment of positivist philosophy and the latter's Comtean intrusions into traditionally humanistic areas such as sociology, non-postivistic researchers in the humanistic sciences began to carefully but emphatically distinguish the methodological approach appropriate to these areas of study, for which the unique and distinguishing characteristics of phenomena are in the forefront (e.g. for the biographer), from that appropriate to the natural sciences, for which the ability to link phenomena into generalized groups is foremost. In this sense, Droysen contrasted the humanistic science's need to comprehend the phenomena under consideration with natural science's need to explain phenomena, while Windelband coined the terms idiographic for a descriptive study of the individual nature of phenomena, and nomothetic for sciences that aim to define the generalizing laws.[3]

Dilthey brought nineteenth-century attempts to formulate a methodology appropriate to the humanistic sciences together with Hume's term "moral science", which he translated as Geisteswissenschaft - a term with no exact English equivalent. Dilthey attempted to articulate the entire range of the moral sciences in a comprehensive and systematic way.[6] Meanwhile, his conception of “Geisteswissenschaften” encompasses also the abovementioned study of classics, languages, literature, music, philosophy, history, religion, and the visual and performing arts. He characterized the scientific nature of a study as depending upon:[6]

But the specific nature of the Geisteswissenschaften is based on the "inner" experience (Erleben), the "comprehension" (Verstehen) of the meaning of expressions and "understanding" in terms of the relations of the part and the whole – in contrast to the Naturwissenschaften, the "explanation" of phenomena by hypothetical laws in the "natural sciences".[7]

Edmund Husserl, a student of Franz Brentano, articulated his phenomenological philosophy in a way, that could be thought as a basis of Dilthey's attempt. Dilthey appreciated Husserl's Logische Untersuchungen[8] (1900/1901, the first draft of Husserl's Phenomenology) as an “epoch making“ epistemological foundation of his conception of Geisteswissenschaften.[9]

In recent years, 'human science' has been used to refer to "a philosophy and approach to science that seeks to understand human experience in deeply subjective, personal, historical, contextual, cross-cultural, political, and spiritual terms. Human science is the science of qualities rather than of quantities and closes the subject-object split in science. In particular, it addresses the ways in which self-reflection, art, music, poetry, drama, language and imagery reveal the human condition. By being interpretive, reflective, and appreciative, human science re-opens the conversation among science, art, and philosophy."[10]

Objective vs. subjective experiences

Since Auguste Comte, the positivistic social sciences have sought to imitate the approach of the natural sciences by emphasizing the importance of objective external observations and searching for universal laws whose operation is predicated on external initial conditions that do not take into account differences in subjective human perception and attitude. Critics argue that subjective human experience and intention plays such a central role in determining human social behavior that an objective approach to the social sciences is too confining. Rejecting the positivist influence, they argue that the scientific method can rightly be applied to subjective as well objective experience. The term subjective is used in this context to refer to inner psychological experience rather than outer sensory experience. It is not used in the sense of being prejudiced by personal motives or beliefs.


  1. ^ Popper, Karl, Logic of Scientific Discovery, Routledge, 2002.
  2. ^ .Darwin's Influence on Modern ThoughtMayr, Ernst.
  3. ^ a b Georg Henrik von Wright, Explanation and Understanding, ISBN 0-8014-0644-7, pp. 4–7
  4. ^ "David Hume", Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  5. ^ Book Review of Jeffrey T. Young's Economics As a Moral Science: The Political Economy of Adam Smith
  6. ^ a b Wilhelm Dilthey, An Introduction to the Human Sciences, Princeton Press, Chapter I
  7. ^ Wilhelm Dilthey, Gesammelte Schriften, vol. VII, p. 86
  8. ^ Edmund Husserl, Logical Investigations, 1973 [1913], Findlay, J. N., trans. London: Routledge
  9. ^ Wilhelm Dilthey, Gesammelte Schriften, vol. VII, p. 14
  10. ^ Saybrook Graduate School


  • Flew, A. (1986). David Hume: Philosopher of Moral Science, Basil Blackwell, Oxford
  • Hume, David, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals

External links

  • Human Science(s) across Global Academies
  • Marxism philosophy
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.