Verstehen Naturalized

Document Type


Publication Date



Weber, Simmel, Verstehen, understanding, mirror neurons, Edith Stein, naturalism, Barsalou

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Verstehen, understanding another human being through some form of empathy, is a natural process with the involvement, probably in a complex way, of the brain. There is a temptation to describe Verstehen in a way that mystifies it, or to collapse it into more general considerations about mind reading. The social science tradition, however, points in a different direction. Both Max Weber and Georg Simmel, and later Edith Stein, commenting as a phenomenologist on the same issues in the human sciences, provide accounts which lend themselves more directly to naturalization. Their issues involve navigating the social world through such things as typifications, heuristics, and the recognition of patterns in social situations. It is suggested that these recognitions, studied by Lawrence W. Barsalou, provide a naturalized form of understanding sufficient for the explanatory purposes of social science.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

Philosophy of the Social Sciences, v. 49, issue 4, p. 243-264