A reexamination of the debate over the logic of the social sciences from the perspective of an expanded theory of science, and a proposal for a resolution in transcendent-pragmatic terms.
Karl-Otto Apel, as much as any German theorist, bridges the gulf between Anglo-American and continental thought in both the style and content of his work. Understanding and Explanation clarifies the "explanation versus understanding" debate that has become central to the philosophy of the social sciences. Apel reexamines the debate over the logic of the social sciences from the perspective of an expanded theory of science, and he proposes a resolution in transcendent-pragmatic terms. He differentiates three legitimate approaches to the social sciences, connected with three "knowledge-constitutive" interests: deductive-nomological sciences, historical-hermeneutic sciences, and critical-reconstructive sciences. After reviewing the failure of earlier discussions to resolve these issues, Apel develops his own approach in light of the turn from logico-semantic to pragmatic analysis of language in post-Wittgensteinian philosophy. In doing so, he constructs bridges that reach back to themes and positions of the German tradition of the Geisteswissenschaften, but from strikingly new angles.
Understanding and Explanation is included in the series Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought, edited by Thomas McCarthy.