Andrus Tool defends his PhD thesis in philosophy "Objektiivsuse teema Wilhelm Dilthey vaimuteaduste-filosoofias" (Objectivity in Wilhelm Dilthey's Philosophy of Human Sciences) on 26th of November.
Professor Ülo Matjus, University of Tartu
Professor Jaan Valsiner, Clark University
Professor Tõnu Viik, Tallinn University
Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911) was one of the first and most influential theorizers who set as his goal to reveal the specificity that characterises the forms and paths of development of knowledge in the humanities. The latter were still undergoing development during his lifetime and were fighting for their acknowledgement as a legitimate part of the academic world. The theme of objectivity in his philosophy of the human sciences refers to the relations between the concepts of objectivity and guidance. The purpose of this dissertation is to first distinguish the different conceptions of objectivity and guidance in Dilthey's philosophy. Second, to reconstruct the problems and contexts within which these conceptions arise during the development of his thought. Third, to present and assess critically the solutions that he proposed for the problems that he raised within the context of the theme of objectivity. Fourth, to bring out the various approaches to the relations between the objectivity of human sciences and the guidance of society that can be provided within the framework of his conception, but which he himself did not explicate. This dissertation reaches the conclusion that there are several different concepts of (objective) reality, the objectivity of cognition, and the guidance of society contained within Dilthey's discussions on the theme of objectivity. I distinguish four different constellations in Dilthey's thought that are constituted by these concepts. According to his conviction, the first two rely on unsatisfactory conceptions of what objectivity is in both the ontological and the epistemological sense. Against these he provided new conceptions of ontological and epistemological objectivity. Moreover, the emphases of his approach shifted over time, so that we can propose that he developed two different conceptions based on the connections between these concepts. The development of Dilthey's thought leads to the conclusion which today may be formulated as follows: absolutely valid cognition is possible only from a "God's eye" perspective. If we connect scientific objectivity to this kind of universal validity, we must admit that objective cognition is impossible. The dissertation argues that in order to claim that the pursuit of objectivity is the meaningful goal for the cognition of the human sciences, Dilthey should have replaced, in his aspiration for the ideal of objectivity, the requirement of absolute validity with a weaker, that is, a formal and relative requirement for universal validity. I demonstrate that he in fact does this sporadically, and that his discussions on this theme do implicitly contain such a treatment of the objectivity of the human sciences, but that he is not always consistent in this, yet that such an approach to the objectivity of knowledge would provide a good basis for one of Dilthey's primary claims, the substance of which he himself, however, did not open up more closely - namely that the extent to which knowledge derived from the human sciences can accomplish its task of being the instrument with which society can be influenced or even guided depends on the universal validity of this knowledge.