Wilhelm Windelband and the problem of relativism

British Journal for the History of Philosophy 25 (1):84-107 (2017)
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This paper analyzes the shifts in Wilhelm Windelband’s ‘critical philosophy of values’ as it developed hand in hand with his understanding of relativism. The paper has two goals. On the one hand, by analyzing the role that relativism played in his philosophical project, it seeks to contribute to a better understanding of Windelband's intellectual development in the context of historicism and Neo-Kantianism. On the other hand, by highlighting Windelband’s contribution to the understanding of relativism, it sheds light on an important episode in the history of that problem. The paper distinguishes between three phases in Windelband’s thinking and shows that his views about relativism changed in close connection with his conception of history. The early Windelband thought that historicism was compatible with absolute validity because he was firmly convinced of historical progress. The mature Windelband rejected progress as a means for justifying validity and put the problem of relativism into sharp relief. In response to the failure of his mature philosophy to fend off relativism, the later Windelband strengthened the role of history again. The paper concludes that Windelband’s significance lies not in his arguments against relativism, but rather in having furthered philosophical understanding of the problems at stake.

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Katherina Kinzel
Utrecht University

Citations of this work

Inner Experience and Articulation: Wilhelm Dilthey’s Foundational Project and the Charge of Psychologism.Katherina Kinzel - 2018 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 8 (2):347-375.
Wilhelm Windelband.Katherina Kinzel - 2019 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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