Both Jaspers and his friend and intellectual mentor, Max Weber, took phenomenology to be a part of a tradition of "empathy" (Einfühlung) and "understanding" (Verstehen). Both concepts were important within the Methodenstreit, or methodological controversy, which was raging over the nature and the scientific status of the human sciences at the turn of the century. Empathy was an important concept for Jaspers and for Weber but not for other figures within the Methodenstreit, such as Wilhelm Dilthey and Georg Simmel, both of whom were also highly influential on Jaspers and Weber. Understanding was a crucial concept for all these men. To them, it was the defining feature of the human sciences. All of these authors and the Methodenstreit in general were dominated by themes that were fundamentally Kantian.

Also present within the Methodenstreit were socalled neo-Kantian figures such as Wilhelm Windelband and Heinrich Rickert, who were successively Jaspers's professors after he left the practice of psychiatry in 1913 to take up a lectureship in psychology within the Heidelberg department of philosophy. An interest in the differing logic of the natural, and the human or cultural, sciences was the neo-Kantian influence on the Methodenstreit. Empathy played no part whatsoever, and understanding played a late, different, and minor part in Rickert's thinking. Jaspers's phenomenology begins from the same neo-Kantian themes as Rickert's theory of science, but Jaspers does not follow Rickert into his detailed distinctions between the two kinds of science.

For Jaspers, phenomenology was an "understanding, empathic representation" (verstehende, einfühlende Vergegenwärtigung) of the other person's psychic life. For Weber, it was an "empathic understanding" (einfühlende Verstandnis). Both Jaspers and Weber believed that this definition of phenomenology was exactly in line with Husserl's own thinking. This paper shows that their belief was a serious misunderstanding of Husserl's view.


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