The Erklaeren -Verstehen Controversy and Its Relevance for African Philosophy

Abstract

This work is a critical examination of the place of explanation and understanding in the overall consideration of the various means employed in the acquisition of reliable knowledge both in the physical and social sciences. This inquiry is made to ascertain if the methods of explanation and understanding employed in the physical and social sciences can constitute relevant tools in African philosophy.  Life is full of puzzles seeking explanation and understanding. Apart from its raising of questions, philosophy also concerns itself with providing answers or explanations to the fundamental questions of life. These explanations make what was previously unintelligible or unfamiliar to be understandable. It demystifies or, as it may be, unravels the apparent mystery beclouding it thus making it intelligible. In explanation questions raised include: how? When? Why? Where? Etc.  The erklaeren – verstehen controversy (i.e. explanation – understanding controversy) is an inter disciplinary controversy which arose in sorting out the primary methodological concerns proper to the philosophy of the natural and socio- historical sciences. It raises the question of whether we can use the same methods of explanation and understanding in the physical and social sciences. This work employing the philosophical methods of critical analysis and evaluation traced the background of this controversy, examined the various methods employed by the physical and social sciences in explanation and understanding and considered the different schools of thought that championed the various methods of explanation. These methods of explanation are further examined with regard to their relevance in African philosophy which also has its ways of explanation and understanding. The work concluded by affirming the significance of this discussion in resolving some questions addressed in African Philosophy.  

 

Keywords: African Philosophy, Erklaeren –Verstehen, Explanation, Reductive Activity, Understanding


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