On This Day … 19 November

People (Births)

  • 1833 – Wilhelm Dilthey, German psychologist, sociologist, and historian (d. 1911).
  • 1937 – Penelope Leach, English psychologist and author.

Wilhelm Dilthey

Wilhelm Dilthey (19 November 1833 to 01 October 1911) was a German historian, psychologist, sociologist, and hermeneutic philosopher, who held G. W. F. Hegel’s Chair in Philosophy at the University of Berlin.

As a polymathic philosopher, working in a modern research university, Dilthey’s research interests revolved around questions of scientific methodology, historical evidence and history’s status as a science.

He could be considered an empiricist, in contrast to the idealism prevalent in Germany at the time, but his account of what constitutes the empirical and experiential differs from British empiricism and positivism in its central epistemological and ontological assumptions, which are drawn from German literary and philosophical traditions.

Psychology

Dilthey was interested in psychology. In his work Ideas Concerning a Descriptive and Analytic Psychology (Ideen über eine beschreibende und zergliedernde Psychologie, 1894), he introduced a distinction between explanatory psychology (erklärende Psychologie; also explanative psychology) and descriptive psychology (beschreibende Psychologie; also analytic psychology, zergliedernde Psychologie): in his terminology, explanatory psychology is the study of psychological phenomena from a third-person point of view, which involves their subordination to a system of causality, while descriptive psychology is a discipline that attempts to explicate how different mental processes converge in the “structural nexus of consciousness.”

The distinction is based on the more general distinction between explanatory/explanative sciences (erklärende Wissenschaften), on the one hand, and interpretive sciences (beschreibende Wissenschaften or verstehende Wissenschaften, that is, the sciences which are based on the Verstehen method), on the other.

In his later work (Der Aufbau der geschichtlichen Welt in den Geisteswissenschaften, 1910), he used the alternative term structural psychology (Strukturpsychologie) for descriptive psychology.

Penelope Leach

Penelope Jane Leach (née Balchin; born 19 November 1937), is a British psychologist who researches and writes extensively on parenting issues from a child development perspective.

Leach is best known for her book Your Baby and Child: From Birth to Age Five, published in 1977, which has sold over two million copies to date and won the BMA award for “best medical book for general audiences” in 1998. Leach notes in the introduction to that book: “Whatever you are doing, however you are coping, if you listen to your child and to your own feelings, there will be something you can actually do to put things right or make the best of those that are wrong.”

Early Life and Education

Born in Hampstead, London, she is the daughter of the novelists Nigel Balchin and Elizabeth Ayrton. She graduated from Newnham College, Cambridge, with honours in 1959. After Cambridge, she attended the London School of Economics, where she received her PhD in psychology (1964) and lectured on child development.

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