Wilhelm Windelband

Wilhelm Windelband
Wilhelm Windelband, prior to 1905
Born 11 May 1848 (1848-05-11)
Potsdam, Brandenburg, Prussia, Germany
Died 22 October 1915 (1915-10-23) (aged 67)
Heidelberg, Grand Duchy of Baden, Germany
Alma mater University of Jena
University of Berlin
University of Göttingen (Dr. phil., 1870)
Era 19th-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Neo-Kantianism (Baden School)
Thesis Die Lehren vom Zufall (The Theories of Chance) (1870)
Doctoral advisor Hermann Lotze
Doctoral students Heinrich Rickert
Main interests
Metaphysics, philosophical logic
Notable ideas
The nomothetic–idiographic distinction

Wilhelm Windelband (/ˈvɪndəlbænd/; German: [ˈvɪndl̩bant]; 11 May 1848 – 22 October 1915) was a German philosopher of the Baden School.

His grave in Heidelberg


Windelband was born the son of a Prussian official in Potsdam. He studied at Jena, Berlin, and Göttingen.

Philosophical work

Windelband is now mainly remembered for the terms nomothetic and idiographic, which he introduced. These have currency in psychology and other areas, though not necessarily in line with his original meanings. Windelband was a neo-Kantian who protested other neo-Kantians of his time and maintained that "to understand Kant rightly means to go beyond him". Against his positivist contemporaries, Windelband argued that philosophy should engage in humanistic dialogue with the natural sciences rather than uncritically appropriating its methodologies. His interests in psychology and cultural sciences represented an opposition to psychologism and historicism schools by a critical philosophic system.

Windelband relied in his effort to reach beyond Kant on such philosophers as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Johann Friedrich Herbart and Hermann Lotze. Closely associated with Windelband was Heinrich Rickert. Windelband's disciples were not only noted philosophers, but sociologists like Max Weber and theologians like Ernst Troeltsch and Albert Schweitzer.


The following works by Windelband are available in English translations:

  • "History and Natural Science" (J. T. Lamiell, transl.). Theory and Psychology 8, 1998, 6–22.

See also

  • Heinz Heimsoeth


  1. Windelband defended foundationalism in his book Über die Gewißheit der Erkenntniss. (1873)—see Frederick C. Beiser (2014), The Genesis of Neo-Kantianism, 1796-1880 (Oxford: Oxford University Press), p. 517.
  2. Frederick C. Beiser, The German Historicist Tradition, Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 370.
  3. Sebastian Luft (ed.), The Neo-Kantian Reader, Routledge 2015, pp. 461–3.

Further reading

  • Rickert, Heinrich (1929) [1915]. Wilhelm Windelband (2nd ed.). Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr.
  • Mayeda, Graham (2008). "Is there a Method to Chance? Contrasting Kuki Shūzō's Phenomenological Methodology in The Problem of Contingency with that of his Contemporaries Wilhelm Windelband and Heinrich Rickert". In Hori, Victor S & Curley, Melissa Anne-Marie. Frontiers of Japanese Philosophy II: Neglected Themes and Hidden Variations. Nagoya, Japan: Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture.

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