Review: Wolfgang R. Köhler (2004). Personenverstehen. Zur Hermeneutik der Individualität [Understanding Persons. On the Hermeneutics of Individuality]

  • Wolfgang Mack Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
Keywords: person, understanding, hermeneutics, analytical philosophy, understanding oneself, understanding the other, understanding collectives, understanding persons


Wolfgang KÖHLER"s monograph concerns the understanding of a person as an individual. It aims at a critical philosophical reflection on understanding other persons, and understanding oneself, in everyday life, as exemplified in expressions like "Mary understands her husband" or "I do not understand myself anymore." This reflection demonstrates the usage of the term "understanding" in three different types of claim: a claim of knowledge, a claim of a practical ability, and a claim of feelings. One conclusion of this reflection is that the acts of understanding oneself and understanding another person interpreted as knowledge are exceptional, particularly as it is necessary to give a more or less poetical description of this knowledge. The standard case of understanding a person as an unmistakable individual consists in a practical ability or in feeling, which means that this understanding should not be denoted by the term "understanding" because it is no understanding in the sense of knowing who somebody is and knowing who oneself is. The monograph is well suited to proving critically the high standards of thought necessary in order to understand other persons and oneself. KÖHLER stays thereby close to the everyday practice of understanding persons and clarifies, in a comprehensible way, what it means to understand persons. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0703303


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Author Biography

Wolfgang Mack, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
Wolfgang MACK ist Diplom-Psychologe und wissenschaftlicher Angestellter am DFG geförderten Sonderforschungsbereich 435 "Wissenskultur und gesellschaftlicher Wandel" der Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main.