A Brief Historical Overview of Intraindividual Variability Research Across the Life Span

Authored by: Manfred Diehl , Karen Hooker , Martin J. Sliwinski

Handbook of Intraindividual Variability Across the Life Span

Print publication date:  December  2014
Online publication date:  December  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415534864
eBook ISBN: 9780203113066
Adobe ISBN: 9781136285233


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Since the inception of psychology as a scientific discipline, there has been an ongoing debate on whether it should be a nomothetic or an idiographic science. The distinction between these two types of sciences can be traced back to the German philosopher Wilhelm Windelband, who in 1894 published a treatise titled Geschichte und Naturwissenschaft (History and natural science). In this treatise, Windelband distinguished between two classes of sciences. The first class, which he referred to as nomothetic sciences, focuses on the discovery of functional principles and causal laws and includes disciplines such as physics, chemistry, and biology. The second class, referred to as idiographic sciences, focuses on individual entities and singular events in history that are, in general, the result of complex influences that may be less traceable and thus open to multiple interpretations. Windelband (1894) included history, literature, and biographical sciences in this latter category.

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