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WINNER, 1983 NCSA GRADUATE PAPER COMPETITION: Understanding Georg Simmel

MICHAEL KAERN
Sociological Focus
Vol. 16, No. 3 (August 1983), pp. 169-179
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20831287
Page Count: 11
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WINNER, 1983 NCSA GRADUATE PAPER COMPETITION: Understanding Georg Simmel
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Abstract

This paper makes two basic claims. First, Simmel was aware of the Als-Ob ("As-If") before Vaihinger published his Die Philosophie des Als-Ob (The Philosophy of As-If) (Vaihinger, 1911 [1935]), and he used the As-If in his epistemology of the social sciences. It is difficult to understand Simmel's sociology without recognizing the role of the As-If. However, this essential part of Simmel's epistemology of the social sciences almost has gone unreported in the standard literature. Second, Simmel formulated a concept of relativity. This concept, too, is an important part of his epistemology, yet it is not understood well. Only through an appreciation of his view of relativity can Simmel's concept Wechselwirkung (usually translated as "reciprocal interaction" but more exactly translated as "reciprocal effect") be interpreted properly. Without an understanding of his concept of relativity Simmel's form-content relation does not convey the sense intended. This paper demonstrates that the form-content relation as used by Simmel is, in current terminology, the theory-model relation. Finally, use is made of my explication of Simmel's epistemology to clarify some relations between Simmel's ideas and Durkheim's position.

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