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or constructive nature. I would designate this prospective understanding, and the corresponding method as the Constructive method.
It is common knowledge that present-day scientific explanation rests upon the basis of the causal principle. Scientific explanation is causal explanation. We are therefore naturally inclined, whenever we think scientifically, to explain causally; to undertand a thing and to regard it as explained whenever it is reduced analytically to its cause and general principle. In so far Freud’s psychological method of interpretation is strictly scientific.
If we apply this method to our “Faust” it must become clear that something more is required for a true understanding. It will even seem to us that we have not gathered the poet’s deepest meaning if we only see in it universal foregone human conclusions. What we really want to find out is how this man has redeemed himself as an individual, and when we arrive at this comprehension then we shall also understand the symbol given by Goethe. It is true we may then fall into the error that we understand Goethe himself. But let us be cautious and modest, simply saying we have thereby arrived at an understanding of ourselves. I am thinking here of Kant’s thought-compelling definition of comprehension, as “the realisation of a thing to the extent which is sufficient for our purpose.”
This understanding is, it is true, subjective, and therefore not scientific for those to whom science and explanation by the causal principle are identical. But the validity of this identification is open to question. In the sphere of psychology I must emphasise my doubt on this point.
We speak of “objective” understanding when we have given a causal explanation. But at bottom, understanding is a subjective process upon which we confer the quality “objective” really only to differentiate it from another kind of understanding which is also a psychological and subjective process, but upon which, without further ado, we bestow the quality “subjective.” The attitude of to-day only grants scientific value to “objective” understanding, on account of its