Rational reconstruction

The rational reconstruction (also: reconstruction) is a method of empirical-analytical science. This meta-theoretical research approach will make a logical analysis and description of a theory axiomatized by a reenactment transparent.

Postulates of reconstruction

In the development of theories from the perspective of the empirical- analytical science understanding four postulates observed:

Nevertheless - and this emphasizes Stegmüller in his analysis of the concept and the procedure of rational reconstruction - has the descriptive component of the rational reconstruction with a normative component adds: The goal of the reconstruction is not namely the description of the actual structure of the theory, but the representation of how this structure should be if they would meet the a priori principles of rationality.

The goal of the reconstruction

The goal of the reconstruction is - following the structuralist theory concept - primarily to provide a general and descriptive formula for the representation of the given in the publications of scientists empirical statements and their logical relations, ie to work out their logical- formal structure.

Joseph D. Sneed defines the rational reconstruction as follows: "with this intuitions about the empirical claims of the theory and the logical relations among them as our starting point, we would like to produce some comprehensive and perspicuous form for Exhibiting The Claims of this theory and Their logical relations. Let us call this a logical reconstruction of the theory, and the activity of Attempting to produce it logical reconstruction. "

This objective implies that the rational reconstruction is not aimed at a historically accurate representation of what the authors concerned have intended to play. Rather, the method is used to improve the theories examined and arguments with regard to current standards of rationality and in the meantime acquired knowledge. Due to this fact, the rational reconstruction as a kind of textual interpretation characterized in particular in that they differ in their results on the content of the interpreted text or it can even complement.

Traditionally, in the rational reconstruction of a subject, the following is determined exactly:

  • Central concepts,
  • Structure and logical structure,
  • Key messages and key relationships,
  • Linguistic precision and
  • Empirical basis.

An exact determination makes it possible to employ even reviews regarding the scientific status of a subject.

For example, defects in the reasoning for example, be offset by not mentioned by the author premises, concepts and conceptual distinctions that did not know the author, are used and theories might appear more consistent than they were originally.

Principles of rational reconstruction

The rational reconstruction is essentially of three principles of:


The principle of similarity is based on the relation of logical equality and thus refers to the indistinguishability of statements from a well-defined range of statements. For the epistemological method of rational reconstruction of this principle has the consequence that the information extracted from a text theory has to be reproduced or shown that respects the fundamental ideas of the author is preserved. Following Stegmüller it is in this respect essential to combine constructive activity and historical method together: Against this background, the principle of similarity required so that one examines the conceptual and problem developments of the author and if necessary the corresponding ( science- ) historical background in contemplates. Based on these requirements, the basic idea of the author must be from the rational reconstruction therefore be inferred by the text is reconstructed from its point of view.


A fundamental requirement of the language of science in general - and thus also to the rational reconstruction - is the precision of its terms by which a reconstructed theory is present. The term " precision " means in this context the need for rigor and clarity of terms used: these may therefore not be biased colloquially, but have valid ( including the truth of premises ) have an intersubjectively comprehensible system and conclusive in the context of the reproduced Theory and be. Could the reconstructed theory are represented by precise terms, as are occurring in the text terms that had different meanings in different historical, social and scientific contexts, then in the modern language of science is to "translate ", without giving rise to substantive shifts in meaning.


In the context of rational reconstruction is under this consistency understood between the reconstruction of a model and scientific statements. So there must be a reconstructed model without contradiction can be integrated into the theory.

Based on the interpretation of texts is that if conflicting, rationally reconstructed interpretations of a text are possible, the degree of adequacy is crucial. When two equal possibilities of interpretation of a text is the More consistent, intellectually better connected to prefer interpretation. To achieve the consistency requirements must be met in terms of similarity and precision.

It follows that a text has to be represented as a model by which to verify the relevance of historical ideas.

Rational reconstruction versus direct interpretation

Buhler shows that the methods of rational reconstruction can be compared with the methods of direct interpretation. The rational reconstruction and direct- interpretation of a theory is equally confronted with passages of the studied authors. The direct interpretation describes the attempt of a systematic account of what the author really meant. In contrast, refers to the rational reconstruction of what the author had intended to say, if he had known what we know, and if he would have been rational to a greater extent than it actually was.

Rational reconstructions differ further from direct interpretations " by the conscious change its object, that is, they raise in contrast to interpretations of the distance between production and reception at by [ ... ] put themselves in the place of the reconstructed object. " Characteristic of the direct interpretation is the fact that standards lead to certain rationality assumptions for the individual case and these assumptions are used as revisable conditions. They act as rebuttable presumptions and are applied as long as no evidence emerge. Rationality principles play for the rational reconstruction, however, a different type of role. They are not meant to generate descriptive rebuttable assumptions, but act normative.

Areas of application

The method of rational reconstruction is used mainly in the political theory and the history of ideas as well as in political philosophy. The often normative in nature texts are empirically verified and translated into models when needed. The core statements of historical texts should be clear and comprehensible to the reader despite the time lag. Representatives of this are, among others

  • Jürgen Habermas,
  • Iring Fetscherplatz for Jean -Jacques Rousseau,
  • Maus for Immanuel Kant,
  • Glen Newey for Thomas Hobbes.