Hans-Georg Gadamer on Education, Poetry, and History: Applied Hermeneutics

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Chapter 2
ON THE PRIMORDIALITY OF SCIENCE: A RECTORAL ADDRESS

We are all satisfied that this time for renewing the work of our university is one of the most decisive moments in its history. We have gathered to celebrate this hour and are aware that the form of our alma mater Lipsiensis is about to experience one of the major changes in its long and venerable history. After twelve years of oppressing and deforming rule by megalomaniacal and anti-intellectual tendencies, against which the University of Leipzig fought a particularly tenacious although often unsuccessful defensive battle, and after a war full of absurdity and crime, which materially and intellectually devastated the university in the most dreadful manner, the University of Leipzig, as well as our whole nation, has become aware that the time to prove its worth has arrived at a point more difficult and more fateful than ever before. It is evident to all of us, that, in the midst of the tremendous changes in our social life which we are experiencing today, the task can no longer be to cling to the old and what has been sanctified through a venerable tradition, with the aim of protecting it from the storm winds of world history. The university can wish this as little as the nation as a whole. What constitutes the dreadful position of our people is exactly that the good and noble tradition of culture and humanity, whose finest blossoms were the universities of our land, has now become questionable itself, apparent in its impotence and uncertain of its right to exist. How would it have otherwise been possible for the chaos of National Socialism to appear in our people? How would it have otherwise been possible for the places of free scientific research and instruction to have been taken over by the ravings of these uncontrolled evil spirits of our people? Have we not ourselves asked -- we who were swept away by the horrible whirlpool of events -- as well as the friends and admirers of our people in the whole world: how was this perversion of what they loved about the German soul into such chaos at all possible? We cannot conceal from ourselves that this question aims at more than the history of the last decade or decades, that with this question the whole manner of our people as developed in its long history is being put to the test, and that the whole impression of our German history, which we have

____________________
*
Address delivered at the University of Leipzig, 1947.

-15-

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