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

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Chapter 3

THE UNIVERSITY OF LEIPZIG, 1409-1959: A FORMER RECTOR COMMEMORATES THE 550TH ANNIVERSARY OF ITS FOUNDING

When one has been active at a German university for an important decade of one's life, it is difficult, during this moment of commemoration to resist the temptation merely to express one's thankful affection for the time one spent there and the community in which one participated.

There is something unusual about these German universities: the remarkably freest, the dangerously freest form of instruction which exists in the world. Dangerous for the common, average students; incomparably promising and beautiful for the most gifted students -- and for us, the teachers, the very enviable possibility of being able to unite at the same time the lives of a researcher and a teacher. It is remarkable how much this form of the German university enters into the sentiments of those individual personalities who have participated, and to such an extent, that an extraordinary effort is required in this time of remembrance not to be satisfied with speeches of praise and celebration. However, it is important to heed the very different task of our time.

When I began to recall the history of the University of Leipzig, the first thing that fell into my hands was the jubilee address which Wilhelm Wundt gave for the 500th anniversary of the University of Leipzig. What a transformation from the self-assurance and confidence mirrored in that important address to our situation! What a change from the collective celebration of all German universities -- and extending far beyond Germany to all universities of the world -- in the anniversary year of 1909, to this anniversary year of 1959, whose celebration does not even unite all German-speaking universities, but gathers us here in remembrance, and our colleagues and fellow students over there in the East! In Wilhelm Wundt's address we hear a strong and manly confidence. We hear the proud conviction that the research and teaching institutes of Leipzig, which had attained high recognition in the whole world, would be able to victoriously solve on their own those new problems which were imposed upon this university by the development of the bourgeois

____________________
*
Address delivered in Heidelberg, 1959.

-23-

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