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

By Dieter Misgeld; Graeme Nicholson et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 6
INTERVIEW: WRITING AND THE LIVING VOICE

This text is based on interviews with Hans-Georg Gadamer carried out on two different occasions. A first interview took place in Hamilton, Canada, at McMaster University, in November 1985. The second interview took place in the garden of Hans-Gadamer's house in Heidelberg, July 1, 1986. Translated by the editors.

QUESTION. Professor Gadamer, you have written a memoir of your academic and intellectual life which has been published in English under the title Philosopbical Apprenticeships. This book includes portraits of scholars and philosophers whom you knew well. But you say little about your own writing from the 1920s till the 1950s, where you conclude the memoir. You also do not tell your readers much about the genesis of Truth and Method, the book for which you are best known. Would you care to tell us about the origins of this book, where and when you wrote it, and how plans for it emerged from your own academic and intellectual history?

GADAMER. Oh yes, but I am not someone who can lay out a program for his thought, and so I shall tell you how this work grew out of my teaching. I always have been a very dedicated teacher and I remember that my students frequently complained that they lacked a text of mine which corresponded to my teaching. They were often asked who they were studying with in Heidelberg. And when they mentioned my name, they were asked: "but who is that"? And so I decided that I should try to write a book which was indicative of my practice of the interpretation of texts and my teaching generally. But, of course, the first ideas of the book were formed when I began to teach and I remember that my first notes toward it were taken in 1933. Then it became apparent to me that the spirit of optimism typical of liberal civilization was collapsing and I gave a lecture called 'Art and the Public' in which I tried to demonstrate that art can convey truth and therefore form public opinion, that art stood for more than giving aesthetic pleasure. Here was the germ for Truth and Method. But then there was a further circumstantial reason for continuing to write. Once the first recording technology was available, my lectures were recorded and transcribed. To me this appeared to be a distor

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