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

By Dieter Misgeld; Graeme Nicholson et al. | Go to book overview
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Chapter 11

This text also is based on two separate interviews. Both took place in Heidelberg, July 1 and 2, 1986. Translated by the editors.

QUESTION . We now would like to ask you some questions about your analysis of historical consciousness and the writing of history in Germany. You appear to regard the emergence of historical consciousness as something like a revolutionary break as significant as the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century. Do you look at this break as historians themselves do, or are your views different from theirs?

GADAMER . For me the historical sciences are merely an element or feature of the great process of the unfolding of historical consciousness which I addressed in Truth and Method. Here I followed the analysis given by Erich Rothacker, his Einleitung in die Geisteswissenschaft, published in 1920. Rothacker showed that the historians who belong to what we in Germany call the "historical school" and what you, in English, call the historicists, people like Ranke and others, really did have much in common with Hegel despite the fact that they denied it. There is much of Hegel, in their work, and we understand it differently since the rediscovery of Hegel at the beginning of the century. Following in the footsteps of Dilthey, Rothacker brought philosophy and history together. Since then we can see that the presumed pure concern with empirical facts claimed by the nineteenth century school of German historians (the historische Scbule) was shot through by philosophical assumptions. Thus Ranke spoke of the immediacy of every historical era to God. There is much in this of Fichte, Humboldt, and Hegel although they had no real consciousness of that fact. We can see it now because of our consciousness of effective history. (Of course, there is never a full and complete consciousness of what has been brought about in and through history.) But we at least, in our times, can be aware of the metaphysical prejudices implicit in the concepts of science and objectivity which the historicist historians wrenched out of the system of German Idealism. The emphasis on objectivity in historiography and on proceeding scientifically leads to an impoverished form of historical


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