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

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

Chapter 16
THE FUTURE OF THE EUROPEAN HUMANITIES

What one calls Geistenwissenschaften in Germany does not have an exact equivalent in the other European languages. In France one speaks of lettres, in the English-speaking countries of the moral sciences or humanities, etc. But even if a correct linguistic equivalent is missing, one may nevertheless state that the humanities play altogether and everywhere within the diversity of Europe a very special role which is to the highest degree a common one. This communality consists primarily in the fact that Europe is a multilingual whole constituted by various national linguistic cultures. Every view concerning the future of the world and the role which European culture through its humanities may play for the future, has to take into consideration that Europe is a multilingual system. One can surely predict a standard language for the natural sciences in the future. But for the humanities it will probably be different. Indications for this are visible today. The essential discoveries in the natural sciences, at least when they come from multilingual Europe, usually are reported in English, the standard language. This may not yet be completely true for Eastern Europe. However, there are unavoidable reasons -- such as the internal interdependencies and total communality of research interests in natural science -- which, in the end, simply necessitate such an operational language of science.

In the humanities, however, things look different. One may frankly say that the multiplicity of European national languages is intimately related to the humanities and their function within human cultural life. One cannot even imagine that this cultural world, practical though it might be, could come to an agreement concerning an international operational language for the humanities, as has been occurring in the natural sciences for some time. Why is this the case? To contemplate this already means to say something about what the humanities are today and what they could mean for the future of Europe.

Let us first inquire how these so-called humanities were developed in the first place. The prediction of the future is to a great extent denied to humans. Inasmuch as we are at all able to have some anticipations, we must always take into account the mystery of human freedom, which

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Essay, published in Graz, Austria in 1983.

-193-

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