The Philosophy of Gadamer

The Philosophy of Gadamer

The Philosophy of Gadamer

The Philosophy of Gadamer

Synopsis

The ideas of the German philosopher, Hans-Georg Gadamer have had considerable influence both in their own right as the leading modern exposition of philosophical hermeneutics and interpreting the works of Heidegger, Plato and Hegel. This work covers the trail of Gadamer's thought. Taking 'Truth and Method' (1960, translated 1975) as the axis of the interpretation of Gadamer's thought, Jean Grondin lays out the key themes of the work - method, humanism, aesthetic judgement, truth, the work of history - with exemplary clarity. Gadamer's concerns are situated in the context of traditional philosophical issues, showing, for example, how Gadamer both continues, and significantly modifies, the philosophical problem as it begins with Descartes and advances rather than simply follows Heidegger's treatment of the relationship of thinking and language. In this way Grondin shows how the issues of philosophical hermeneutics are relevant for contemporary concerns in science and history.

Excerpt

1900

Hans-Georg Gadamer was born in Marburg, Germany on 11 February 1900. By chance, he was born, to the exact day, 250 years after Descartes’s death. There are coincidences in the calendar! Indeed, it is difficult not to draw a further parallel with Descartes in the very title of Gadamer’s major work, Truth and Method.

Descartes is the originator of the idea of method that forms the basis of the scientific project of modern times, or quite simply the modern method. For Descartes, the whole edifice of certain and indubitable knowledge, that of science, must be methodologically reviewed and made secure: knowledge founded on prejudice and tradition is from the beginning under suspicion, because its ultimate foundation does not enjoy absolute certainty: it is not resistant to all possible doubt. Descartes finds the foundation and model of this certainty in the evidence of the cogito, of the “I think” which is true each time I am aware of thinking, even when I take the trouble to doubt it, and even if an evil genius exerts himself in deceiving me when I am convinced of its certainty.

Modern knowledge is what wishes to eliminate the traditional because its ultimate foundation is not secure, and it promises to begin everything anew, starting with an unbreakable certainty – that of thought which is aware of its own thought. I cannot doubt that I am thinking when I think: I am, and at first I am only, a thinking thing. All other knowledge, following the example of geometry, can be deduced by the same method of certainty, and by virtue of the same clarity. Based on the evidence of the “I think”, methodological knowledge is still not that which is dependent on each individual subject. Rather, methodological knowledge is that in which all stages are made secure and which can be verified by others, provided that they follow the rational order, or in other words the natural train of . . .

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