Is Metaphysics Still Possible?
On Hans-Georg Gadamer's 100th Birthday
JÜRGEN HABERMAS translated by Paul Malone
Understanding and Event [Verstehen und Geschehen] was to be the title of Truth and Method after the publisher expressed his dissatisfaction with the dry suggestion Principles of a Philosophical Hermeneutics and the pioneering title Truth and Method had not yet been hit upon. Over the decades, this book has stimulated philosophical discussion in Germany as no other. Its career is not so much owing to its manifestly hostile stance toward the human sciences, which misunderstand their “understanding” as method; rather, its success can be explained by the relevance of one basic question that Gadamer's hermeneutics seeks to answer. The original title, Understanding and Event, well expresses this thought: the interpreter's understanding “belongs to” an event produced by the text itself, which is in need of interpretation.
Philosophical hermeneutics seeks to lead the way out of a dilemma that the young Gadamer saw himself faced with when he took up his studies in Breslau and continued them in Marburg. The rise of the historical human sciences in the nineteenth century had shattered philosophy's confidence in an overarching reason through the course of history. “Time, ” as it was soon afterward thematized in Heidegger's Being and Time, and which inexorably transformed all theories into historical constructs, had affected the core of reason.
The historicizing intellectual movement could no longer be tamed by conventional conceptual means. The return to a transcendental critique of science in the style of neo-Kantianism failed, as did the epistemological realist break from the transcendental prison in the style of a Nicolai Hartmann, whose stratified ontology Gadamer became acquainted with first