Gadamer's Repercussions: Reconsidering Philosophical Hermeneutics

By Bruce Krajewski | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
On the Coherence of
Hermeneutics and Ethics

An Essay on Gadamer and Levinas
GERALD L. BRUNS

Does not philosophy consist in treating mad ideas with wisdom? EMMANUEL LEVINAS


HABITATION

My purpose in what follows is to take up the relation of hermeneutics and ethics as it emerges in a post-Heideggerian philosophical context. In terms of proper names this means giving an account of the conceptual symmetries and differences between Gadamer's philosophical hermeneutics and Emmanuel Levinas's ethical theory, which is sometimes called an ethics of alterity or of responsibility, in order to contrast it with subject-centered theories that emphasize thinking and acting in accord with rules, principles, duties, codes, beliefs, teachings, communities, theories of the right and the good, and so on, where to be in accord with such things, however we figure them, is what justifies us, or anyhow puts us above reproach. Levinasian ethics is concerned with the claims other people have on us in advance of how right we are with respect to rules and beliefs or how in tune we are with a just and rational order of things. For Levinas, ethics is not possible from a starting point of self-interest. 1

Being under claims of history and tradition rather than claims of concepts and rules is central to Gadamer's thinking, which is critical of subjectivist accounts of human understanding in ways that coincide with Levinas's project. As Gadamer puts it, understanding is so permeated by “the historicity of existence” that it is “not suitably conceived as a consciousness of something” (GW3:18/PH125). Better to say: understanding something comes from dwelling with it. Likewise Levinas: “Humanity … must not be first understood as consciousness” (AE132/OTB83). Consciousness is always separate from its objects, impervious and indifferent to them (which is all that objectivity means). “What affects a consciousness, ” Levinas says,

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Gadamer's Repercussions: Reconsidering Philosophical Hermeneutics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Preface ix
  • Notes xi
  • Abbreviations xiii
  • Introduction - The Task of Hermeneutics as Philosophy 1
  • Notes *
  • Part One - Gadamer's Influence 13
  • Chapter 1 - On Hans-Georg Gadamer's 100th Birthday 15
  • Chapter 2 - Being That Can Be Understood is Language 21
  • Notes *
  • Chapter 3 - An Essay on Gadamer and Levinas 30
  • Notes 50
  • Chapter 4 - Gadamer and Romanticism 55
  • Notes *
  • Chapter 5 - Literature, Law, and Morality 82
  • Notes *
  • Chapter 6 - A Critique of Gadamer's Aesthetics 103
  • Notes *
  • Part Two - Gadamer and Dialogue 121
  • Chapter 7 - To Its Cultured Despisers 123
  • Notes *
  • Chapter 8 - Gadamer's Philosophy of Dialogue and Its Relation to the Postmodernism of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida, and Strauss 145
  • Notes *
  • Chapter 9 - Meaningless Hermeneutics? 158
  • Notes *
  • Part Three - Gadamer in Question 167
  • Chapter 10 - Radio Nietzsche, Or, How to Fall Short of Philosophy 169
  • Notes *
  • Chapter 11 - Hans-Georg Gadamer's Philosophical Interventions Under National Socialism 212
  • Notes *
  • Chapter 12 - A Response to Orozco and Waite 229
  • Notes *
  • Chapter 13 - A Response to Zuckert 244
  • Notes *
  • Chapter 14 - A Response to Zuckert 256
  • Notes *
  • Contributors 307
  • Index 311
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