Gadamer and the Transmission of History

By Jerome Veith | Go to book overview

ONE
From Structure to Task

HISTORICAL EFFECT

Until the early twentieth century, hermeneutics, the study of understanding and interpretation, had tended to identify itself as a practice in search of the right methods, by means of which it hoped to become something akin to a science. Taking issue with this alignment toward modern scientific methodology, and critiquing the subjectivistic limitations it entails for any nonmethodical truth, Gadamer formulates his philosophical hermeneutics as a description not of the proper technique of understanding – how it should proceed – but of the general ways in which it does proceed. Briefly put, he intends to go “beyond modern science’s concept of method and to think, in fundamental universality, what always occurs.”1 This goal, which Gadamer expands beyond mere textual situations and explicitly associates with Kant’s transcendental project, amounts to an account of the a priori conditions of all understanding.2

Gadamer ultimately concludes that these conditions are limited by the finitude inherent in our historicity and linguisticality. Situated within these conditions, we are subject to their constraining structures as if by “suprasubjective powers,”3 and cannot reach a position in isolation from them. Understanding, considered hermeneutically, is thus always situated. Yet this situation does not amount to a privation of possibility; instead, it is paradoxically precisely within these limitations that all of our potential insights and developments are located. As historical beings, we may not be able to raise ourselves above history to ascertain its course, necessity, or overall purpose, but we have the capacity to understand our history from within, and to always do so differently. In this

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Gadamer and the Transmission of History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • List of Abbreviations xi
  • Introduction 1
  • One - From Structure to Task 12
  • Two - Historical Belonging as Finite Freedom 42
  • Three - The Infinity of the Dialogue 82
  • Four - New Critical Consciousness 116
  • Five - The Bildung of Community 145
  • Conclusion 162
  • Notes 169
  • Bibliography 199
  • Index 217
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