Hans-Georg Gadamer

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Hans-Georg Gadamer
Hans-Georg Gadamer.jpg
Hans-Georg Gadamer, c. 2000
Born(1900-02-11)February 11, 1900
DiedMarch 13, 2002(2002-03-13) (aged 102)
Education University of Breslau
University of Marburg (PhD, 1922)
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School
Institutions University of Marburg (1928–1938)
Leipzig University (1938–1948)
Goethe University Frankfurt (1948–1949)
University of Heidelberg (1949–2002)
Doctoral advisor Paul Natorp
Main interests
Notable ideas

Hans-Georg Gadamer ( /ˈɡædəmər/ ; German: [ˈɡaːdamɐ] ; February 11, 1900 – March 13, 2002) was a German philosopher of the continental tradition, best known for his 1960 magnum opus Truth and Method (Wahrheit und Methode) on hermeneutics. He was a Protestant Christian. [4]

Philosopher person with an extensive knowledge of philosophy

A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term “philosopher” comes from the Ancient Greek, φιλόσοφος (philosophos), meaning “lover of wisdom”. The coining of the term has been attributed to the Greek thinker Pythagoras.

Continental philosophy Set of 19th- and 20th-century philosophical traditions from mainland Europe

Continental philosophy is a set of 19th- and 20th-century philosophical traditions from mainland Europe. This sense of the term originated among English-speaking philosophers in the second half of the 20th century, who used it to refer to a range of thinkers and traditions outside the analytic movement. Continental philosophy includes German idealism, phenomenology, existentialism, hermeneutics, structuralism, post-structuralism, deconstruction, French feminism, psychoanalytic theory, and the critical theory of the Frankfurt School and related branches of Western Marxism.

Masterpiece creation that has been given much critical praise

Masterpiece, magnum opus or chef-d’œuvre in modern use is a creation that has been given much critical praise, especially one that is considered the greatest work of a person's career or to a work of outstanding creativity, skill, profundity, or workmanship. Historically, a "masterpiece" was a work of a very high standard produced to obtain membership of a guild or academy in various areas of the visual arts and crafts.

Contents

Life

Gadamer was born in Marburg, Germany, [5] the son of Johannes Gadamer (1867–1928), [6] a pharmaceutical chemistry professor who later also served as the rector of the University of Marburg. He resisted his father's urging to take up the natural sciences and became more and more interested in the humanities. His mother, Emma Karoline Johanna Geiese (1869–1904) died of diabetes while Hans-Georg was four years old, and he later noted that this may have had an effect on his decision to not pursue scientific studies. Jean Grondin describes Gadamer as finding in his mother "a poetic and almost religious counterpart to the iron fist of his father". [7] Gadamer did not serve during World War I for reasons of ill health [8] and similarly was exempted from serving during World War II due to polio. [9]

Marburg Place in Hesse, Germany

Marburg is a university town in the German federal state (Bundesland) of Hesse, capital of the Marburg-Biedenkopf district (Landkreis). The town area spreads along the valley of the river Lahn and has a population of approximately 72,000.

German Empire empire in Central Europe between 1871–1918

The German Empire, also known as Imperial Germany, was the German nation state that existed from the unification of Germany in 1871 until the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1918.

Chemistry is the natural science involved with elements and compounds composed of atoms, molecules and ions: their composition, structure, properties, behavior and the changes they undergo during a reaction with other substances.

He grew up and studied classics and philosophy in the University of Breslau [10] under Richard Hönigswald, but soon moved back to the University of Marburg to study with the Neo-Kantian philosophers Paul Natorp (his doctoral thesis advisor) and Nicolai Hartmann. He defended his dissertation The Essence of Pleasure in Plato's Dialogues (Das Wesen der Lust nach den Platonischen Dialogen) in 1922. [11]

Richard Hönigswald was a well-known philosopher belonging to the wider circle of neo-Kantianism.

Paul Natorp German philosopher

Paul Gerhard Natorp was a German philosopher and educationalist, considered one of the co-founders of the Marburg school of neo-Kantianism. He was known as an authority on Plato.

Nicolai Hartmann was a Baltic German philosopher. He is regarded as a key representative of critical realism and as one of the most important twentieth century metaphysicians.

Shortly thereafter, Gadamer moved to Freiburg University and began studying with Martin Heidegger, who was then a promising young scholar who had not yet received a professorship. He and Heidegger became close, and when Heidegger received a position at Marburg, Gadamer followed him there, where he became one of a group of students such as Leo Strauss, Karl Löwith, and Hannah Arendt. It was Heidegger's influence that gave Gadamer's thought its distinctive cast and led him away from the earlier neo-Kantian influences of Natorp and Hartmann. Gadamer studied Aristotle both under Edmund Husserl and under Heidegger. [12]

University of Freiburg Public research university in Freiburg, Germany

The University of Freiburg, officially the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg, is a public research university located in Freiburg im Breisgau, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. The university was founded in 1457 by the Habsburg dynasty as the second university in Austrian-Habsburg territory after the University of Vienna. Today, Freiburg is the fifth-oldest university in Germany, with a long tradition of teaching the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. The university is made up of 11 faculties and attracts students from across Germany as well as from over 120 other countries. Foreign students constitute about 18.2% of total student numbers.

Martin Heidegger German philosopher

Martin Heidegger was a German philosopher and a seminal thinker in the Continental tradition and philosophical hermeneutics, and is "widely acknowledged to be one of the most original and important philosophers of the 20th century." Heidegger is best known for his contributions to phenomenology and existentialism, though as the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy cautions, "his thinking should be identified as part of such philosophical movements only with extreme care and qualification". Heidegger's membership in and public support for the Nazi Party has been the subject of widespread controversy regarding the extent to which his Nazism influenced his philosophy.

University of Marburg German university

The Philipps University of Marburg was founded in 1527 by Philip I, Landgrave of Hesse, which makes it one of Germany's oldest universities and the oldest Protestant university in the world. It is now a public university of the state of Hesse, without religious affiliation. The University of Marburg has about 25,000 students and 7,500 employees and is located in Marburg, a town of 72,000 inhabitants, with university buildings dotted in or around the town centre. About 12% of the students are international, the highest percentage in Hesse. It offers an International summer university programme and offers student exchanges through the Erasmus programme.

Gadamer habilitated in 1929 and spent most of the early 1930s lecturing in Marburg. Unlike Heidegger, who joined the Nazi Party in May 1933 and continued as a member until the party was dissolved following World War II, Gadamer was silent on Nazism, and he was not politically active during the Third Reich. Gadamer did not join the Nazis, and he did not serve in the army because of the polio he had contracted in 1922. He joined the National Socialist Teachers League in August 1933. [13]

Habilitation defines the qualification to conduct self-contained university teaching and is the key for access to a professorship in many European countries. Despite all changes implemented in the European higher education systems during the Bologna Process, it is the highest qualification level issued through the process of a university examination and remains a core concept of scientific careers in these countries.

Nazi Party Fascist political party in Germany (1920-1945)

The National Socialist German Workers' Party, commonly referred to in English as the Nazi Party, was a far-right political party in Germany that was active between 1920 and 1945, that created and supported the ideology of National Socialism. Its precursor, the German Workers' Party, existed from 1919 to 1920.

National Socialism, more commonly known as Nazism, is the ideology and practices associated with the Nazi Party – officially the National Socialist German Workers' Party – in Nazi Germany, and of other far-right groups with similar aims.

In 1933 Gadamer signed the Loyalty Oath of German Professors to Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist State .

In April 1937 he became a temporary professor at Marburg, [14] then in 1938 he received a professorship at Leipzig University. [15] From an SS-point of view Gadamer was classified as neither supportive nor disapproving in the "SD-Dossiers über Philosophie-Professoren" (i.e. SD-files concerning philosophy professors) that were set up by the SS-Security-Service (SD). [16] In 1946, he was found by the American occupation forces to be untainted by Nazism and named rector of the university.

The level of Gadamer's involvement with the Nazis has been disputed in the works of Richard Wolin [17] and Teresa Orozco. [18] Orozco alleges, with reference to Gadamer's published works, that Gadamer had supported the Nazis more than scholars had supposed. Gadamer scholars have rejected these assertions: Jean Grondin has said that Orozco is engaged in a "witch-hunt" [19] while Donatella Di Cesare said that "the archival material on which Orozco bases her argument is actually quite negligible". [20] Cesare and Grondin have argued that there is no trace of antisemitism in Gadamer's work, and that Gadamer maintained friendships with Jews and provided shelter for nearly two years for the philosopher Jacob Klein in 1933 and 1934. [21] Gadamer also reduced his contact with Heidegger during the Nazi era. [22]

The communist DDR was no more to Gadamer's liking than the Third Reich, and he left for West Germany, accepting first a position in Goethe University Frankfurt and then the succession of Karl Jaspers in the University of Heidelberg in 1949. He remained in this position, as emeritus, until his death in 2002 at the age of 102. [23] [24] [25] He was also an Editorial Advisor of the journal Dionysius. [26] It was during this time that he completed his magnum opus, Truth and Method (1960), and engaged in his famous debate with Jürgen Habermas over the possibility of transcending history and culture in order to find a truly objective position from which to critique society. The debate was inconclusive, but marked the beginning of warm relations between the two men. It was Gadamer who secured Habermas's first professorship in the University of Heidelberg.

In 1968, Gadamer invited Tomonobu Imamichi for lectures at Heidelberg, but their relationship became very cool after Imamichi alleged that Heidegger had taken his concept of Dasein out of Okakura Kakuzo's concept of das in-der-Welt-sein (to be in the being in the world) expressed in The Book of Tea , which Imamichi's teacher had offered to Heidegger in 1919, after having followed lessons with him the year before. [27] Imamichi and Gadamer renewed contact four years later during an international congress. [27]

In 1981, Gadamer attempted to engage with Jacques Derrida at a conference in Paris but it proved less enlightening because the two thinkers had little in common. A last meeting between Gadamer and Derrida was held at the Stift of Heidelberg in July 2001, coordinated by Derrida's students Joseph Cohen and Raphael Zagury-Orly.[ citation needed ] This meeting marked, in many ways, a turn in their philosophical encounter. After Gadamer's death, Derrida called their failure to find common ground one of the worst debacles of his life and expressed, in the main obituary for Gadamer, his great personal and philosophical respect. Richard J. Bernstein said that "[a] genuine dialogue between Gadamer and Derrida has never taken place. This is a shame because there are crucial and consequential issues that arise between hermeneutics and deconstruction". [28]

Gadamer received honorary doctorates from the University of Bamberg, the University of Wrocław, Boston College, Charles University in Prague, Hamilton College, the University of Leipzig, the University of Marburg (1999) the University of Ottawa, Saint Petersburg State University (2001), the University of Tübingen and University of Washington. [29]

On February 11, 2000, the University of Heidelberg celebrated Gadamer's one hundredth birthday with a ceremony and conference. Gadamer's last academic engagement was in the summer of 2001 at an annual symposium on hermeneutics that two of Gadamer's American students had organised. On March 13, 2002, Gadamer died at Heidelberg's University Clinic at the age of 102. [30] He is buried in the Köpfel cemetery in Ziegelhausen. [31]

Work

Philosophical hermeneutics and Truth and Method

Gadamer's philosophical project, as explained in Truth and Method , was to elaborate on the concept of "philosophical hermeneutics", which Heidegger initiated but never dealt with at length. Gadamer's goal was to uncover the nature of human understanding. In Truth and Method, Gadamer argued that "truth" and "method" were at odds with one another. For Gadamer, "the experience of art is exemplary in its provision of truths that are inaccessible by scientific methods, and this experience is projected to the whole domain of human sciences." [32] He was critical of two approaches to the human sciences ( Geisteswissenschaften ). On the one hand, he was critical of modern approaches to humanities that modeled themselves on the natural sciences, which simply sought to “objectively” observe and analyze texts and art. On the other hand, he took issue with the traditional German approaches to the humanities, represented for instance by Friedrich Schleiermacher and Wilhelm Dilthey, who believed that meaning, as an object, could be found within a text through a particular process that allowed for a connection with the author's thoughts that led to the creation of a text (Schleiermacher), [33] or the situation that led to an expression of human inner life (Dilthey). [34]

However, Gadamer argued meaning and understanding are not objects to be found through certain methods, but are inevitable phenomena. [35] Hermeneutics is not a process in which an interpreter finds a particular meaning, but “a philosophical effort to account for understanding as an ontological—the ontological—process of man.” [35] Thus, Gadamer is not giving a prescriptive method on how to understand, but rather he is working to examine how understanding, whether of texts, artwork, or experience, is possible at all. Gadamer intended Truth and Method to be a description of what we always do when we interpret things (even if we do not know it): "My real concern was and is philosophic: not what we do or what we ought to do, but what happens to us over and above our wanting and doing". [36]

As a result of Martin Heidegger’s temporal analysis of human existence, Gadamer argued that people have a so-called historically-effected consciousness (wirkungsgeschichtliches Bewußtsein), and that they are embedded in the particular history and culture that shaped them. However the historical consciousness is not an object over and against our existence, but “a stream in which we move and participate, in every act of understanding.” [37] Therefore, people do not come to any given thing without some form of preunderstanding established by this historical stream. The tradition in which an interpreter stands establishes "prejudices" that affect how he or she will make interpretations. For Gadamer, these prejudices are not something that hinders our ability to make interpretations, but are both integral to the reality of being, and “are the basis of our being able to understand history at all.” [38] Gadamer criticized Enlightenment thinkers for harboring a "prejudice against prejudices". [39]

For Gadamer, interpreting a text involves a fusion of horizons (Horizontverschmelzung). Both the text and the interpreter find themselves within a particular historical tradition, or “horizon.” Each horizon is expressed through the medium of language, and both text and interpreter belong to and participate in history and language. This “belongingness” to language is the common ground between interpreter and text that makes understanding possible. As an interpreter seeks to understand a text, a common horizon emerges. This fusion of horizons does not mean the interpreter now fully understands some kind of objective meaning, but is “an event in which a world opens itself to him.” [40] The result is a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

Gadamer further explains the hermeneutical experience as a dialogue. To justify this, he uses Plato's dialogues as a model for how we are to engage with written texts. To be in conversation, one must take seriously “the truth claim of the person with whom one is conversing.” [41] Further, each participant in the conversation relates to one another insofar as they belong to the common goal of understanding one another. [42] Ultimately, for Gadamer, the most important dynamic of conversation as a model for the interpretation of a text is “the give-and-take of question and answer.” [42] In other words, the interpretation of a given text will change depending on the questions the interpreter asks of the text. The "meaning" emerges not as an object that lies in the text or in the interpreter, but rather an event that results from the interaction of the two.

Truth and Method was published twice in English, and the revised edition is now considered authoritative. The German-language edition of Gadamer's Collected Works includes a volume in which Gadamer elaborates his argument and discusses the critical response to the book. Finally, Gadamer's essay on Celan (entitled "Who Am I and Who Are You?") has been considered by many—including Heidegger and Gadamer himself—as a "second volume" or continuation of the argument in Truth and Method.

Contributions to communication ethics

Gadamer's Truth and Method has become an authoritative work in the communication ethics field, spawning several prominent ethics theories and guidelines. The most profound of these is the formulation of the dialogic coordinates, a standard set of prerequisite communication elements necessary for inciting dialogue. Adhering to Gadamer's theories regarding bias, communicators can better initiate dialogic transaction, allowing biases to merge and promote mutual understanding and learning. [43]

Other works

Gadamer also added philosophical substance to the notion of human health. In The Enigma of Health, Gadamer explored what it means to heal, as a patient and a provider. In this work the practice and art of medicine are thoroughly examined, as is the inevitability of any cure. [44]

In addition to his work in hermeneutics, Gadamer is also well known for a long list of publications on Greek philosophy. Indeed, while Truth and Method became central to his later career, much of Gadamer's early life centered around studying Greek thinkers, Plato and Aristotle specifically. In the Italian introduction to Truth and Method, Gadamer said that his work on Greek philosophy was "the best and most original part" of his career. [45] His book Plato's Dialectical Ethics looks at the Philebus dialogue through the lens of phenomenology and the philosophy of Martin Heidegger. [44]

Prizes and awards

1971: Pour le Mérite and the Reuchlin Prize
1972: Great Cross of Merit with Star of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
1979: Sigmund Freud Award for scientific prose and Hegel Prize
1986: Jaspers Prize
1990: Great Cross of Merit with Star and Sash of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
1993: Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
12 January 1996: appointed an honorary member of the Saxon Academy of Sciences in Leipzig
Honorary doctorates
1995: University of Wrocław
1996: University of Leipzig
1999: Philipps-University Marburg

Bibliography

Primary
Secondary

See also

Notes

  1. Jeff Malpas, Hans-Helmuth Gande (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Hermeneutics, Routledge, 2014, p. 259.
  2. Hans-Georg Gadamer, "Towards a phenomenology of ritual and language", in Lawrence Kennedy Schmidt (ed.), Language and Linguisticality in Gadamer's Hermeneutics, Lexington Books, 2000, p. 30; James Hans, "Hans-Georg Gadamer and Hermeneutic Phenomenology," Philosophy Today 22 (1978), 3–19.
  3. "Hans-Georg Gadamer", Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  4. Gadamer, Hans-Georg (1986). The Relevance of the Beautiful and Other Essays (PDF). Cambridge University Press. p. 35. ISBN   9780521339537 . Retrieved 16 January 2018. As a Protestant, I have always found especially significant the controversy over the Last Supper, which raged in the Protestant Church, particularly between Luther and Zwingli.
  5. Grondin 2003, p. 12.
  6. Grondin 2003, pp. 26, 33.
  7. Grondin 2003, p. 21.
  8. Grondin 2003, p. 45.
  9. Grondin 2003, p. 46.
  10. Grondin 2003, p. 37.
  11. Cesare 2007, p. 5–7.
  12. Cesare 2007, p. 7–8.
  13. Ideologische Mächte im deutschen Faschismus Band 5: Heidegger im Kontext: Gesamtüberblick zum NS-Engagement der Universitätsphilosophen, George Leaman, Rainer Alisch, Thomas Laugstien, Verlag: Argument Hamburg, 1993, p. 105, ISBN   3886192059
  14. De Cesare, Donatella (2013). Gadamer: A Philosophical Portrait. Indiana University Press. p. 17. ISBN   0253007631.
  15. Dostal, Robert (2002). The Cambridge Companion to Gadamer. Cambridge University Press. p. 20. ISBN   0521000416.
  16. Leaman, Georg / Simon, Gerd: Deutsche Philosophen aus der Sicht des Sicherheitsdienstes des Reichsführers SS. Jahrbuch für Soziologie-Geschichte 1992, pages 261-292
  17. Richard Wolin, ‚Nazism and the complicities of Hans-Georg Gadamer. Untruth and Method‘, The New Republic, 15 May 2000, pp. 36–45
  18. Orozco 1995.
  19. Grondin 2003, p. 165.
  20. Cesare 2007, p. 30.
  21. Grondin 2003, pp. 153–154.
  22. Cesare 2007, pp. 14–15.
  23. "Hans-Georg Gadamer Dies; Noted German Philosopher". Washington Post. March 16, 2002. Retrieved March 25, 2011.
  24. Roberts, Julian (March 18, 2002). "Hans-Georg Gadamer". The Guardian. Retrieved March 25, 2011.
  25. "Hans-Georg Gadamer". The Independent. March 26, 2002. Retrieved March 25, 2011.
  26. "Department of Classics". Dalhousie University.
  27. 1 2 Imamichi, Tomonobu; Fagot-Largeault, Anne (2004). "In Search of Wisdom. One Philosopher's Journey" (PDF). Le Devenir Impensable. Tokyo, International House of Japan: Collège de France. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 December 2010. Retrieved 7 December 2006.
  28. Richard J. Bernstein (2002). "Hermeneutics, Critical Theory and Deconstruction". The Cambridge Companion to Gadamer. Cambridge University Press. ISBN   0521801931.
  29. Cesare 2007, p. 27.
  30. Marucio, Fernando. "Hans-Georg Gadamer, 1900-2002". Geocities (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 18 October 2009. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  31. Cesare 2007, pp. 27–28.
  32. Skorin-Kapov, Jadranka (2016), "The Intertwining of Aesthetics and Ethics: Exceeding of Expectations, Ecstasy, Sublimity," Lexington Books, ISBN   978-1498524568
  33. Schleiermacher, Friedrich D. E. "The Hermeneutics: Outline of the 1819 Lectures," New Literary History, Vol. 10, No. 1, Literary Hermeneutics (Autumn, 1978), 5;10.
  34. Palmer, Richard (1969). Hermeneutics: Interpretation Theory in Schleiermacher, Dilthey, Heidegger, and Gadamer. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. p. 98. ISBN   9780810104594.
  35. 1 2 Palmer, Richard (1969). Hermeneutics: Interpretation Theory in Schleiermacher, Dilthey, Heidegger, and Gadamer. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. p. 163. ISBN   9780810104594.
  36. Truth and Method 2nd ed. Sheed and Ward, London 1989 XXVIII
  37. Palmer, Richard (1969). Hermeneutics: Interpretation Theory in Schleiermacher, Dilthey, Heidegger, and Gadamer. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. p. 117. ISBN   9780810104594.
  38. Palmer, Richard (1969). Hermeneutics: Interpretation Theory in Schleiermacher, Dilthey, Heidegger, and Gadamer. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. p. 182. ISBN   9780810104594.
  39. Gonzalez, Francisco J, “Dialectic and Dialogue in the Hermeneutics of Paul Ricouer and H.G. Gadamer,” Continental Philosophy Review, 39 (2006), 328.
  40. Palmer, Richard (1969). Hermeneutics: Interpretation Theory in Schleiermacher, Dilthey, Heidegger, and Gadamer. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. p. 209. ISBN   9780810104594.
  41. Gonzalez, Francisco J, “Dialectic and Dialogue in the Hermeneutics of Paul Ricouer and H.G. Gadamer,” Continental Philosophy Review, 39 (2006), 322-323.
  42. 1 2 Gonzalez, Francisco J, “Dialectic and Dialogue in the Hermeneutics of Paul Ricouer and H.G. Gadamer,” Continental Philosophy Review, 39 (2006), 323.
  43. Communication Ethics Literacy: Dialogue and Difference Arnett, Harden Fritz & Bell, Los Angeles 2009
  44. 1 2 Robert J. Dostal (2002). "Introduction". The Cambridge Companion to Gadamer. Cambridge University Press. ISBN   0521801931.
  45. Donatella Di Cesare. Gadamer: A Philosophical Portrait. Niall Keane (trans.). Indiana University Press. p. 1. ISBN   9780253007636.
  46. "Department of Classics". Dalhousie University.

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References