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Hans-Georg Gadamer

Edited by Theodore George (Texas A&M University)
Assistant editor: Jennifer Gaffney (Texas A&M University)
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Summary

Hans-Georg Gadamer (1900-2002) is arguably the figure most associated with hermeneutics in our times. Gadamer completed his doctoral studies in Marburg, where his teachers included Paul Natrop and Nicolai Hartman; the principle influence on Gadamer’s philosophical development, however, was Martin Heidegger, with whom Gadamer subsequently completed his Habilitation studies in Freiburg. Among Gadamer’s faculty appointments, perhaps the most notable are the positions he has held at the University of Leipzig from 1939–1947, where he also served in 1946 as Rector, and at the University of Heidelberg from 1949 until his official retirement in the late 1960s, as well as after this his long association with Boston College. Gadamer’s project, which is typically identified as philosophical hermeneutics, may be understood to build on Heidegger’s elucidation of hermeneutics in an ontological register. Hermeneutics, as the early Heidegger develops it, concerns not foremost the art of understanding or epistemological considerations of our cognitive capacity to understand and interpret, but, more fundamentally, the ontology of human beings insofar as human beings are characterized by their disclosedness, that is, their openness to the being of whatever beings they find themselves involved with. Gadamer, from this point of departure, stresses the finitude of such openness, arguing that hermeneutic experience is epitomized by dialogic interaction, or, conversation, and that human understanding remains always conditioned by prejudices, or, pre-judgments, passed down through tradition and language. Gadamer develops his project of philosophical hermeneutics in his major work, Truth and Method, as well as in a large body of other writings, and his work makes significant contributions in the philosophy of art and aesthetics, practical philosophy, ancient Greek philosophy, and a number of other areas. Influenced not only by Heidegger, but also several figures in the history of philosophy, especially Plato, Aristotle, and Hegel, Gadamer is furthermore noted for his important philosophical engagements with leading figures of the age, especially Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida. 

Key works

While Gadamer’s writings are largely gathered in the eleven volumes that comprise his collected works, Gesammelte Werke (Mohr Siebeck, 1990), many of his important writings are available in English translation. His major work is Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method. Many of Gadamer’s important further contributions are represented in English translation in a number of collected volumes. Two collected volumes that address a broad range of central themes in Gadamer’s thought are Philosophical Hermeneutics and The Gadamer Reader: A Bouquet of the Later Writings. A volume that collects many of his important writings on the hermeneutical significance of beauty, as well as themes in the philosophy of art and aesthetics more broadly, is The Relevance of the Beautiful and Other Writings; a volume that collects some of Gadamer’s most important contributions to the philosophical study of literature is Literature and Philosophy in Dialogue: Essays in German Literary Theory. A further notable collected volume is Hermeneutics, Religion and Ethics. Gadamer’s hermeneutical engagements with of some of his important philosophical influences may be found in Dialogue and Dialectic: Eight Hermeneutical Studies on Plato, The Beginning of Philosophy, Hegel’s Dialectic: Five Hermeneutical Studies and Heidegger's Ways. Gadamer discusses the arc of his own philosophical life in Philosophical Apprenticeships and “Reflections on my Philosophical Journey".

Introductions

Of the many good introductions to hermeneutics available in English, those highly recommended include, in alphabetical order by author: 

Di Cesare, Donatella, Gadamer. A Philosophical Portrait

Dostal, Robert, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Gadamer

Grondin, Jean, The Philosophy of Gadamer.  

Johnson, Patricia, On Gadamer

Risser, James, Hermeneutics and the Voice of the Other.

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  1. Aavv (ed.) (2004). Congreso Internacional de Hermenéutica Filosófica. El Legado de Gadamer. Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Granada.
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  2. Oscar Moro Abadía (2011). Hermeneutical Contributions to the History of Science: Gadamer on 'Presentism'. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 42 (2):372-380.
    This article examines how Hans G. Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics can contribute to contemporary debates on the concept of ‘presentism’. In the field of the history of science, this term is usually employed in two ways. First, ‘presentism’ refers to the kind of historiography which judges the past to legitimate the present. Second, this concept designates the inevitable influence of the present in the interpretation of the past. In this paper, I argue that both dimensions of the relationship between the present (...)
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  3. Maria del Rosario Acosta (2012). El diálogo que somos: la comprensión como espacio para la política. Areté. Revista de Filosofía 18 (2):205-228.
    This paper mainly proposes to point out some aspects that render hermeneutics pertinent within the context of political discussion, defending it from attacks mostly stemming from a philosophy of critical consciousness such as Habermas’s, Adorno’s, and some of their followers. It will be shown, from Gadamer’s perspective, how hermeneutics responds to those critiques within its conception of understanding as a fundamental task and a primordial political space. Contrary to a philosophy that appeals to the need of “taking its distance” as (...)
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  4. M. Adam (1983). Gadamer . - L'art de comprendre. [REVIEW] Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 173:60.
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  5. Joseph Agassi (1994). Gadamer Without Tears. Philosophy of the Social Sciences 24 (4):485-505.
    The chief feature of Gadamer's philosophy is his claim that the humanities obey their own rules concerning reading texts and ensuring certitude. The promise of certitude is illusory, however, and the discourses on interpretation by him and his leading disciples are too confused to instruct the reader. His own sketch of his philosophy, published in his autobiographic Philosophical Apprenticeship, and its reflection in Gadamer and Hermeneutics (Hugh J. Silverman, ed.), shows this and reveals him as still too insensitive to the (...)
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  6. Enrique de Jesús Aguilar Prado (2013). Sobre la situación dialéctico-dialógica entre platón Y Gadamer. Revista de filosofía (Chile) 69:21-37.
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  7. José Ma Aguirre (1998). Raison Critique Ou Raison Herméneutique? Une Analyse de la Controverse Entre Habermas Et Gadamer.
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  8. Jm Aguirreoraa (1993). Critical Reason or Hermeneutic Reason+ Examining the Controversy Between Habermas and Gadamer. Revue Philosophique De Louvain 91 (91):409-440.
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  9. Amani Albedah (2006). A Gadamerian Critique of Kuhn's Linguistic Turn: Incommensurability Revisited. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 20 (3):323 – 345.
    In this article, I discuss Gadamer's hermeneutic account of understanding as an alternative to Kuhn's incommensurability thesis. After a brief account of Kuhn's aesthetic account and arguments against it, I argue that the linguistic account faces a paradox that results from Kuhn's objectivist account of understanding, and his lack of historical reflexivity. The statement 'Languages are incommensurable' is not a unique view of language, and is thus subject to contest by incommensurable readings. Resolving the paradox requires an account of incommensurability (...)
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  10. Edgardo Albizu (1978). El lenguaje en la hermenéutica filosófica de Gadamer. Escritos de Filosofía 1 (1):79.
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  11. Christopher Albrecht (2001). Gadamer, Hans-Georg. Hermeneutics, Religion, and Ethics. Review of Metaphysics 55 (2):393-395.
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  12. Linda Alcoff (1996). Real Knowing: New Versions of the Coherence Theory. Cornell University Press.
    In provocative readings of major figures in the continental tradition, Alcoff shows that the work of Hans-Georg Gadamer and Michel Foucault can help rectify key ...
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  13. Linda Martín Alcoff (2003). Gadamer's Feminist Epistemology. In Lorraine Code (ed.), Feminist Interpretations of Hans-Georg Gadamer. Pennsylvania State University Press
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  14. Linda Sharon Alcoff (1988). New Versions of the Coherence Theory: Gadamer, Davidson, Foucault, and Putnam. Dissertation, Brown University
    This thesis explores four contemporary accounts of knowledge and understanding that highlight the importance of coherence as a major factor in justification, as a criterion of truth, and, in some cases, as a definition and ontology of truth. It seeks to explicate how these accounts advance the debate over coherentist epistemology by, principally, offering a new ontology of truth which demonstrates why coherence, if used as the criterion of truth, is a reliable means of achieving truth. ;Hans-Georg Gadamer's philosophical hermeneutics (...)
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  15. Rudolf Allers (1951). LEISEGANG, HANS. "Denkformen". [REVIEW] Modern Schoolman 29:254.
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  16. J. M. Almarza-Menica (1985). La praxis de la hermenéutica filosofica segun HG Gadamer in Sobre hermenéutica. Estudios Filosóficos 34 (95).
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  17. Patricia Altenbernd Johnson (1992). Dieter Misgeld and Graeme Nicholson, Eds., Hans-Georg Gadamer on Education, Poetry, and History Reviewed By. Philosophy in Review 12 (5):342-344.
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  18. Patricia Altenbernd Johnson (1991). Kathleen Wright, Ed., Festivals of Interpretation. Essays on Hans-Georg Gadamer's Work Reviewed By. Philosophy in Review 11 (6):439-440.
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  19. Patricia Altenbernd Johnson (1988). Hans-Georg Gadamer, The Relevance of the Beautiful and Other Essays Reviewed By. Philosophy in Review 8 (5):166-168.
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  20. Lluis Àlvarez (2000). Gadamer, l'Europa e la filosofia. Iride 13 (2):295-304.
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  21. Joshua Amaru (2003). Gadamer's Century: Essays in Honor of Hans-Georg Gadamer. Common Knowledge 9 (3):545-546.
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  22. Peter Amato (2006). Marxist Critique and Philosophical Hermeneutics. Radical Philosophy Today 2006:235-242.
    Philosophically robust conceptions of ethical life and moral critique would advance the struggle against capital. Marx can be read as implying that human life is irreducibly meaningful, linguistic, and cultural, but he often is not. Whether or not Marx recognized them himself, these dimensions of life have not been sufficiently thematized or developed by Marxists. I argue that we can move toward doing so with assistance from Hans-Georg Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics. A hermeneutical approach to historical materialism would help clarify and (...)
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  23. Francis J. Ambrosio (1995). Hans-Georg Gadamer on Education, Poetry, and History. Review of Metaphysics 49 (1):134-135.
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  24. Francis J. Ambrosio (1988). Gadamer and Aristotle. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 62:174-182.
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  25. Francis J. Ambrosio (1987). Gadamer, Plato, and the Discipline of Dialogue. International Philosophical Quarterly 27 (1):17-32.
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  26. Francis J. Ambrosio (1987). Gadamer. The Owl of Minerva 19 (1):23-40.
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  27. Francis J. Ambrosio (1986). Dawn and Dusk: Gadamer and Heidegger on Truth. [REVIEW] Man and World 19 (1):21-53.
    Understanding certainly does not mean merely the taking over of traditional opinion or the acknowledgment of what has been enshrined by tradition. Heidegger, who had first identified the concept of understanding as a universal determination of Dasein, means thereby precisely the character of understanding as project, which is really to say, Dasein in its orientation toward its own future. At the same time, I do not wish to deny that I for my part have emphasized within the universal matrix of (...)
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  28. Francis John Ambrosio (1982). Truth and Creativity the Meaning of 'Die Virtualitat des Sprechens' in H. G. Gadamer's Philosophical Hermeneutics. Dissertation, Fordham University
    The goal of this study is to investigate the meaning and significance of the concept of die Virtualitat des Sprechens as it functions in the thought of H. G. Gadamer. The primary thesis proposed is that the success of Gadamer's enterprise in Wahrheit und Methode of providing a corrective to misunderstandings about the experience of understanding and the event of truth arising out of a model based on the ideal of scientific objectivity, depends on his ability to display how the (...)
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  29. Emilia Angelova (2013). Heidegger and Gadamer. In Francois Raffoul & Eric S. Nelson (eds.), The Bloomsbury Companion to Heidegger. Bloomsbury 165.
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  30. Heinrich Anz & Hendrik Birus (1982). Hermeneutische Positionen Schleiermacher, Dilthey, Heidegger, Gadamer.
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  31. Karl-Otto Apel (1963). Rezension zu: H.-G. Gadamer, Wahrheit und Methode, Tübingen 1960. Hegel-Studien 2:314-322.
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  32. Marc H. Applebaum (2011). (Mis)Appropriations of Gadamer in Qualitative Research: A Husserlian Critique (Part 1). Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology 11 (1).
    Within the Husserlian phenomenological philosophical tradition, description and interpretation co-exist. However, teaching the practice of phenomenological psychological research requires careful articulation of the differences between a descriptive and an interpretive relationship to what is provided by qualitative data. If as researchers we neglect the epistemological foundations of our work or avoid working through difficult methodological issues, then our work invites dismissal as inadequate science, undermining the effort to strongly establish psychology along qualitative lines. The first article in this two-part discussion (...)
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  33. Thiago Aquino (2012). Tradição histórica e reflexão crítica: notas sobre o debate entre Habermas e Gadamer. Veritas: Revista de Filosofia da PUCRS 57 (3):53-73.
    The intention of this article is to reconstruct the debate between Hans-Georg Gadamer and Jürgen Habermas which occurred between the end of the 1960s and the start of the 1970s. In order to observe this period the later developments of these thinkers won’t be taken into account. The article plans to examine the central problematic of the debate related to the difficult relationship between historic tradition and critical reflection. The tension between these two terms will be used as a reference (...)
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  34. Francisco Arenas-Dolz (ed.) (2011). Márgenes de la Interpretación: Diálogo, Símbolo y Analogía. Plaza y Valdés Editores.
    El camino seguido por la hermenéutica analógica representa una perspectiva novedosa entre los planteamientos de las hermenéuticas contemporáneas, que se ha aplicado a distintas áreas. En este volumen se aborda la convergencia de la hermenéutica analógica con algunas de estas disciplinas. La hermenéutica analógica procura entender no solo las humanidades sino las ciencias de un modo que no sea ni meramente univocista ni meramente equivocista, sino analógico; de un modo que no sea ni meramente descriptivo ni meramente prescriptivo, sino interpretativo, (...)
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  35. Alessandro Argiroffi (1994). Valori, Prassi, Ermeneutica Emilio Betti a Confronto Con Nicolai Hartmann E Hans Georg Gadamer. Monograph Collection (Matt - Pseudo).
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  36. Alex Argyros (1986). The Warp of the World: Deconstruction and Hermeneutics. Diacritics 16 (3):47-55.
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  37. Angela Benabarre Ariño (2002). Presencia de CG Humboldt En HG Gadamer. Naturaleza y Gracia: Revista Cuatrimestral de Ciencias Eclesiásticas 1:157-168.
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  38. Georgios Anagnostopoulos Aristotle, Daniel Bonevac & Stephen Phillips (1994). Hans-Georg Gadamer. Heidegger's Ways. John W. Stanley Trs. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1994, 211pp. He. 0-7914-1738-7. Edward Goodell. The Nobel Philoso. [REVIEW] Teaching Philosophy 1:7.
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  39. K. Arlt (1997). bei F. Schleiermacher und H.-G. Gadamer. Synthesis Philosophica 12:135-174.
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  40. Vilhjálmur Árnason (2000). Gadamerian Dialogue in the Patient-Professional Interaction. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 3 (1):17-23.
    In his seminal work, Truth and Method, theGerman philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer distinguishesbetween three types of what he calls the experience ofthe `Thou'. In this paper, Gadamer's analysis of thisexperience is explained in terms of his philosophicalhermeneutics and brought to bear upon thepatient-professional relationship. It is argued thatwhile Gadamer's analysis implies fruitful insights fora dialogical account of the patient-professionalinteraction, it harbours elements which are conduciveto paternalistic practice of medicine. The strongattribution of value to tradition and the respect forauthority emphasized in his (...)
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  41. Pablo Arnau (1997). Relativismo Cognitivo E Historicidad: (Dilthey, Collingwood, Gadamer). Universitat de València.
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  42. Kristján G. Arngrímsson (2002). Gadamer on Authority. SATS: Northern European Journal of Philosophy 3 (1):76-82.
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  43. Kristjan G. Arngrimsson (2002). Protecting Our Prejudices? Is Gadamer's Hermeneutics Ethnocentric? Dissertation, York University (Canada)
    The distinction between universalism and particularism in philosophy has taken on various guises. One way to formulate it is to ask whether an objection to universalism is destined to lead to relativism, and if acceptance of particularism must lead to ethnocentrism. In this dissertation I will ask these questions of Hans-Georg Gadamer's hermeneutics. ;Philosophical theories which are intended to avoid strict universalism, for one reason or another, are often assumed by critics to be wholly in the other camp, i.e., particularism. (...)
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  44. Samuel Arriarán (1995). La tradición y el cambio según Gadamer. Analogía Filosófica: Revista de Filosofía, Investigación y Difusión 9 (2):155.
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  45. John Arthos Jr (2000). Gadamer at the Cumaean Gates. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 74 (2):223-248.
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  46. John Arthos (2014). What Is Φρόνησις? Philosophy Today 58 (1):53-66.
    This essay is an assessment of the crucial differences between the herme­neutics of Paul Ricoeur and Hans-George Gadamer in the wake of Ricoeur’s final works and death. I take as a jumping-off point Jean Grondin’s recent exposition of seven cardinal differences between the two perspectives. I aggregate these seven differences along two axes which cross on the relation of hermeneutics to φρόνησις, and I argue that each axis points to a major flaw in the respective hermeneutics of each thinker. Finally (...)
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  47. John Arthos (2009). The Word is Not Reflexive. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 78 (4):581-608.
    Hans-Georg Gadamer’s appropriation of Augustine’s analogy of the inner word, the verbum interius, is by now a well-known theme in philosophical hermeneutics. But what has received scarcely any attention is the Thomist side of Gadamer’s appropriation. Two thirds of Gadamer’s analysis of the verbum interius in his magnum opus, Truth and Method, is devoted to Aquinas, who employs Augustine’s verbum in developing a theory of the mind. In particular, Gadamer gives great emphasis to the Thomist insistence on the “non-reflective” character (...)
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  48. John Arthos (2009). The Inner Word in Gadamer's Hermeneutics. University of Notre Dame Press.
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  49. John Arthos (2007). The Hermeneutic Version of the Rhetorical Turn, or Heidegger and Gadamer in the Recuperation of a Humanist Rhetoric. Philosophy Today 51 (Supplement):70-81.
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  50. John Arthos (2006). The Scholar and the Pub Crawler: Revisiting the Debate Between Ricoeur and Gadamer. Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy 16 (1/2):71-81.
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