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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. 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.
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  2. 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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  3. Christopher Albrecht (2001). Gadamer, Hans-Georg. Hermeneutics, Religion, and Ethics. Review of Metaphysics 55 (2):393-395.
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  4. 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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  5. Lluis Àlvarez (2000). Gadamer, l'Europa E la Filosofia. Iride 13 (2):295-304.
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  6. Joshua Amaru (2003). Gadamer's Century: Essays in Honor of Hans-Georg Gadamer. Common Knowledge 9 (3):545-546.
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  7. 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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  8. Francis J. Ambrosio (1995). Hans-Georg Gadamer on Education, Poetry, and History. Review of Metaphysics 49 (1):134-135.
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  9. Francis J. Ambrosio (1988). Gadamer and Aristotle. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 62:174-182.
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  10. Francis J. Ambrosio (1987). Gadamer, Plato, and the Discipline of Dialogue. International Philosophical Quarterly 27 (1):17-32.
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  11. Francis J. Ambrosio (1987). Gadamer. The Owl of Minerva 19 (1):23-40.
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  12. 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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  13. K. Arlt (1997). bei F. Schleiermacher und H.-G. Gadamer. Synthesis Philosophica 12:135-174.
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  14. Pablo Arnau (1997). Relativismo Cognitivo E Historicidad: (Dilthey, Collingwood, Gadamer). Universitat de València.
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  15. Kristján G. Arngrímsson (2002). Gadamer on Authority. SATS: Northern European Journal of Philosophy 3 (1):76-82.
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  16. John Arthos Jr (2000). Gadamer at the Cumaean Gates. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 74 (2):223-248.
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  17. Christopher E. Arthur (1976). Gadamer and Hirsch: The Canonical Work and the Interpreter's Intention. Philosophy and Social Criticism 4 (2):183-197.
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  18. Camille E. Atkinson (2009). Is Gadamer's Hermeneutics Inherently Conservative? Forum Philosophicum: International Journal for Philosophy 14 (2).
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  19. Gary E. Aylesworth (1991). Dialogue, Text, Narrative: Confronting Gadamer and Ricoeur. In Hans-Georg Gadamer & Hugh J. Silverman (eds.), Gadamer and Hermeneutics. New York ;Routledge. 63--81.
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  20. Alireza Azadi (2008). A Critical View on Pol Vandevelde's "A Critique of Gadamer's Critical Pluralism". Proceedings of the Xxii World Congress of Philosophy 21:5-13.
    Gadamer’s hermeneutics has met with criticism in the more than forty years since the original German publication of Wahrheit und Methode in 1960. A figure who has recently criticized Gadamer’s hermeneutics from the perspective of traditional hermeneutics is Pol Vandevelde. He published a book entitled: "The Task of the Interpreter: Text, Meaning, and Negotiation”. The first two chapters of this book, especially the second chapter, with the title “Interpretation as Event: A Critique of Gadamer’s Critical Pluralism,” is devoted to attacking (...)
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  21. Tom Bailey (2007). Filosofia Pratica E Sfera Pubblica: Percorsi a Confronto: Höffe, Geertz, O'Neill, Gadamer, Taylor – Alberto Pirni. Philosophical Quarterly 57 (226):151–153.
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  22. J. M. Baker (2002). Lyric as Paradigm: Hermeneutics and the Speculative Instance of Poetry in Gadamer's Hermeneutic. In Robert J. Dostal (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Gadamer. Cambridge University Press.
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  23. Kimberly Baltzer (2004). The Philosophy of Gadamer. Symposium: The Canadian Journal of Continental Philosophy 8 (1):141-142.
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  24. Michael W. Barclay (1994). J. Wallulis, The Hermeneutics of Life History: Personal Achievement and History in Gadamer, Habermas, and Erikson. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1990, 158 Pp., $29.95 (Cloth). [REVIEW] Journal of Phenomenological Psychology 25 (1):131-135.
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  25. Lauren Swayne Barthold (2014). Gadamer and the Question of the Divine. By Walter Lammi. Pp. Ix, 192, London, Continuum, 2008, $107.07. Ricoeur and the Hermeneutics of Suspicion. By Alison Scott‐Baumann. Pp. X, 237, London, Continuum, 2009, $44.95. The Inner Word in Gadamer's Hermeneutics. By John Arthos. Pp. Xx, 460, Notre Dame, IN, University of Notre Dame Press, 2009, $53.99. [REVIEW] Heythrop Journal 55 (1):163-167.
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  26. Lauren Swayne Barthold (2010). Friendship and the Ethics of Understanding. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy 14 (2):417-429.
    In the following essay I explore the hermeneutical significance of Gadamer’s writings on the relational, and thus ethical, components of understanding. First, I look at his discussion in Truth and Method of the significance of the “I-Thou” relation for interpretation. I then turn to his 1985 essay on Aristotle’s notion of friendship, “Friendship and Self-Knowledge: Reflections on the Role of Friendship in Greek Ethics.” My interest is to think about the implications of these writings for his theory of hermeneutics in (...)
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  27. Lauren Swayne Barthold (2010). Gadamer's Dialectical Hermeneutics. Lexington Books.
    Gadamer's Dialectical Hermeneutics affirms the continuity between Gadamer's interest in Plato and his hermeneutics by focusing on the role of dialectic for Gadamer's own conception of understanding.
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  28. Werner Beierwaltes (1990). Collected Works. Vol. 3. Hegel, Husserl, Heidegger. Vol. Philosophy and History 23 (1):15-16.
  29. Robert Bernasconi (1986). Bridging the Abyss: Heidegger and Gadamer. Research in Phenomenology 16 (1):1-24.
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  30. Rudolf Bernet (2005). Gadamer on the Subject's Participation in the Game of Truth. Review of Metaphysics 58 (4):785 - 814.
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  31. Richard J. Bernstein (2008). The Conversation That Never Happened (Gadamer/Derrida). Review of Metaphysics 61 (3):577-603.
  32. Richard J. Bernstein (1983). Beyond Objectivism and Relativism: Science, Hermeneutics, and Praxis. University of Pennsylvania Press.
    "A fascinating and timely treatment of the objectivism versus relativism debates occurring in philosophy of science, literary theory, the social sciences, ...
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  33. E. Berti (2000). Gadamer and the Reception of Aristotle. Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia 56 (3):345-360.
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  34. Enrico Berti (2000). Gadamer and the Reception of Aristotle's Intellectual Virtues. Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia 56 (3/4):345 - 360.
    In his recent edition, with translation and commentary, of Aristotle, Eth. Nic. VI, Hans-Georg Gadamer reproposes his interpretation of Aristotle's practical philosophy as a model for his own hermeneutics, confirming in this way his tendency to identify practical philosophy with the intellectual virtue of phronesis. Furthermore, although he recognizes the primacy attributed by Aristotle to the theoretical life, Gadamer tends to undervalue it and to consider phronesis and sophia at the same level. In particular he believes that (...)
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  35. E. F. Bertoldi (1984). Gadamer's Criticisms of Collingwood. Idealistic Studies 14 (3):213-228.
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  36. E. F. Bertoldi (1984). Gadamer's Criticisms of Collingwood. Idealistic Studies 14 (3):213-228.
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  37. Franco Bianco (2004). Introduzione a Gadamer. Glf Editori Laterza.
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  38. Martin Bidney (2001). Gadamer On Celan. International Studies in Philosophy 33 (2):141-143.
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  39. Joseph Bien (2008). Couch on Art in Arendt and Gadamer. Southwest Philosophy Review 24 (2):17-20.
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  40. Linda L. Binding & Dianne M. Tapp (2008). Human Understanding in Dialogue: Gadamer's Recovery of the Genuine. Nursing Philosophy 9 (2):121-130.
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  41. Peg Birmingham (2004). Gadamer's Century. Review of Metaphysics 57 (4):851-853.
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  42. Ed Block (1989). Gadamer, Christian Tradition, and the Critic. Renascence 41 (4):211-232.
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  43. Núria Sara Miras Boronat, Die Welt Als Grund: Wittgenstein, Gadamer Und James. Akten des XXII. Deutscher Kongress für Philosophie.
  44. Thorsten Botz-Bornstein (2013). Speech, Writing, and Play in Gadamer and Derrida. Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy 9 (1):249-264.
    I revisit the Derrida-Gadamer debate in order to analyze more closely the problem of the foundation of reason and of interpretation. I explore the theme of play as a metaphor of non-foundation in both philosophers and analyze how both extract this quality from their readings of Plato’s Phaedrus . Does Derrida not essentialize the game by declaring that the playful experience of a Gadamerian dialogue must produce a metaphysical presence in the form of a hermeneutic intention? I find that the (...)
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  45. Richard S. Briggs (2009). Wittgenstein and Gadamer: Towards a Post-Analytic Philosophy of Language. By Chris Lawn. [REVIEW] Heythrop Journal 50 (3):550-551.
  46. Evandro Oliveira de Brito (2011). Consciência histórica e hermenêutica: considerações de gadamer acerca da teoria da história de Dilthey. Trans/Form/Ação 28 (2):149-160.
    O propósito deste artigo é explicitar o modo como Gadamer reformula a hermenêutica diltheiana (desenvolvida sobre o conceito moderno de vida utilizado como fundamento da noção de auto-consciência histórica), ao formular um novo modo de compreender a razão e a existência humanas, tomando como ponto de partida a experiência concreta da finitude da vida humana.
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  47. Walter A. Brogan (2002). Gadamer's Praise of Theory: Aristotle's Friend and the Reciprocity Between Theory and Practice. Research in Phenomenology 32 (1):141-155.
    Gadamer's rethinking of the interconnection of theory and practice can lead to a resolution of the debate in contemporary Aristotelian scholarship regarding the priority of theory or practice in Aristotle's Ethics. This is especially true in light of Aristotle's treatment of friendship which, as I will try to show, provides support for Gadamer's claim. In Aristotle's notion of friendship, theory and practice come together, and the activity of friendship is for Aristotle the highest expression of human life precisely because true (...)
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  48. Hugues Brouillet (1997). WARNKE, Georgia, Gadamer, Herméneutique, Tradition Et raisonWARNKE, Georgia, Gadamer, Herméneutique, Tradition Et Raison. Laval Théologique et Philosophique 53 (1):241-244.
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  49. Rudiger Bubner (2007). Looking Back on Gadamer's Hermeneutics. In Santiago Zabala (ed.), Weakening Philosophy: Essays in Honour of Gianni Vattimo. Mcgill-Queen's University Press.
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  50. Kenneth L. Buckman (1997). Gadamer on Art, Morality, and Authority. Philosophy and Literature 21 (1):144-150.
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