Objectivism in hermeneutics? Gadamer, Habermas, Dilthey

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 30 (4):491-507 (2000)
Gadamer and Habermas both argue that some earlier theorists of interpretation in the human sciences, despite recognizing the meaningful character of social reality, still succumb to objectivism because they fail to conceive the relation of interpreters to their subjects in terms of cross-cultural normative “dialogue.” In particular, Gadamer and Habermas claim that the most prominent nineteenth-century philosopher of the human sciences, Wilhelm Dilthey, fell prey to a misleading Cartesian outlook which sought to ground the objectivity of interpretation on complete transcendence of the interpreter’s present cultural and historical situation. This article challenges Gadamer’s and Habermas’s claim by arguing that new research on nineteenth-century hermeneutic thought reveals Dilthey to be much more aware of the reflexive, present-centered nature of historical research than they maintain and further that their own “dialogical” model of interpretation suffers from notable obscurities which Dilthey’s work itself helps expose
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