David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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International Journal of Philosophical Studies 10 (4):467 – 482 (2002)
Richard Wolin, in his article 'Nazism and the Complicities of Hans-Georg Gadamer: Untruth and Method' ( New Republic , 15 May 2000, pp. 36-45), wrongly accuses Gadamer of being 'in complicity' with the Nazis. The present article in reply was rejected by the New Republic , but is printed here to show that Wolin in his article is misinformed and unfair. First, Wolin makes elementary factual errors, such as stating that Gadamer was born in Breslau instead of Marburg. He relies on a highly questionable source, Teresa Orozco, as 'definitive'. He argues often by misconstruing the evidence and guilt by association. For instance, he associates Gadamer with Werner Jaeger, with whom he disagreed and had little contact. Finally,he misinterprets basic terms in Gadamer's hermeneutics, Vorurteil and authority, attributing to them the popular sense of these terms instead of their place in Gadamer's hermeneutics. Vorurteil , popularly translated as 'prejudice', but better rendered as 'prejudgment', refers to the prior knowledge that one needs in order to understand a situation or a text. In some cases, this is part of the inherited tradition. Authority refers to the respect one pays to those one recognizes as having more knowledge than oneself: one's doctor, or parent, or teacher, a judge, or certain texts. It is not an abject surrender to all authority but the necessary respect for authority in human relationships and in society in general. By misconstruing these terms, Wolin attempts to discredit Gadamer's general philosophy,not just to demonstrate a connection to the Nazis. At the end, his argument turns into a misinformed general political attack on Gadamer as an enemy of Enlightenment values.
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