Dwelling in the Middle: Heidegger, Gadamer, and the Hermeneutics of Proximity

Dissertation, Depaul University (1997)

In this study, I try to bring into focus what I see as the most intense points of proximity between the Philosophical Hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer and the work of his great teacher, Martin Heidegger--points of proximity which nevertheless show as clearly as I think is possible the critical points of departure that set these two thinkers on separate albeit parallel thoughtpaths. This work attempts to illustrate the immense philosophical power that Gadamer's thinking has achieved precisely by departing from Heidegger's at certain crucial moments. But rather than engaging in a straightforward comparative study, I would like to complicate rather than simplify the issue. I offer, therefore, a possible way of reading Heidegger and Gadamer together without attempting to either homogenize them, divorce them entirely, or even to 'reconcile' the two. Instead, I try to allow for what I call a 'counter-turning dialogue' between them that goes beyond both Gadamer's published interpretations of Heidegger and Heidegger's reputed comments about his student's work, a conversation that not only lets them speak to each other but also against each other and themselves by, as it were, dwelling in the neighborhood of language and being. More specifically, by examining these two thinkers' respective relationships, first to Plato and Aristotle and then to the poet, Holderlin, and the philosopher, Hegel, I hope to allow the implicit topology of the Gadamerian "middle of language" and the latent hermeneutics of Heideggerian ontology to reveal themselves in their mutually finite philosophical/phenomenological proximity. My project, therefore, is generally twofold while at the same time maintaining a double guiding thread throughout. The two main historical loci of my endeavor are fifth-century Athens and nineteenth-century Germany, with the questions of Aristotelian phronesis and Platonic dialectic, on the one hand, and Holderlinian poetics and Hegelian dialectic, on the other, serving as hermeneutical focal points for an encounter between Heidegger and Gadamer and their respective ways of dismantling and retrieving language and being throughout the philosophical tradition.
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