The essay “Was ist der Mensch?” appeared for the first time in December 1944 in the German magazine with a hundred years of tradition edited by the publisher J. J. Weber Illustrierte Zeitung Leipzig [Illustrated Magazine Leipzig]. This special cultural edition, entitled Der europäische Mensch [The European Man], which was distributed exclusively abroad, was to be the last volume of the magazine after its final regular issue in September 1994 (No. 5041). Only in 1947, the text was republished, with the (...) same pagination, in a compilation made by J. J. Weber, Vom Wahren, Schönen, Guten. Aus dem Schatz europäischer Kunst und Kultur [On the True, the Beautiful, the Good. From the Treasury of European Art and Culture]. The publisher was expropriated in 1948, and three years later the company was finally removed from the German commercial registry. “Was ist der Mensch?” has never been released in any of Gadamer’s books or separately published in a journal; it also does not appear within the 10 volumes of his Gesammelte Werke [Collected Works]—the only exception is an Italian translation included in a volume devoted to Gadamer’s views on education and the notion of Bildung (cf. Gadamer 2012). The aim of this translation is to make accessible this Gadamer’s quest for the occidental interpretations of human self-consciousness, which has until now been almost unknown and in which, for the first time, Gadamer shows, from a theoretical standpoint, not only his early—although implicit—keen interest in Max Scheler’s anthropology (particularly Scheler’s considerations on the basic historical types of the occidental man’s self-perception in accordance with the basic and underlying concept of human history that still have powerful effectiveness in modern times), but also—at the historical threshold of the imminent ending of World War II—his own concern regarding possible philosophical answers to the question: “What is man?” Cf. especially Scheler 1926 (GW 9, 120–144); 1928 (GW 9, 7–71); 1929 (GW 9, 145–170). All commenting annotations to Gadamer’s text are authored by the editor and translator. (shrink)
We publish here the letters between Gadamer and Ricoeur, as they are found in the Archives of the two philosophers. Starting from February 1964 and ending on October 2000, the thirty-five letters reproduced here cannot give a complete picture of their much richer correspondence and relations, because it seems that neither Ricoeur, nor Gadamer kept all the letters they received from one another. But altogether, they document their common concerns, their mutual respect, even their intellectual solidarity and finally (...) the particular context that brought them to write to one another, i.e. Ricoeur’s intention to publish a translation of Gadamer’s book, Truth and Method, in a new series he edited for the Seuil Publisher. This publishing and translation project will mark their entire correspondence. (shrink)
This essay was Gadamer 's position paper in the April 1981 “debate” with Derrida at a conference on “Text and Interpretation” held at the Sorbonne in Paris. In it he discusses his approach to texts and several elements of Derrida's philosophy,..
Understanding is a ‘language event’ founded upon a ‘silent agreement’ between participants in a conversation. This silent agreement, built up of conversational aspects held in common, is what makes social solidarity possible and shows that the methods of science are an inappropriate starting point for our self-understanding. However, with the advent of industrial technical civilization, the question arises whether understanding has come under the control of a centrally steered communication system where language is a consciously wielded instrument of politics with (...) a corresponding loss of free insight and critical judgement. Only via a hermeneutic logic of words, which begins from recognition that words get their meaning from the open space of living conversation, can critical judgement be defended in the face of the authority of science and technology. (shrink)
Hermeneutics is a mantic art involved in the translation of the unintelligible into the intelligible. However, within modern contexts the term possesses a more methodological sense - ‘a universal doctrine for the interpretation of signs’. This conception of hermeneutics was given impetus during the Renaissance with the quest for theological objectivity, but it was with Schleiermacher and other philosophers of the Romantic movement that hermeneutics was viewed as a universal ‘dialogical’ condition. The Romantic conception of hermeneutics was psychologized by Dilthey (...) and re-founded upon the principle of consciousness. With Heidegger became conceived as an ontological phenomenon identical to Existenz itself. For Gadamer, hermeneutics criticizes the ‘pale abstractions’ of Enlightenment conceptions of philosophy for neglecting the work of concepts in philosophy; concepts that have their origins in the self-critical communicative movement of human interpretation. (shrink)
Originating from a confrontation with the contemporary French thought, especially with Jacques Derrida, the article discusses the question of the relation between text and interpretation. It receives the basic impulse for the deliberation on the theme from the tradition of hermeneutics and from the philosophy of Martin Heidegger, from his considerations upon the subjects of the circle of understanding and the phenomenon of language. What is the relation of the text towards the language? What comes from the language forth into (...) the text? What does understanding between speakers mean and what does it mean that there can be commonly given to us something like texts, or even that in mutual understanding something comes into being that is, like a text, one and the same thing for us? How has the concept of the text been able to undergo such a universal extension? In this theme more is at stake than reflections upon the methodology of the philological sciences. Text is more than a title for the subject matter of literary research. Interpretation is more than the technique of scientifically interpreting texts. (shrink)
English summary: Gadamer's main work, Truth and Method, will be published in 2010, exactly 50 years after the first edition, in a slightly corrected version as an inexpensive student edition. This is seen as one of the few standard works of German post-war philosophy which has achieved worldwide recognition. The huge reaction to this is surprising for many reasons, among other things because in this work an important new theory is presented in intimations only using the author's own conceptual (...) instruments; in fact the author is careful when touching on ancient themes in the philosophical approach to the world. The main question in the work is: What actually happens when we understand? Gadamer focuses on the historical dimensions of understanding, including his famous rehabilitation of prejudice. In addition to the systematic excursus, the book contains an intellectual history of hermeneutics, which is convincing in its virtuosity in dealing with a variety of inspirational figures such as Hegel, Dilthey, Husserl and Heidegger. The amiability and objectivity with which Gadamer invites his readers to a discussion are what account for the enormous influence of this exemplary textbook. German description: Wir sagen, dass wir ein Gesprach fuhren, aber je eigentlicher ein Gesprach ist, desto weniger liegt die Fuhrung desselben in dem Willen des einen oder anderen Partners. Was bei einem Gesprach herauskommt, weiss keiner vorher. Das Hauptwerk Wahrheit und Methode erscheint 2010, genau 50 Jahre nach der Erstausgabe, in durchgesehener und korrigierter Form als preiswerte Studienausgabe. Dieses Buch, das sein Autor erst im Alter von 60 Jahren schrieb, wurde zu einem Uberraschungserfolg der philosophischen Literatur. Als eines der wenigen weltweit anerkannten Standardwerke der deutschen Nachkriegsphilosophie wurde es in viele Sprachen ubersetzt.Die grosse Resonanz konnte aus vielerlei Grunden erstaunen, unter anderem weil hier nur in Andeutungen eine grosse neue Theorie mit eigenem begrifflichen Instrumentarium vorgestellt wird; der Autor umkreist vorsichtig uralte Themen des philosophischen Weltzugangs. Vor allem geht es um die Frage: Was geschieht eigentlich, wenn wir verstehen? Er stellt die geschichtliche Dimension des Verstehens in den Mittelpunkt, auch durch seine beruhmte Rehabilitierung des Vorurteils. Die systematischen Exkurse werden erganzt durch eine Geistesgeschichte der Hermeneutik, die in ihrer virtuosen Behandlung so unterschiedlicher Anreger wie Hegel, Dilthey, Husserl und Heidegger uberzeugt. Die Freundlichkeit und Sachlichkeit, mit der Gadamer seinen Leser ins Gesprach einladt, machen den Rang dieses vorbildlichen Lehrbuchs aus. (shrink)
This volume makes available for the first time in English the most important of Hans-GeorgGadamer's extensive writings on art and literature. The principal text included is 'The Relevance of the Beautiful', Gadamer's most sustained treatment of philosophical aesthetics. The eleven other essays focus particularly on the challenge issued by modern painting and literature to our customary ideas of art, and use that challenge to revitalize our understanding of it. Gadamer demonstrates the continuing importance of (...) such concepts as imitation, truth, symbol, and play for our appreciation of contemporary art, and thereby establishes its continuity with the Western tradition. The essays here are not technical and are readily accessible to the beginning student and the general reader. The collection as a whole serves to illustrate the practice of hermeneutics and to introduce Gadamer's thought. Robert Bernasconi provides an introduction clarifying the central aims of the essays and their relations to Gadamer's major work, Truth and Method, and to the philosophy of art since Kant. A bibliography of Gadamer's writings available in English is also included. (shrink)
This is a translation of Hans-GeorgGadamer’s recently discovered 1952 Berlin speech. The speech includes several themes that reappear in Truth and Method, as well as in Gadamer’s later writings such as Reason in the Age of Science. For example, Gadamer criticizes positivism, modern philosophy’s orientation toward positivism, and Enlightenment narratives of progress, while presenting his view of philosophy’s tasks in an age of crisis. In addition, he discusses structural power, instrumental reason, the objectification of (...) nature and human beings, the reduction of both to mere means, and the colonization of scientific-technological ways of knowing and being—all of which continue to impact our social and political lives together and threaten the very existence of every living being. This speech is essential reading for Gadamer scholars interested in the social, political, and ethical dimensions of his thought and for those interested in bringing Gadamer into conversation with critical theory. (shrink)
This volume presents six lively conversations with Hans-GeorgGadamer, one of the twentieth century’s master philosophers. Looking back over his life and thought, Gadamer takes up key issues in his philosophy, addresses points of controversy, and replies to his critics, including those who accuse him of having been in complicity with the Nazis. A genial and direct conversationalist, Gadamer is here captured at his best and most accessible. The interviews took place between 1989 and 1996, (...) and all but one appear in English for the first time in this volume. The first three conversations, conducted by Heidelberg philosopher Carsten Dutt, deal with hermeneutics, aesthetics, and practical philosophy and the question of ethics. In a fourth conversation, with University of Heidelberg classics professor Glenn W. Most, Gadamer argues for the vital importance of the Greeks for our contemporary thinking. In the next, the philosopher reaffirms his connection with phenomenology and clarifies his relation to Husserl and Heidegger in a conversation with London philosopher Alfons Grieder. In the final interview, with German Nazi expert Dörte von Westernhagen, Gadamer describes his life as a struggling young professor in Germany in the 1930s and refutes accusations of his complicity with the Nazis. These conversations are a lucid introduction for readers new to the philosopher’s thought, and for experts they present an invaluable commentary on Gadamer’s most important themes. (shrink)
The book brings together thirteen essays presented to medical and psychiatric societies, mainly during the 1970's and 1980's. In these essays, Gadamer justifies the reasons for a philosophical interest in health and medicine, and a corresponding need for health practitioners to enter into a dialogue with philosophy.
The arts, taken as whole, govern the metaphysical heritage of the western philosophical tradition. The arts possess absoluteness in that in the experience of art we recognize something as ‘aright’, as true. Art also possesses absoluteness because it transcends all historical differences between eras. Art - and philosophy - possess a contemporaneity in that they attune themselves to the present time. Art is thus not a refined pleasure but something that shows us a world that is there for itself and (...) as such. The significance of art therefore cannot be understood aesthetically but only through Plato’s theory of ‘the exact’ and the Aristotelian conception of energeia as a motion without a path or a goal. (shrink)
It has been claimed, out of admiration for the great thinker, that his political errors have nothing to do with his philosophy. If only we could be content with that! Wholly unnoticed was how damaging such a “defense” of so important a thinker really is. And how could it be made consistent with the fact that the same man, in the fifties, saw and said things about the industrial revolution and technology that today are still truly astonishing for their foresight?In (...) any case: no surprise should be expected from those of us who, for fifty years, have reflected on what dismayed us in those days and separated us from Heidegger for many years: no surprise when we hear that in 1933—and for years previous, and for how long after?—he “believed” in Hitler. But Heidegger was also no mere opportunist. If we wish to dignify his political engagement by calling it a “standpoint,” it would be far better to call it a political “illusion,” which had notably little to do with political reality. If Heidegger later, in the face of all realities, would again dream his dream from those days, the dream of a “people’s religion” [Volksreligion], the later version would embrace his deep disappointment over the actual course of affairs. But he continued guarding that dream—and kept silent about it. Earlier, in 1933 and 1934, he thought he was following his dream, and fulfilling his deepest philosophical mission, when he tried to revolutionize the university from the ground up. It was for that that he did everything that horrified us at that time. For him the sole issue was to break the political influence of the church and the tenacity of academic bossdom. Even Ernst Jünger’s vision of “the worker” [der Arbeiter] was given a place beside his own ideas about overcoming the metaphysical tradition via the reawakening of Being. Later, as is known, Heidegger wandered all the way to his radical talk of the end of philosophy. That was his “revolution.” Hans-GeorgGadamer is professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Heidelberg. His books include Truth and Method, Philosophical Hermeneutics, The Idea of the Good in Platonic-Aristotelian Philosophy, and The Relevance of the Beautiful and Other Essays. John McCumber, associate professor of philosophy at Northwestern University, is the author of Poetic Interaction: Language, Freedom, Reason. (shrink)
In “Pain,” Hans-GeorgGadamer offers several reflections on the experience of pain and its importance for both modern medicine and hermeneutic thought. Having already celebrated his 100th birthday at the time of this lecture, Gadamer speaks of his own experience with polio and the pains of old age, and the influence that his friend and physician, Paul Vogler, had on his approach to the treatment of pain. In the year 2000, Gadamer is concerned with the (...) dominance of technology and chemical “pain management” in the professional medical community, which has largely forgotten the more natural or traditional healing methods in approaching pain and recovery. In light of this, what is crucial for Gadamer is that individuals approach the challenges of pain by taking an active part in their own recovery. For Gadamer, hermeneutics speaks to these encounters with pain and recovery as decisive for human life and understanding. (shrink)