Hans-Georg Gadamer (/ˈɡædəmər/; German: [ˈɡaːdamɐ]; February 11, 1900 – March 13, 2002) was a German philosopher of the continental tradition, best known for his 1960 magnum opus Truth and Method (Wahrheit und Methode) on hermeneutics. He was a Protestant Christian.
Hans-Georg Gadamer, c. 2000
|Born||February 11, 1900|
|Died||March 13, 2002 (aged 102)|
|Education||University of Breslau|
University of Marburg (PhD, 1922)
|Institutions||University of Marburg (1928–1938)|
Leipzig University (1938–1948)
Goethe University Frankfurt (1948–1949)
University of Heidelberg (1949–2002)
|Doctoral advisor||Paul Natorp|
Gadamer was born in Marburg, Germany, the son of Johannes Gadamer (1867–1928), a pharmaceutical chemistry professor who later also served as the rector of the University of Marburg. He resisted his father's urging to take up the natural sciences and became more and more interested in the humanities. His mother, Emma Karoline Johanna Geiese (1869–1904) died of diabetes while Hans-Georg was four years old, and he later noted that this may have had an effect on his decision to not pursue scientific studies. Jean Grondin describes Gadamer as finding in his mother "a poetic and almost religious counterpart to the iron fist of his father". Gadamer did not serve during World War I for reasons of ill health and similarly was exempted from serving during World War II due to polio.
He grew up and studied classics and philosophy in the University of Breslau under Richard Hönigswald, but soon moved back to the University of Marburg to study with the Neo-Kantian philosophers Paul Natorp (his doctoral thesis advisor) and Nicolai Hartmann. He defended his dissertation The Essence of Pleasure in Plato's Dialogues (Das Wesen der Lust nach den Platonischen Dialogen) in 1922.
Shortly thereafter, Gadamer moved to Freiburg University and began studying with Martin Heidegger, who was then a promising young scholar who had not yet received a professorship. He and Heidegger became close, and when Heidegger received a position at Marburg, Gadamer followed him there, where he became one of a group of students such as Leo Strauss, Karl Löwith, and Hannah Arendt. It was Heidegger's influence that gave Gadamer's thought its distinctive cast and led him away from the earlier neo-Kantian influences of Natorp and Hartmann. Gadamer studied Aristotle both under Edmund Husserl and under Heidegger.
Gadamer habilitated in 1929 and spent most of the early 1930s lecturing in Marburg. Unlike Heidegger, who joined the Nazi Party in May 1933 and continued as a member until the party was dissolved following World War II, Gadamer was silent on Nazism, and he was not politically active during the Third Reich. Gadamer did not join the Nazis, and he did not serve in the army because of the polio he had contracted in 1922. He joined the National Socialist Teachers League in August 1933.
In 1933 Gadamer signed the Loyalty Oath of German Professors to Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist State.
In April 1937 he became a temporary professor at Marburg, then in 1938 he received a professorship at Leipzig University. From an SS-point of view Gadamer was classified as neither supportive nor disapproving in the "SD-Dossiers über Philosophie-Professoren" (i.e. SD-files concerning philosophy professors) that were set up by the SS-Security-Service (SD). In 1946, he was found by the American occupation forces to be untainted by Nazism and named rector of the university.
The level of Gadamer's involvement with the Nazis has been disputed in the works of Richard Wolin and Teresa Orozco. Orozco alleges, with reference to Gadamer's published works, that Gadamer had supported the Nazis more than scholars had supposed. Gadamer scholars have rejected these assertions: Jean Grondin has said that Orozco is engaged in a "witch-hunt" while Donatella Di Cesare said that "the archival material on which Orozco bases her argument is actually quite negligible". Cesare and Grondin have argued that there is no trace of antisemitism in Gadamer's work, and that Gadamer maintained friendships with Jews and provided shelter for nearly two years for the philosopher Jacob Klein in 1933 and 1934. Gadamer also reduced his contact with Heidegger during the Nazi era.
The communist DDR was no more to Gadamer's liking than the Third Reich, and he left for West Germany, accepting first a position in Goethe University Frankfurt and then the succession of Karl Jaspers in the University of Heidelberg in 1949. He remained in this position, as emeritus, until his death in 2002 at the age of 102. He was also an Editorial Advisor of the journal Dionysius. It was during this time that he completed his magnum opus, Truth and Method (1960), and engaged in his famous debate with Jürgen Habermas over the possibility of transcending history and culture in order to find a truly objective position from which to critique society. The debate was inconclusive, but marked the beginning of warm relations between the two men. It was Gadamer who secured Habermas's first professorship in the University of Heidelberg.
In 1968, Gadamer invited Tomonobu Imamichi for lectures at Heidelberg, but their relationship became very cool after Imamichi alleged that Heidegger had taken his concept of Dasein out of Okakura Kakuzo's concept of das in-der-Welt-sein (to be in the being in the world) expressed in The Book of Tea, which Imamichi's teacher had offered to Heidegger in 1919, after having followed lessons with him the year before. Imamichi and Gadamer renewed contact four years later during an international congress.
In 1981, Gadamer attempted to engage with Jacques Derrida at a conference in Paris but it proved less enlightening because the two thinkers had little in common. A last meeting between Gadamer and Derrida was held at the Stift of Heidelberg in July 2001, coordinated by Derrida's students Joseph Cohen and Raphael Zagury-Orly. This meeting marked, in many ways, a turn in their philosophical encounter. After Gadamer's death, Derrida called their failure to find common ground one of the worst debacles of his life and expressed, in the main obituary for Gadamer, his great personal and philosophical respect. Richard J. Bernstein said that "[a] genuine dialogue between Gadamer and Derrida has never taken place. This is a shame because there are crucial and consequential issues that arise between hermeneutics and deconstruction".
Gadamer received honorary doctorates from the University of Bamberg, the University of Wrocław, Boston College, Charles University in Prague, Hamilton College, the University of Leipzig, the University of Marburg (1999) the University of Ottawa, Saint Petersburg State University (2001), the University of Tübingen and University of Washington.
On February 11, 2000, the University of Heidelberg celebrated Gadamer's one hundredth birthday with a ceremony and conference. Gadamer's last academic engagement was in the summer of 2001 at an annual symposium on hermeneutics that two of Gadamer's American students had organised. On March 13, 2002, Gadamer died at Heidelberg's University Clinic at the age of 102. He is buried in the Köpfel cemetery in Ziegelhausen.
Gadamer's philosophical project, as explained in Truth and Method, was to elaborate on the concept of "philosophical hermeneutics", which Heidegger initiated but never dealt with at length. Gadamer's goal was to uncover the nature of human understanding. In Truth and Method, Gadamer argued that "truth" and "method" were at odds with one another. For Gadamer, "the experience of art is exemplary in its provision of truths that are inaccessible by scientific methods, and this experience is projected to the whole domain of human sciences." He was critical of two approaches to the human sciences (Geisteswissenschaften). On the one hand, he was critical of modern approaches to humanities that modeled themselves on the natural sciences, which simply sought to “objectively” observe and analyze texts and art. On the other hand, he took issue with the traditional German approaches to the humanities, represented for instance by Friedrich Schleiermacher and Wilhelm Dilthey, who believed that meaning, as an object, could be found within a text through a particular process that allowed for a connection with the author's thoughts that led to the creation of a text (Schleiermacher), or the situation that led to an expression of human inner life (Dilthey).
However, Gadamer argued meaning and understanding are not objects to be found through certain methods, but are inevitable phenomena. Hermeneutics is not a process in which an interpreter finds a particular meaning, but “a philosophical effort to account for understanding as an ontological—the ontological—process of man.” Thus, Gadamer is not giving a prescriptive method on how to understand, but rather he is working to examine how understanding, whether of texts, artwork, or experience, is possible at all. Gadamer intended Truth and Method to be a description of what we always do when we interpret things (even if we do not know it): "My real concern was and is philosophic: not what we do or what we ought to do, but what happens to us over and above our wanting and doing".
As a result of Martin Heidegger’s temporal analysis of human existence, Gadamer argued that people have a so-called historically-effected consciousness (wirkungsgeschichtliches Bewußtsein), and that they are embedded in the particular history and culture that shaped them. However the historical consciousness is not an object over and against our existence, but “a stream in which we move and participate, in every act of understanding.” Therefore, people do not come to any given thing without some form of preunderstanding established by this historical stream. The tradition in which an interpreter stands establishes "prejudices" that affect how he or she will make interpretations. For Gadamer, these prejudices are not something that hinders our ability to make interpretations, but are both integral to the reality of being, and “are the basis of our being able to understand history at all.” Gadamer criticized Enlightenment thinkers for harboring a "prejudice against prejudices".
For Gadamer, interpreting a text involves a fusion of horizons (Horizontverschmelzung). Both the text and the interpreter find themselves within a particular historical tradition, or “horizon.” Each horizon is expressed through the medium of language, and both text and interpreter belong to and participate in history and language. This “belongingness” to language is the common ground between interpreter and text that makes understanding possible. As an interpreter seeks to understand a text, a common horizon emerges. This fusion of horizons does not mean the interpreter now fully understands some kind of objective meaning, but is “an event in which a world opens itself to him.” The result is a deeper understanding of the subject matter.
Gadamer further explains the hermeneutical experience as a dialogue. To justify this, he uses Plato's dialogues as a model for how we are to engage with written texts. To be in conversation, one must take seriously “the truth claim of the person with whom one is conversing.” Further, each participant in the conversation relates to one another insofar as they belong to the common goal of understanding one another. Ultimately, for Gadamer, the most important dynamic of conversation as a model for the interpretation of a text is “the give-and-take of question and answer.” In other words, the interpretation of a given text will change depending on the questions the interpreter asks of the text. The "meaning" emerges not as an object that lies in the text or in the interpreter, but rather an event that results from the interaction of the two.
Truth and Method was published twice in English, and the revised edition is now considered authoritative. The German-language edition of Gadamer's Collected Works includes a volume in which Gadamer elaborates his argument and discusses the critical response to the book. Finally, Gadamer's essay on Celan (entitled "Who Am I and Who Are You?") has been considered by many—including Heidegger and Gadamer himself—as a "second volume" or continuation of the argument in Truth and Method.
Gadamer's Truth and Method has become an authoritative work in the communication ethics field, spawning several prominent ethics theories and guidelines. The most profound of these is the formulation of the dialogic coordinates, a standard set of prerequisite communication elements necessary for inciting dialogue. Adhering to Gadamer's theories regarding bias, communicators can better initiate dialogic transaction, allowing biases to merge and promote mutual understanding and learning.
Gadamer also added philosophical substance to the notion of human health. In The Enigma of Health, Gadamer explored what it means to heal, as a patient and a provider. In this work the practice and art of medicine are thoroughly examined, as is the inevitability of any cure.
In addition to his work in hermeneutics, Gadamer is also well known for a long list of publications on Greek philosophy. Indeed, while Truth and Method became central to his later career, much of Gadamer's early life centered around studying Greek thinkers, Plato and Aristotle specifically. In the Italian introduction to Truth and Method, Gadamer said that his work on Greek philosophy was "the best and most original part" of his career. His book Plato's Dialectical Ethics looks at the Philebus dialogue through the lens of phenomenology and the philosophy of Martin Heidegger.
As a Protestant, I have always found especially significant the controversy over the Last Supper, which raged in the Protestant Church, particularly between Luther and Zwingli.
Ad fontes is a Latin expression which means "[back] to the sources" (lit. "to the sources"). The phrase epitomizes the renewed study of Greek and Latin classics in Renaissance humanism. Similarly, the Protestant Reformation called for renewed attention to the Bible as the primary source of Christian faith. The idea in both cases was that sound knowledge depends on the earliest and most fundamental sources.
This phrase is related to ab initio, which means "from the beginning". Whereas ab initio implies a flow of thought from first principles to the situation at hand, ad fontes is a retrogression, a movement back towards an origin, which ideally would be clearer than the present situation.
The phrase ad fontes occurs in Psalm 42 of the Latin Vulgate:
quemadmodum desiderat cervus ad fontes aquarum ita desiderat anima mea ad te Deus.(In the same way that the stag is drawn unto the sources of water, so is my soul drawn unto you, God.)
According to Hans-Georg Gadamer, there is evidence provided by E. Lledo that Spanish humanists drew the expression from this source.
Erasmus of Rotterdam used the phrase in his De ratione studii ac legendi interpretandique auctores:
Sed in primis ad fontes ipsos properandum, id est graecos et antiquos.
(Above all, one must hasten to the sources themselves, that is, to the Greeks and ancients.)Archiv für Begriffsgeschichte
The Archiv für Begriffsgeschichte ('Archive for Conceptual History') is an annual peer-reviewed academic journal covering studies on concepts of the history of philosophy and science. It was established in 1955 by Erich Rothacker and the current editors-in-chief are Christian Bermes (University of Koblenz-Landau), Hubertus Busche (University of Hagen), and Michael Erler (University of Würzburg). Among the journal's former editors have been Hans-Georg Gadamer, Joachim Ritter, Karlfried Gründer, Ulrich Dierse, and Gunter Scholtz. Articles are published in German, with abstracts in English.Arto Haapala
Arto Haapala (born 1959) is a Finnish philosopher, aesthetician and Professor of Aesthetics at the Department of Philosophy, History, Culture and Art Studies at Helsinki University, Finland. Haapala received his PhD from Birkbeck, University of London in 1985. He is also active in the work of the Finnish Society for Aesthetics and the International Institute of Applied Aesthetics in Lahti, Finland.
In addition to aesthetics, Haapala also specialises in hermeneutics, especially the philosophy of Hans-Georg Gadamer and Martin Heidegger.Babette Babich
Babette Babich (born 14 November 1956, New York City) is an American philosopher known for her studies of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Anders, Adorno, and Hölderlin as well as for her work in aesthetics, including philosophy of music but also film, television, and digital media, as well as life-size bronzes in antiquity (Greek sculpture), and continental philosophy, especially the philosophy of science and technology. She has also made substantive contributions to scholarly discussion of the role of politics in institutional philosophy (the analytic-continental divide) as well as gender in the academy. A student of Hans-Georg Gadamer, she also worked with Jacob Taubes and Paul Feyerabend. In 1996, Babich founded (and edits) the journal New Nietzsche Studies, echoing the spirit of the 1974 book, The New Nietzsche, the pathbreaking collection edited by David Blair Allison.Dieter Misgeld
Dieter Misgeld is a retired professor in the department of Theory and Policy Studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto. He is known for his research on social theory, human rights, political philosophy, hermeneutics and the philosophy of Jürgen Habermas and Hans-Georg Gadamer.Don Lavoie
Donald Charles "Don" Lavoie (April 4, 1951 – November 6, 2001) was an Austrian school economist. He was influenced by Friedrich Hayek, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Michael Polanyi and Ludwig Lachmann. He wrote two books on the problem of economic calculation. His first book on this subject was Rivalry and Central Planning (Cambridge University Press 1985). This book stressed the importance of the process of competitive rivalry in markets. His second book was National Economic Planning: What Is Left? (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Ballinger Publishing Company, 1985). This book dealt with the problem of non-comprehensive planning.
Among his students, there are a number of "contemporary Austrian" economists: Peter Boettke, David Prychitko, Steven Horwitz, Thomas Rustici, Mark Gilbert, Ralph Rector, Emily Chamlee-Wright, Howie Baetjer and Virgil Storr.
Don Lavoie was co-founder of the interdisciplinary unit known as the Program on Social & Organizational Learning at George Mason University which offers a Master's degree in Organizational Learning. He also worked at the Cato Institute.
Lavoie was awarded a Ph. D. in economics from New York University in 1981 for thesis entitled Rivalry and central planning : a re-examination of the debate over economic calculation under socialism under Israel Kirzner.As a scholar, he studied the philosophy of the social sciences (especially the application of hermeneutics to economics) and Comparative Economic Systems (especially Marxian theories of socialism). Along with Richard Ebeling, Lavoie pioneered the attempt to merge Austrian Economics with philosophical hermeneutics in the late 1980s, and in particular with the hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer. His influence here extended to many of his students mentioned above. His effort drew criticism from several members of the Austrian School associated with the Mises Institute, especially Murray Rothbard and Hans-Hermann Hoppe.
As a young professor, he worked on the philosophy and practice of electronically mediated discourse. He knew the importance for organizations of new ways of cultivating interactive learning environments (groupware and hypertext software environments) in order to enhance communicative processes. He showed the fundamental nature of social learning processes, whether in market exchanges, in verbal conversations, or in hypertext-based dialogue.In the book Culture and Enterprise: The Development, Representation and Morality of Business (New York: Routledge, 2000) written with Emily Chamlee-Wright, they take into account the important role of culture in a nation's economic development.
Lavoie was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the spring of 2001. He died of a stroke later that year.Fusion of horizons
"Fusion of horizons" (German: Horizontverschmelzung) is a dialectical concept which results from the rejection of two alternatives: objectivism, whereby the objectification of the other is premised on the forgetting of oneself; and absolute knowledge, according to which universal history can be articulated within a single horizon. Therefore, it argues that we exist neither in closed horizons, nor within a horizon that is unique.
People come from different backgrounds and it is not possible to totally remove oneself from one's background, history, culture, gender, language, education, etc. to an entirely different system of attitudes, beliefs and ways of thinking. People may be looking for a way to be engaged in understanding a conversation or dialogue about different cultures and the speaker interprets texts or stories based on his or her past experience and prejudice. Therefore, “hermeneutic reflection and determination of one’s own present life interpretation calls for the unfolding of one’s ‘effective-historical’ consciousness.” During the discourse, a fusion of “horizons” takes place between the speaker and listeners.Gadamer–Derrida debate
The Gadamer–Derrida debate is an encounter between Hans-Georg Gadamer and Jacques Derrida in April 1981 in a Sorbonne conference in Paris on "Text and Interpretation". Before this debate, there had not been any confrontation or dialogue between hermeneutics in Germany and post-structuralism in France.Jean Grondin
Jean Grondin, (born August 27, 1955) is a Canadian philosopher and professor. He is a specialist in the thought of Immanuel Kant, Hans-Georg Gadamer, and Martin Heidegger. His research focuses on hermeneutics, phenomenology, German classical philosophy and the history of metaphysics.Kristin Gjesdal
Kristin Gjesdal (born 1969) is a Norwegian philosopher and Professor of Philosophy at Temple University. She is known for her expertise in the field of hermeneutics (focusing especially on Hans-Georg Gadamer), aesthetics, and phenomenology. Gjesdal is a member of The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.List of centenarians (philosophers and theologians)
The following is a list of centenarians – specifically, people who became famous as philosophers and theologians – known for reasons other than their longevity. For more lists, see Lists of centenarians.Mohammed Chaouki Zine
Mohammed Chaouki Zine is an Algerian philosopher and writer. He was born on May 13, 1972 in Oran, Algeria. He has been interested for several years to Contemporary Western philosophy as testifies his Hermeneutics and Deconstructions (Beirut-Casablanca, 2002), where he speaks about many philosophers like Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Michel de Certeau, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Richard Rorty and Jean Baudrillard.
He has a Ph.D. on Arabic and Iberian Studies about the mystic and Andalusian philosopher from Spain Ibn Arabi (Murcia, 1165–1240, Damascus). He was named in the book of Hubert Mono Ndjana about the History of African Philosophy, in French Histoire de la philosophie africaine .North American Society for Philosophical Hermeneutics
The North American Society for Philosophical Hermeneutics is an organization whose purpose is to advance the study of philosophical hermeneutics. Although the society has a particular interest in the work of Hans-Georg Gadamer, it likewise encourages dialogue and engagement with a multitude of philosophical thinkers, traditions, and contemporary concerns. It was established in 2005.Gadamer scholars James Risser (2012-2015), Theodore George (2013-2016), and Georgia Warnke (2015-2018), have served on the society's executive committee.NASPH regularly has special sessions at the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (SPEP).NASPH is a recognized affiliated group of the American Philosophical Association.Richard Coyne
Richard Coyne is a professor at the University of Edinburgh and author of several books on the implications of information technology and design, published by MIT Press, Routledge and Bloomsbury Academic. His work is strongly influenced by the writings of the philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer on hermeneutics and interpretation theory, particularly as developed by Coyne's colleague Adrian Snodgrass in the 1990s, and with whom he co-authored the book Interpretation in Architecture: Design as a Way of Thinking.He is Professor of Architectural Computing and was Head of the School of Arts, Culture and Environment (which covered the disciplines of architecture, history of art and music) until its merger with Edinburgh College of Art. Coyne is an architect by training and brings a design-oriented and spatial understanding to his research and writing on digital themes.Richard Kroner
Richard Kroner (8 March 1884 in Breslau – 2 November 1974 in Mammern) was a German neo-Hegelian philosopher, known for his Von Kant bis Hegel (1921/4), a classic history of German idealism written from the neo-Hegelian point of view. He was a Christian, from a Jewish background. He is known for his formulation of Hegel as 'the Protestant Aquinas'.
His Jewish ancestry led him to be 'suspended' (dismissed) under Nazi legislation in 1934, from his university position at Kiel. He was replaced briefly by Hans-Georg Gadamer, a personal friend.
Kroner's ideas on Hegel, including his slant from Kierkegaard, were taken up by some existentialist thinkers, including Lev Shestov and Nikolai Berdyaev.The Enigma of Health
The Enigma of Health: The Art of Healing in a Scientific Age (German: Über die Verborgenheit der Gesundheit) is a 1993 book about the philosophy of medicine by Hans-Georg Gadamer, in which the author examines the key components of medical practice such as death, life, anxiety, freedom, health and the relationship between the body and the soul based on the phenomenological framework developed by Martin Heidegger in Being and Time.The Idea of the Good in Platonic-Aristotelian Philosophy
The Idea of the Good in Platonic-Aristotelian Philosophy (German: Die Idee des Guten zwischen Plato und Aristoteles) is a 1978 book by Hans-Georg Gadamer. P. Christopher Smith believes it is among Gadamer's most important books, because it represents an extended example of Gadamerian hermeneutical techniques and provides new insights into Platonic-Aristotelian philosophy.The Political Unconscious
The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act is a 1981 book by Fredric Jameson, a Marxist literary theorist. Often cited as a powerful overview and methodological guide, it is the work with which Jameson made his greatest impact. The book has been the subject of a commentary, Jameson, Althusser, Marx (1984), by William C. Dowling, who believes that its main idea had been previously outlined by Terry Eagleton and notes that it is influenced by such thinkers as A. J. Greimas, Northrop Frye, Hans-Georg Gadamer, and Claude Lévi-Strauss. Jameson's interpretive framework, including his neo-Lacanian idea of unconscious ideology and his invocation of structural causality to reconcile Marxist and post-Marxist perspectives, was largely borrowed from Louis Althusser.The book opens with one of Jameson's most famous bons mots, 'Always historicise!'.Truth and Method
Truth and Method (German: Wahrheit und Methode) is a 1960 book by Hans-Georg Gadamer, his major philosophical work. In Truth and Method, Gadamer deploys the concept of "philosophical hermeneutics" as it is worked out in Martin Heidegger's Being and Time (1927).