From Philosophy to Practice
Chapter 3. Gadamer’s Philosophical Hermeneutics
Guide to Gadamer’s Work
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GADAMER’S PHILOSOPHICAL HERMENEUTICS
Hans-Georg Gadamer (1900–2002) was one of the leading hermeneutic philosophers of the 20th century, who took up linguistic and ontological themes from Heidegger to work out a thoroughgoing philosophy of how it is that human beings come to understanding. He drew on earlier developments in hermeneutics and on Heidegger’s ideas about how human being-in-the-world is itself interpretive to develop a complex philosophical hermeneutics. One of Gadamer’s distinctive contributions was his emphasis on dialogue as means of addressing difference. “Stylistically and substantively, the difference between their two modes of thought is the difference between a meditative thinker (Heidegger) and a dialogical one (Gadamer)” (Dostal, 2002, p. 247). Gadamer’s hermeneutics not only incorporates an account of changing understanding but also leads us to expect it, which partly explains how it is that his philosophy has been so readily adapted to research in practice disciplines.
Gadamer was born in 1900, the year Nietzsche died and the year Freud first published the Interpretation of Dreams. He was born into Imperial Germany, saw its collapse in 1918, then the Weimar Republic, the Third Reich, communist East Germany, democratic West Germany, and in the last twenty years of his life, German re-unification. He experienced the extraordinary technological advances of the 20th century, for example in transport, ← 33 | 34 → communications, and medicine, and among the effects of which have to be counted Hiroshima and Treblinka. His work can be seen against this...
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