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Gadamer and the Limits of the Modern Techno-Scientific Civilization

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Stefano Marino

This book is an attempt to provide a systematic interpretation of Hans-Georg Gadamer’s hermeneutics in light of one of the most important, interesting and debated questions of the present age: the question concerning the role played by science and technology in shaping our civilization. The author argues that this question lies at the heart of Gadamer’s thought, and that such an approach to his philosophy might help to overcome some inveterate interpretive prejudices, like, for example, the idea of Gadamer as an anti-scientific and politically authoritarian thinker. In order to clarify these points, the author closely examines not only Gadamer’s 1960 masterpiece, Wahrheit und Methode, or his main writings (later gathered in ten volumes of collected papers), but most of the works he published in his more than centenarian life, including many short essays, lectures and interviews. Gadamer’s hermeneutics is seen as offering both an intriguing description of the main «pathologies» of the Western modern civilization, and a challenging proposal for «healing» the uneasiness and malaise of modernity by revaluating all forms of unmethodical, i.e. non-scientific, experience and knowledge.

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1. Gadamer’s Long Twentieth Century 11

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11 1. Gadamer’s Long Twentieth Century It is a well known fact that great part of contemporary culture has been characterized by strong feelings of uneasiness, uncertainty and lack of orientation. Apropos of this situation, some thinkers have spoken of a sort of malaise of modernity, i.e. of “features of our contemporary culture and society that people experience as a loss or a decline, even as our civilization ‘develops’”1. A loss or decline that “people feel […] has occurred during the last years or decades”, or – according to others – “over a much longer historical period”: for example, “the whole modern era from the seventeenth century is frequently seen as the time frame of the decline”2. Hence, it has been noticed that “in the twentieth century”, while on the one hand “the process of modernization expand[ed] to take in virtually the whole world”, on the other, it shattered into “a multitude of fragments”3. As a result, “the idea of modernity [lost] much of its vividness, resonance and depth”, as well as “its capacity to organize and give meaning to people’s lives”, so that “we find ourselves today in the midst of a modern age that has lost touch with the roots of its own modernity”4. On this basis, I think we could say that the whole twentieth century, as well as the first decades of the twenty-first, has been characterized to a wide extent by the general idea or feeling that we are witnessing a particularly critical...

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