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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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2. Science and Technology: The Real Roots of Modernity 23

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23 2. Science and Technology: The Real Roots of Modernity Gadamer always paid a great attention to the important role played by science and technology in our world. More precisely, according to him they actually represent the real roots of modernity. As a matter of fact, it is clear from many of Gadamer’s writings that he even identifies the epochal transition to the modern age with the birth and growth of science and technology. That is, he somehow sees what we might define “techno-science” as the fundamental feature of the Western civilization from the seventeenth century on. So, in the essay Wissen- schaft als Instrument der Aufklärung he poses the questions: “When and how did modernity begin? With the Renaissance? […] With the discovery of the individual […], with the discovery of America?” – and then he answers: “Whenever it started, it was certainly the new science that […] became something quite new and ushered in the new epoch”1. According to Gadamer, the great fact of “the mathematical foundation of all empirical sciences” represented indeed “the actual beginning of modernity”, which “did not begin on a certain date – this game of the historian has been played enough – but with the method- ological ideal of modern science”2. To be sure, Gadamer never denies the existence of some historical and philosophical presuppositions in the ancient and medieval culture which set the basis, so to speak, for the development of the modern techno-scientific forma mentis. I think it is important to underline this point,...

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