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Gadamer and the Limits of the Modern Techno-Scientific Civilization


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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3. The Basic Features of Our Societies: Conformism, Bureaucracy and Self-Alienation 51


51 3. The Basic Features of Our Societies: Conformism, Bureaucracy and Self-Alienation After having shown how, according to Gadamer, science and technology actually represent the roots of modernity (from the seven- teenth century up to nowadays), let us now take into consideration what we might define as Gadamer’s “phenomenology” of the modern techno-scientific world and its “pathologies”. I will begin my exami- nation by taking into account some socio-economic issues that are scarcely present in Wahrheit und Methode – in which the critical attitude towards “the naive self-esteem of the present moment”1 is directed at issues regarding art, history and language – but that are widely and extensively discussed in many of the essays published in the collections Vernunft im Zeitalter der Wissenschaft, Lob der Theo- rie and Das Erbe Europas. First of all, Gadamer notices that “the economic and technical processes are the real dominant figures of our day”, and that “the immanent lawfulness” of such processes “is largely independent of the various democratic and totalitarian political systems on which our states are organized”2. According to him, indeed, what is typical of the present age is people’s tendency to rely on the “illusion to think that only a rational system of utilities, so to say, a religion of world economy, could regulate human coexistence on this constantly smaller planet”3. This illusion, however, has been repeatedly confuted in the last centuries, i.e. “in the time of multinationals, in the age of world economy”4, when the overwhelming logic of...

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