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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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6. On the Problematic Character of Ethic and Aesthetic Experiences in the Age of Science 91

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91 6. On the Problematic Character of Ethic and Aesthetic Experiences in the Age of Science In the previous chapters we have mostly dealt with moral and political questions, and I think it has been shown how, from a Gadamerian point of view, one might speak of a problematic character of ethic experience in our age. As a matter of fact, since the end of the nine- teenth century we have probably been living in an unprecedented epoch of moral crisis. An epoch characterized by a “situation of disorientation arisen when the traditional ideals and values failed”: that is, when the “traditional orientation points were eroded by the disenchantment of the world”, and the “techno-scientific rational- ization produced […] the polytheism of values and the equipollence of decisions”1. In a word, an epoch that has violently thrown us “into the shadow of nihilism (im Schatten des Nihilismus)”2. According to Gadamer, nihilism, “relativism, historicism [and] fragmentarism” represent indeed “the undeniable principles of our own world-situation (die unleugbaren Grundzüge unserer eigenen Weltsituation)”3. Given all this, it is not by accident that Gadamer devoted many observations to moral and political questions, including the dismissal of those ethic concepts he felt unsatisfactory, and the consequent revaluation of those he felt were instead satisfactory and successful. Among the first ones, I think one might mention Kant’s philosophy of practical reason and the phenomenological value-ethics of Max 1 Volpi 2005, pp. 4 and 175. On this topic, see also Volpi 2000. 2 To...

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