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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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7. Religious Experience in a Nihilistic Epoch 113

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113 7. Religious Experience in a Nihilistic Epoch Closely connected to the preceding discourse about the problematic character of ethic and aesthetic experiences in our time is also Gadamer’s discourse about the problematic character of religious experience. The basic presupposition for such a tight connection is ob- viously the link that Gadamer sees between these different dimensions of human experience. For that which regards the relation of aesthetics and ethics, I have elsewhere argued that in Gadamer’s case one might perhaps speak of “the morality of the beautiful”1 – an expression which was clearly modelled on the title of his essay The Relevance of the Beautiful. In short, I think that such a relation is firstly testified by Gadamer’s attempt to overcome the typically modern denial of any influence of aesthetics on ethics, as in the case of Kantian criticism2. Secondly, it is also testified by his ongoing appeal to the classical Greek doctrine of the kalonkagathia, that is, of the unity of the beautiful (kalon) and the good (agathon)3. 1 See Marino 2009a, especially pp. 13-23. 2 This question emerges in various points of Gadamer’s critical examination of Kantian aesthetics in the first part of Wahrheit und Methode, where he goes as far as to rehabilitate the idea of “an ethics of good taste”, i.e. the idea that, in a sense, “all moral decisions require taste”: an idea which, according to him, “ad- mittedly sounds strange to our ears” precisely because we are still deeply influenced by Kant’s...

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