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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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8. Hermeneutics, Techno-Science, Enlightenment: A Complex “Constellation” 139

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139 8. Hermeneutics, Techno-Science, Enlightenment: A Complex “Constellation” In the second chapter we have seen how the “splendid development of the natural sciences” from the seventeenth century onwards, together with the “technological and economic development” provided by the rational and consistent exploitation of “the practical possibilities that result from the scientific discoveries”1, have actually been considered by Gadamer as the real roots of the modern age. On this basis, Ga- damer has offered an extensive and profound analysis of the present condition of mankind, which is, according to him, a very critical condition that keeps us in suspense, almost breathless2. Following his diagnosis, it might seem that the responsibility for every particular aspect of today’s critical situation falls upon the shoulders of science and the technological civilization it has created. As we read, for instance, in the essay Theorie, Technik, Praxis: the scientific-technical mastery of nature […], the technical exploitation of natural resources and the artificial transformation of our environment [have] become so carefully planned and extensive that [their] consequences endanger the natural cycle of things and bring about irreversible developments on a large scale. […] Issues such as the city, the environment, population growth, the world food supply, problems of the aged, etc., thus justly acquire a privileged place among the scientific themes of our knowledge of man. The atom bomb proves itself more and more to be only a special case of the self-endangering of human beings and their life on this planet to which science has led3. 1...

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