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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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10. Reasonableness, Dialogue and Freedom: Ethical-Political Consequences of Hermeneutics 217


217 10. Reasonableness, Dialogue and Freedom: Ethical-Political Consequences of Hermeneutics As we have seen in the previous chapter, from the early 1970s on- wards Gadamer has explicitly “converted” philosophical hermeneutics into practical philosophy, giving a very broad interpretation to the concept of praxis, which he has taken for “the whole original situated- ness of humans in their natural and social environment”1. In this re- spect, praxis becomes a synonym, so to speak, for the entire life- wordly, “factic” and hermeneutic dimension of life. The word itself, “practice”, according to Gadamer, points indeed to “the totality of our practical life, all our human action and behavior; the self-adaptation of the human being as a whole in this world. […] Our praxis, in short, is our ‘form of life’ (unsere Lebensform)”2. Besides this wide and all-encompassing meaning, however, there is also a narrower sense in which Gadamer understands the concept of practice. As a matter of fact, praxis originally meant “action”, which for Aristotle, as I said, differs from both theory (theoria) and produc- tion or making (poiesis). Accordingly, the virtue of practical wisdom (phronesis) – intended as “a true and reasoned state of capacity to act with regard to the things that are good or bad for man”3 – is essentially “concerned with action”4, and is accurately distinguished by Aristotle from knowledge (episteme) and art (techne)5. Strictly speaking, the 1 GW 10, p. 234 [EPH, p. 217]. 2 HÄP, p. 65 [GC, pp. 78-79 (my italics)]. 3 Aristotle,...

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