Hans Georg-Gadamer is best known in the English-speaking world for his major work on philosophical hermeneutics, Truth and Method; he has also written extensively on the subject of Plato. Most commentators on Gadamer's work therefore view Gadamer either as a historian of philosophy or as a philosopher in his own right, critically engaged in the philosophical issues of our time.
In Beyond Being, Brice R. Wachterhauser contends that this perceived bifurcation in Gadamer's work oversimplifies and distorts important parts of Gadamer's thought. Wachterhauser argues that only by viewing Gadamer's contribution to philosophy as an integrated whole and by reading Gadamer's hermeneutical studies in light of his Plato studies are we able to avoid certain key misunderstandings of Gadamer, as well as to comprehend more clearly the radical implications of Gadamer's thought.
The publication of Hans-Georg Gadamer’s magnum opus Truth and Method in 1960 marked the arrival of philosophical hermeneutics as a dominant force in philosophy and the humanities as a whole. Consequences of Hermeneutics celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of one of the most important philosophical works of the twentieth century with essays by most of the leading figures in contemporary hermeneutic theory, including Gianni Vattimo and Jean Grondin.
These essays examine the achievements of hermeneutics as well as its current status and prospects for the future. Gadamer’s text provides an important focus, but the ambition of these critical reappraisals extends to hermeneutics more broadly and to a range of other thinkers, such as Heidegger, Ricoeur, Derrida, and Rorty. Forcefully demonstrating the continuing relevance and power of hermeneutics, Consequences of Hermeneutics is a fitting tribute to Gadamer and the legacy of his thought.
Sinéad Murphy’s Effective History presents its reader with a thorough explanation and evaluation of H.-G. Gadamer’s concept of “effective history,” not only as it pertains to the broader range of hermeneutic and postmodern thinkers working in the wake of Kantian philosophy, but first and foremost as a careful and measured consideration of the practice of effective history as a critical method for philosophy in our current times. In this latter sense, the work pushes Gadamer’s thinking forward into new territory and provides an insightful estimation of the value of hermeneutic inquiry.
Murphy demonstrates that the notion of effective history not only stems from a central issue in Kant’s critical philosophy (the divide between the empirical and transcendental, between history and pure knowledge), but that it is best understood through an analysis of the various ways that certain contemporary thinkers fall into the traps and contradictions that stem from Kant’s critical turn.
The German volume Gadamer Lesebuch [A Gadamer Reader] (1997), selected and edited by Jean Grondin in consultation with Hans-Georg Gadamer himself, contains a set of essays that present a cross section of writings by one of the twentieth century's greatest philosophers. The volume begins with an autobiographical sketch and culminates in a conversation with Jean Grondin that looks back over a lifetime of productive philosophical work. The essays not already available in English have here been translated by Richard E. Palmer, a respected translator of Gadamer's writings. The sixteen essays contained in the Lesebuch are augmented here by three other essays: Gadamer's last essay on Derrida, "Hermeneutics Tracking the Trace" (1994) and two essays on practical philosophy. The Gadamer Reader: A Bouquet of the Later Writings richly conveys the scope and depth of Gadamer's thought, covering the range of his work in hermeneutics, aesthetics, practical philosophy, and essays on Plato, Hegel, and Heidegger. In addition, Palmer offers introductory remarks before each essay that explain its importance in the context of Gadamer's writings and define its key terms. Throughout, in both his translation and commentary, his aim is to make this critically important philosopher as clear and accessible as possible to an English-speaking audience.
In Gadamer’s Hermeneutics Robert J. Dostal provides a comprehensive and critical account of Hans-Georg Gadamer’s hermeneutical philosophy, arguing that Gadamer’s enterprise is rooted in the thesis that “being that can be understood is language.” He defends Gadamer against charges of linguistic idealism and emphasizes language’s relationship to understanding, though he criticizes Gadamer for too often ignoring the role of the prelinguistic in our experience. Dostal goes on to explain the concept of the "inner word" for Gadamer’s account of language.
The book situates Gadamer’s hermeneutics in three important ways: in relation to the contestability of the legacy of the Enlightenment project; in relation to the work of his mentor, Martin Heidegger; and in relation to Gadamer’s reading of Plato and Aristotle. Dostal explores both Gadamer’s claim on the Enlightenment and his ambivalence toward it. He considers Gadamer’s dependence on Heidegger’s accomplishment while pointing out the ways in which Gadamer charted his own course, rejecting his teacher’s reading of Plato and his antihumanism. Dostal points out notable differences in the philosophers’ politics as well. Finally, Dostal mediates between Gadamer’s hermeneutics and what might be called philological hermeneutics. His analysis defends the civic humanism that is the culmination of the philosopher’s hermeneutics, a humanism defined by moral education, common sense, judgment, and taste. Supporters and critics of Gadamer’s philosophy will learn much from this major achievement.
Hermeneutics and Truth
Brice R. Wachterhauser Northwestern University Press, 1994 Library of Congress B3248.G34H47 1994 | Dewey Decimal 121.68
The claim that all human thought involves "interpretation," that all human thought is in some way relative to a contingent context of cognitive, theoretical, practical, and aesthetic considerations, has become widely accepted, but what we understand by "truth" and how we should best pursue it are questions raised with renewed force once a hermeneutical starting point has been embraced. Brice R. Wachterhauser's collection Hermeneutics and Truth is an attempt to contribute to this conversation.
No thinkers have wrestled with the issue of truth and interpretation in more illuminating ways for the Continental tradition of philosophy than Heidegger and Gadamer. Hermeneutics and Truth is a dual focus on Heidegger and Gadamer, but it concentrates primarily on Gadamer's efforts to think through the issue of truth for hermeneutics and only secondarily on Heidegger's thought on this issue.
Specter of Relativism addresses the timely topic of relativism from the perspective of Gadamer's hermeneutics. This collection of essays explores several of the key issues in contemporary philosophy—the nature of truth, the model of conversation, and the possibility of an ethics in postmodern conditions—in the context of the work of Gadamer. Although centered on Gadamer and including the first English translation of one of his essays, the volume does not narrowly define or defend the approach of philosophical hermeneutics; the contributors present a broad range of views, in some cases championing a Gadamerian perspective, in others challenging it.