Hans-Georg Gadamer
Overview
 
Hans-Georg Gadamer (ˈɡaːdamɐ; February 11, 1900 – March 13, 2002) was a German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 philosopher of the continental tradition
Continental philosophy
Continental philosophy, in contemporary usage, refers to a set of traditions of 19th and 20th century philosophy from mainland Europe. This sense of the term originated among English-speaking philosophers in the second half of the 20th century, who used it to refer to a range of thinkers and...

, best known for his 1960 magnum opus
Masterpiece
Masterpiece in modern usage refers to a creation that has been given much critical praise, especially one that is considered the greatest work of a person's career or to a work of outstanding creativity, skill or workmanship....

, Truth and Method
Truth and Method
Truth and Method is the major philosophical work by Hans-Georg Gadamer, first published in 1960.The book draws heavily on the work of Wilhelm Dilthey, and Romantic hermeneutics...

(Wahrheit und Methode).
Gadamer was born in Marburg
Marburg
Marburg is a city in the state of Hesse, Germany, on the River Lahn. It is the main town of the Marburg-Biedenkopf district and its population, as of March 2010, was 79,911.- Founding and early history :...

, Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, as the son of Johannes Gadamer (1867–1928) a pharmaceutical chemistry
Chemistry
Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

 professor who later also served as the rector
Rector
The word rector has a number of different meanings; it is widely used to refer to an academic, religious or political administrator...

 of the university
University
A university is an institution of higher education and research, which grants academic degrees in a variety of subjects. A university is an organisation that provides both undergraduate education and postgraduate education...

 there. He resisted his father's urging to take up the natural sciences and became more and more interested in the humanities
Humanities
The humanities are academic disciplines that study the human condition, using methods that are primarily analytical, critical, or speculative, as distinguished from the mainly empirical approaches of the natural sciences....

.
Encyclopedia
Hans-Georg Gadamer (ˈɡaːdamɐ; February 11, 1900 – March 13, 2002) was a German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 philosopher of the continental tradition
Continental philosophy
Continental philosophy, in contemporary usage, refers to a set of traditions of 19th and 20th century philosophy from mainland Europe. This sense of the term originated among English-speaking philosophers in the second half of the 20th century, who used it to refer to a range of thinkers and...

, best known for his 1960 magnum opus
Masterpiece
Masterpiece in modern usage refers to a creation that has been given much critical praise, especially one that is considered the greatest work of a person's career or to a work of outstanding creativity, skill or workmanship....

, Truth and Method
Truth and Method
Truth and Method is the major philosophical work by Hans-Georg Gadamer, first published in 1960.The book draws heavily on the work of Wilhelm Dilthey, and Romantic hermeneutics...

(Wahrheit und Methode).

Life

Gadamer was born in Marburg
Marburg
Marburg is a city in the state of Hesse, Germany, on the River Lahn. It is the main town of the Marburg-Biedenkopf district and its population, as of March 2010, was 79,911.- Founding and early history :...

, Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, as the son of Johannes Gadamer (1867–1928) a pharmaceutical chemistry
Chemistry
Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

 professor who later also served as the rector
Rector
The word rector has a number of different meanings; it is widely used to refer to an academic, religious or political administrator...

 of the university
University
A university is an institution of higher education and research, which grants academic degrees in a variety of subjects. A university is an organisation that provides both undergraduate education and postgraduate education...

 there. He resisted his father's urging to take up the natural sciences and became more and more interested in the humanities
Humanities
The humanities are academic disciplines that study the human condition, using methods that are primarily analytical, critical, or speculative, as distinguished from the mainly empirical approaches of the natural sciences....

. His mother, Emma Karoline Johanna Geiese (1869–1904) died of diabetes while Hans-Georg was four years old, and he later noted that this may have had an effect on his decision to not pursue scientific study; Jean Grondin describes Gadamer as finding in his mother "a poetic and almost religious counterpart to the iron fist of his father". Gadamer did not serve during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 for reasons of ill-health and similarly was exempted from serving during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 due to polio.

He grew up and studied philosophy in Breslau under Richard Hönigswald
Richard Hönigswald
Richard Hönigswald was a well-known philosopher belonging to the wider circle of Neo-Kantianism....

, but soon moved back to Marburg to study with the Neo-Kantian philosophers Paul Natorp
Paul Natorp
Paul Gerhard Natorp was a German philosopher and educationalist, considered one of the co-founders of the Marburg school of neo-Kantianism. He was known as an authority on Plato....

 and Nicolai Hartmann
Nicolai Hartmann
-Biography:Hartmann was born of German descent in Riga, which was then the capital of the Russian province of Livonia, and which is now in Latvia. He studied Medicine at the University of Tartu , then Philosophy in St. Petersburg and at the University of Marburg in Germany, where he took his Ph.D....

. He defended his dissertation in 1922.

Shortly thereafter, Gadamer moved to Freiburg University
University of Freiburg
The University of Freiburg , sometimes referred to in English as the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg, is a public research university located in Freiburg im Breisgau, Baden-Württemberg, Germany.The university was founded in 1457 by the Habsburg dynasty as the...

 and began studying with Martin Heidegger
Martin Heidegger
Martin Heidegger was a German philosopher known for his existential and phenomenological explorations of the "question of Being."...

, who was then a promising young scholar who had not yet received a professorship. He and Heidegger became close, and when Heidegger received a position at Marburg, Gadamer followed him there, where he became one of a group of students such as Leo Strauss
Leo Strauss
Leo Strauss was a political philosopher and classicist who specialized in classical political philosophy. He was born in Germany to Jewish parents and later emigrated to the United States...

, Karl Löwith
Karl Löwith
Karl Löwith , was a German philosopher, a student of Heidegger.Löwith was born in Munich. Though he was himself Protestant, his family was of Jewish descent and he therefore had to emigrate Germany in 1934 because of the National Socialist regime. He went to Italy and in 1936 he went to Japan...

, and Hannah Arendt
Hannah Arendt
Hannah Arendt was a German American political theorist. She has often been described as a philosopher, although she refused that label on the grounds that philosophy is concerned with "man in the singular." She described herself instead as a political theorist because her work centers on the fact...

. It was Heidegger's influence that gave Gadamer's thought its distinctive cast and led him away from the earlier neo-Kantian influences of Natorp and Hartmann.

Gadamer habilitated
Habilitation
Habilitation is the highest academic qualification a scholar can achieve by his or her own pursuit in several European and Asian countries. Earned after obtaining a research doctorate, such as a PhD, habilitation requires the candidate to write a professorial thesis based on independent...

 in 1929 and spent most of the early 1930s lecturing in Marburg. Unlike Heidegger, Gadamer was anti-Nazi
Nazism
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

, although he was not politically active during the Third Reich. He did not receive a paid position during the Nazi years and never entered the Party; only towards the end of the War did he receive an appointment at Leipzig
Leipzig
Leipzig Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing...

. In 1946, he was found by the American occupation forces to be untainted by Nazism and named rector of the university. (But cf. German Wikipedia article, which notes [citing Ernst Klee: Das Personenlexikon zum Dritten Reich. Wer war was vor und nach 1945, Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Zweite aktualisierte Auflage, Frankfurt am Main 2005, p. 172] that on Nov. 11th, 1933 he signed the "declaration of loyalty to Adolf Hitler;" in 1937 he received a professorship in Marburg; in 1939 he became a full professor and director of an institute in Leipzig; and during the war he was involved in the "Humanities' contribution to the war effort" project: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans-Georg_Gadamer.)

Communist East Germany was no more to Gadamer's liking than the Third Reich, and he left for West Germany, accepting first a position in Frankfurt am Main and then the succession of Karl Jaspers
Karl Jaspers
Karl Theodor Jaspers was a German psychiatrist and philosopher who had a strong influence on modern theology, psychiatry and philosophy. After being trained in and practicing psychiatry, Jaspers turned to philosophical inquiry and attempted to discover an innovative philosophical system...

 in Heidelberg
Heidelberg
-Early history:Between 600,000 and 200,000 years ago, "Heidelberg Man" died at nearby Mauer. His jaw bone was discovered in 1907; with scientific dating, his remains were determined to be the earliest evidence of human life in Europe. In the 5th century BC, a Celtic fortress of refuge and place of...

 in 1949. He remained in this position, as emeritus, until his death in 2002 at the age of 102. He was also an Editorial Advisor of the journal Dionysius
Dionysius (journal)
Dionysius is a scholarly journal published by the Department of Classics at Dalhousie University. It was established originally in 1977, and a new series began in 1998. It publishes articles on the history of ancient philosophy and theology, and has a special interest in the Aristotelian and...

. It was during this time that he completed his magnum opus, Truth and Method (1960), and engaged in his famous debate with Jürgen Habermas
Jürgen Habermas
Jürgen Habermas is a German sociologist and philosopher in the tradition of critical theory and pragmatism. He is perhaps best known for his theory on the concepts of 'communicative rationality' and the 'public sphere'...

 over the possibility of transcending history and culture in order to find a truly objective position from which to critique society. The debate was inconclusive, but marked the beginning of warm relations between the two men. It was Gadamer who secured Habermas's first professorship in Heidelberg
Heidelberg
-Early history:Between 600,000 and 200,000 years ago, "Heidelberg Man" died at nearby Mauer. His jaw bone was discovered in 1907; with scientific dating, his remains were determined to be the earliest evidence of human life in Europe. In the 5th century BC, a Celtic fortress of refuge and place of...

.

An attempt to engage Jacques Derrida
Jacques Derrida
Jacques Derrida was a French philosopher, born in French Algeria. He developed the critical theory known as deconstruction and his work has been labeled as post-structuralism and associated with postmodern philosophy...

 proved less enlightening because the two thinkers had so little in common. A last meeting between Gadamer and Derrida was held at the Stift of Heidelberg in July 2001, coordinated by Derrida's students, Joseph Cohen and Raphael Zagury-Orly. This meeting marked, in many ways, a turn in their philosophical encounter. After Gadamer's death, Derrida called their failure to find common ground one of the worst debacles of his life and expressed, in the main obituary for Gadamer, his great personal and philosophical respect.

In 1968, Gadamer invited Tomonobu Imamichi for lectures at Heidelberg, but their relationship became very cool after Imamichi pointed out that Heidegger had taken his concept of Dasein
Dasein
Dasein is a German word famously used by Martin Heidegger in his magnum opus Being and Time, which generally translates to being in its ontological and philosophical sense Dasein is a German word famously used by Martin Heidegger in his magnum opus Being and Time, which generally translates to...

out of Okakura Kakuzo
Okakura Kakuzo
was a Japanese scholar who contributed to the development of arts in Japan. Outside of Japan, he is chiefly remembered today as the author of The Book of Tea.-Biography:...

's concept of das-in-der-Welt-sein (to be in the being of the world) expressed in The Book of Tea
The Book of Tea
The Book of Tea The Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzō , is a long essay linking the role of tea to the aesthetic and cultural aspects of Japanese life....

, which Imamichi's teacher had offered to Heidegger in 1919, after having followed lessons with him the year before. Imamichi and Gadamer renewed contact four years later during an international congress.

Work

Gadamer's philosophical project, as explained in Truth and Method
Truth and Method
Truth and Method is the major philosophical work by Hans-Georg Gadamer, first published in 1960.The book draws heavily on the work of Wilhelm Dilthey, and Romantic hermeneutics...

, was to elaborate on the concept of "philosophical hermeneutics", which Heidegger initiated but never dealt with at length. Gadamer's goal was to uncover the nature of human understanding. In the book Gadamer argued that "truth" and "method" were at odds with one another. He was critical of two approaches to the human sciences (Geisteswissenschaften). On the one hand, he was critical of modern approaches to humanities that modelled themselves on the natural sciences (and thus on rigorous scientific methods). On the other hand, he took issue with the traditional German approach to the humanities, represented for instance by Friedrich Schleiermacher and Wilhelm Dilthey
Wilhelm Dilthey
Wilhelm Dilthey was a German historian, psychologist, sociologist and hermeneutic philosopher, who held Hegel's Chair in Philosophy at the University of Berlin. As a polymathic philosopher, working in a modern research university, Dilthey's research interests revolved around questions of...

, which believed that correctly interpreting a text meant recovering the original intention of the author who wrote it.

In contrast to both of these positions, Gadamer argued that people have a 'historically effected consciousness' (wirkungsgeschichtliches Bewußtsein) and that they are embedded in the particular history and culture that shaped them. Thus interpreting a text involves a fusion of horizons
Fusion of horizons
"Fusion of horizons" is a dialectical concept which results from the rejection of two alternatives: objectivism, whereby the objectification of the other is premised on the forgetting of oneself; and absolute knowledge, according to which universal history can be articulated within a single horizon...

 where the scholar finds the ways that the text's history articulates with their own background. Truth and Method is not meant to be a programmatic statement about a new 'hermeneutic' method of interpreting texts. Gadamer intended Truth and Method to be a description of what we always do when we interpret things (even if we do not know it): "My real concern was and is philosophic: not what we do or what we ought to do, but what happens to us over and above our wanting and doing".

Truth and Method was published twice in English, and the revised edition is now considered authoritative. The German-language edition of Gadamer's Collected Works includes a volume in which Gadamer elaborates his argument and discusses the critical response to the book. Finally, Gadamer's essay on Celan (entitled "Who Am I and Who Are You?") has been considered by many—including Heidegger and Gadamer himself—as a "second volume" or continuation of the argument in Truth and Method.

Gadamer also added philosophical substance to the notion of human health. In The Enigma of Health Gadamer explored what it means to heal, as a patient and a provider. In this work the practice and art of medicine are thoroughly examined, as is the inevitability of any cure.

In addition to his work in hermeneutics, Gadamer is also well known for a long list of publications on Greek philosophy. Indeed, while Truth and Method became central to his later career, much of Gadamer's early life centered around studying the classics. His work on Plato, for instance, is considered by some to be as important as his work on hermeneutics.

Prizes and awards

1971: Pour le mérite
Pour le Mérite
The Pour le Mérite, known informally as the Blue Max , was the Kingdom of Prussia's highest military order for German soldiers until the end of World War I....

 and the Reuchlin Prize
1972: Great Cross of Merit with Star of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
1979: Sigmund Freud Award for scientific prose and Hegel Prize
1986: Jaspers Prize
1990: Great Cross of Merit with Star and Sash of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
1993: Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
12 January 1996: appointed an honorary member of the Saxon Academy of Sciences in Leipzig
Leipzig
Leipzig Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing...


Honorary Doctorates:
1995 University of Wrocław
1996 University of Leipzig
University of Leipzig
The University of Leipzig , located in Leipzig in the Free State of Saxony, Germany, is one of the oldest universities in the world and the second-oldest university in Germany...

1999 Philipps-University Marburg

See also

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  • Derrida, Jacques
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  • Dilthey, Wilhelm
    Wilhelm Dilthey
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  • Habermas, Jürgen
    Jürgen Habermas
    Jürgen Habermas is a German sociologist and philosopher in the tradition of critical theory and pragmatism. He is perhaps best known for his theory on the concepts of 'communicative rationality' and the 'public sphere'...


  • Heidegger, Martin
    Martin Heidegger
    Martin Heidegger was a German philosopher known for his existential and phenomenological explorations of the "question of Being."...

  • Kojeve, Alexandre
    Alexandre Kojève
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  • Schleiermacher, Friedrich
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  • Topics


  • Antipositivism
    Antipositivism
    Antipositivism is the view in social science that the social realm may not be subject to the same methods of investigation as the natural world; that academics must reject empiricism and the scientific method in the conduct of research...

  • Aristotelianism
    Aristotelianism
    Aristotelianism is a tradition of philosophy that takes its defining inspiration from the work of Aristotle. The works of Aristotle were initially defended by the members of the Peripatetic school, and, later on, by the Neoplatonists, who produced many commentaries on Aristotle's writings...

  • Critical Theory
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  • Frankfurt School
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    The Frankfurt School refers to a school of neo-Marxist interdisciplinary social theory, particularly associated with the Institute for Social Research at the University of Frankfurt am Main...




External links

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