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Encyclopedia > Hans Georg Gadamer
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Hans-Georg Gadamer (February 11, 1900March 13, 2002) was a German philosopher best known for his 1960 magnum opus, Truth and Method (Wahrheit und Methode). Jump to: navigation, search February 11 is the 42nd day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar. ... 1900 is a common year starting on Monday. ... Jump to: navigation, search March 13 is the 72nd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (73rd in leap years). ... Jump to: navigation, search 2002 (MMII) is a common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Jump to: navigation, search A philosopher is a person devoted to studying and producing results in philosophy. ... Jump to: navigation, search 1960 was a leap year starting on Friday (link will take you to calendar). ... Magnum opus (sometimes Opus magnum), from the Latin meaning great work, refers to the best or most renowned achievement of an author, artist, or composer. ...



Gadamer was born in Marburg, Germany, as the son of a pharmaceutical chemist who later also served as the rector of the university there. Gadamer resisted his father's urging to take up the natural sciences and grew more and more interested in the humanities. He grew up and studied in Breslau under Hönigswald, but soon moved back to Marburg to study with the Neo-Kantian philosophers Paul Natorp and Nicolai Hartmann. He defended his dissertation in 1922. Marburg is a city in Hesse, Germany, on the Lahn river. ... Look up chemist on Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... The word rector (ruler, from the Latin regere) has a number of different meanings. ... Jump to: navigation, search A professor giving a lecture at the Helsinki University of Technology A university is an institution of higher education and of research, which grants academic degrees. ... The term natural science as the way in which different fields of study are defined is determined as much by historical convention as by the present day meaning of the words. ... The humanities are a group of academic subjects united by a commitment to studying aspects of the human condition and a qualitative approach that generally prevents a single paradigm from coming to define any discipline. ... Wrocław. ... Neo-Kantianism means a revived or modified type of philosophy along the lines of that laid down by Immanuel Kant in the eighteenth century. ... Paul Gerhard Natorp (24 January 1854-17 August 1924) was a German neo-Kantian philosopher, and educationalist, and one of the Marburg school. ... Nicolai Hartmann (February 20, 1882 – October 9, 1950) was a German philosopher. ... This article is about the thesis in dialectics and academia. ...

Shortly thereafter, Gadamer visited Freiburg and began studying with Martin Heidegger, who was then a promising young scholar who had not yet received a professorship. He thus became one of a group of students such as Leo Strauss, Karl Löwith, and Hannah Arendt. He and Heidegger became close, and when Heidegger received a position at Marburg, Gadamer followed him there. 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. Jump to: navigation, search Freiburgs location in Germany Freiburg city from Schlossberg Freiburg im Breisgau is a city in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, in the Breisgau region, on the western edge of the southern Black Forest (German: Schwarzwald) with about 214,000 inhabitants. ... Jump to: navigation, search Martin Heidegger (September 26, 1889 – May 26, 1976) was a German philosopher. ... Jump to: navigation, search This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. ... Karl Löwith (9 January 1897 in Munich – 26 May 1973 in Heidelberg) was a German-Jewish philosopher, a student of Heidegger. ... Jump to: navigation, search Hannah Arendt in her early adulthood Hannah Arendt (October 14, 1906 – December 4, 1975) was a German political theorist. ... Marburg is a city in Hesse, Germany, on the Lahn river. ...

Gadamer habilitated in 1929 and spent most of the early 1930s lecturing in Marburg. Unlike Heidegger, Gadamer was strongly anti-Nazi, 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. In 1946, he was found to be untainted by Nazism by the American occupation forces and named rector of the university. Communist East Germany was little 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 in Heidelberg in 1949. He remained in this position, as emeritus, until his death in 2002. Habilitation is a term used within the university system in Germany, Austria, and some other European countries such as the German-speaking part of Switzerland, in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Russia, and other countries of former Soviet Union, such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Kirgizstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, etc. ... Jump to: navigation, search Look up Nazi on Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Nazi Germany, or the Third Reich, commonly refers to Germany in the years 1933–1945, when it was under the firm control of the totalitarian and fascist ideology of the Nazi Party, with the Führer Adolf Hitler as dictator. ... Jump to: navigation, search Map of Germany showing Leipzig Leipzig [â–¶] [ˈlaiptsɪç] (Polish; Sorbian/Lusatian: Lipsk) is the largest city in the federal state (Bundesland) of Saxony in Germany. ... Frankfurt am Main [ˈfraŋkfʊrt] is the largest city in the German state of Hessen and the fifth largest city of Germany. ... Karl Jaspers Karl Theodor Jaspers (February 23, 1883 – February 26, 1969), a German psychiatrist and philosopher, had a strong influence on modern theology, psychiatry and philosophy. ... Jump to: navigation, search Map of Germany showing Heidelberg Heidelberg (halfway between Stuttgart and Frankfurt) is a city in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. ...

It was during this time that he completed his magnum opus Truth and Method (in 1960) and engaged in his famous debate with Jürgen Habermas over the possibility of transcending history and culture in order to find a truly objective position to criticize society from. 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. Another attempt to engage Jacques Derrida proved less enlightening because the two thinkers had so little in common. 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. Jump to: navigation, search Habermas speaking with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, 2004 Jürgen Habermas (born June 18, 1929 in Düsseldorf, Germany) is a philosopher, political scientist and sociologist in the tradition of critical theory. ... Jump to: navigation, search Map of Germany showing Heidelberg Heidelberg (halfway between Stuttgart and Frankfurt) is a city in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. ... Jump to: navigation, search This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. ...


Gadamer's philosophical project, as explained in Truth and Method, 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 science (Geisteswissenschaften). On the one hand, he was critical of modern approaches to humanities that modeled themselves on the natural sciences (and thus on rigorous scientific methods). On the other hand, he took issue with the traditional approach to the humanities, stemming from Wilhelm Dilthey, which believed that correctly interpreting a text meant recovering the original intention of the author who wrote it. Jump to: navigation, search Hermeneutics may be described as the theory of interpretation and understanding of a text through empirical means. ... [ [ Image:WilhelmDilthey. ...

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' 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).

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?") is considered by many -- including Heidegger and Gadamer himself -- as a 'second volume' or continuation of the argument in Truth and Method. Paul Celan was the most frequently used pseudonym of Paul Antschel (the pseudonymous adopts an anagram of his surname in Romanian, Ancel) (November 23, 1920 - approximately April 20, 1970), who is considered one of the few major poets of the post-World War II era. ... Martin Heidegger Martin Heidegger (September 26, 1889 – May 26, 1976) was a German philosopher. ...

In addition to his work in hemeneutics, 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.


  • Nothing exists except through language.
  • I basically only read books that are over 2,000 years old.
  • In fact history does not belong to us; but we belong to it. Long before we understand ourselves through the process of self-examination, we understand ourselves in a self-evident way in the family, society and state in which we live. The focus of subjectivity is a distorting mirror. The self-awareness of the individual is only a flickering in the closed circuits of historical life. That is why the predjudices [pre-judgements (Vorurteil)] of the individual, far more than his judgements, constitute the historical reality of his being. (Gadamer 1989:276-7, tr.)
  • The more language is a living operation, the less we are aware of it. Thus it follows from the self-forgetfulness of language that its real being consists in what is said in it. What is said in it constitutes the common world in which we live and to which the whole great chain of tradition reaching us from the literature of foreign languages, living as well as dead. The real being of language is that into which we are taken up when we hear it — what is said. (Gadamer 1976:65, tr.)


  • Hans-Georg Gadamer: A Biography. By Jean Grondin. Yale University Press. 2004
  • Philosophical Apprenticeships. By Hans-Georg Gadamer. MIT Press. 1985 (Gadamer's memoir)Ġ

See also

Hermeneutics, Radical Hermeneutics, Interpretation, Emilio Betti, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Wilhelm Dilthey, Rudolf Bultmann, Historical School, Ranke, Heidegger, Derrida, Habermas, Critical Theory, Frankfurt School, Augustine, Luther, Paul Ricoeur Jump to: navigation, search Hermeneutics may be described as the theory of interpretation and understanding of a text through empirical means. ... Interpretation, or interpreting, is an activity that consists of establishing, either simultaneously or consecutively, oral or gestural communications between two or more speakers who are not speaking (or signing) the same language. ... Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher (November 21, 1768 - February 12, 1834) was a theologian and philosopher. ... [ [ Image:WilhelmDilthey. ... This article or section should be merged with Rudolf Karl Bultmann Rudolf Karl Bultmann (August 20, 1884 - July 30, 1976) was a German theologian of Lutheran background, who was for three decades professor of New Testament studies at the University of Marburg. ... The Historical school of economics was a mainly German school of economic thought which held that a study of history was the key source of knowledge about human actions and economic matters, since economics would be culture-specific and not generalizable over space and time. ... Leopold von Ranke (December 21, 1795- May 23, 1886) was one of the greatest German historians of the 19th century, and is frequently considered the founder of scientific history. ... Martin Heidegger Martin Heidegger (September 26, 1889 – May 26, 1976) was a German philosopher. ... Jacques Derrida Jacques Derrida (July 15, 1930 – October 8, 2004) was an Algerian-born French literary critic and philosopher of Jewish descent, considered the first to develop deconstruction. Positioning Derridas thought Derrida had a significant effect on continental philosophy and on literary theory, particularly through his long-time association... Jürgen Habermas (born June 18, 1929 in Düsseldorf, Germany) is a philosopher and social theorist in the tradition of critical theory. ... In the humanities and social sciences, critical theory has two quite different meanings with different origins and histories, one originating in social theory and the other in literary criticism. ... The Frankfurt School is a school of neo-Marxist social theory, social research, and philosophy. ... Jump to: navigation, search St. ... For other people named Martin Luther see: Martin Luther (disambiguation), or here for Martin Luther King, Jr. ... Paul RicÅ“ur (February 27, 1913, Valence - May 20, 2005, Chatenay Malabry) was a French philosopher and anthropologist best known for his attempt to combine phenomenological description with hermeneutic interpretation. ...

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