Monday, June 6, 2011

Our prejudice has its roots in our own history

In the third step, Hans-Georg Gadamer shows that his analysis is far from pure subjectivism, as his opponents accuse him of having. Gadamer argues in Truth and Metode (p.299) that all understanding is rotted in the interpreting subject own interests, or to use a concept taken from Martin Heidegger, in a care-structure. Gadamer located this care-structure more in history than Heidegger himself did.
This means that the questions about the interpretation process, not only has to do with us but to the questions that are developed within the historical tradition which we belong. To take an example, think of Shakespeare's works, our understanding of his works evolved historically. We approach the works with certain assumptions, that they treat certain eternal human question, that the books have a beautiful language and that all live up to high literary standards. In addition to all this there is doubt about the fact that Shakepeare wrote all his books, or if he has had a number of helpers.
The point is that the situation characterized by "throwness", where we understand a work of art or an historical event, is not unconditionally approved. Our understanding stems from the way the incident has previously been understood. We have always our roots in a changing historical and interpretive tradition. We make certain assumptions about Shakespeare's works, but we also have certain prejudices about what makes a work of art into a work of art in general. Prejudice determines what is considered aesthetically correct and what meaning we give things.
Such prejudice is not only our own private property and the scale of assessment, nor a result of our private decision. Our aesthetic conceptions of art for example, stems from historical developments in art, sculpture, art criticism, etc. Our understanding is thus subject to bias both in terms of what can be accepted immediately because it is well known and what is disturbing because it is new. In both cases, what a generation believes and assumes, has its reason in what a previous generation has formulated and estimated.
For Gadamer, the knowledge of an individual or a society has about a specific area of ​​knowledge, not just a product of indivdet or society, but also of history. These three steps, to give a meaning to something, interpretive projections of meanings, and our own history, emphasizes the important relationship between understanding, prejudices and traditions.

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