Sunday, March 4, 2012

Hans-Georg Gadamer

Hans-Georg Gadamer
Gadamer was born 11/02/1900 in Marburg, Germany. He died 102 years old, 03/13/2002. His greatest work was Truth and Method, which he wrote when he was 60 years old, ie in 1960. This book has had a great impact on the hermeneutics field. The book stands as a shining star in the sky, but it is important to remember that it is written in a context of a particular time and tradition. It is written as a reaction to the hermeneutics of Wilhelm Dilthey, Edmund Husserl and to the phenomenology and Dasein philosophy of Martin Heidegger. He did this through an examination of the historicity, language and art.

A central theme in all he did was understanding. He believed that philosophy was of no use if it could not be understood. He argued that the
the scientific ideal of objectivity within experience, culture and technology was impossible to achieve without understanding.

Gadamer's father was a professor of chemistry and hoped that his son would walk in his footsteps and study scientific subjects. He was 18 years old when he began his university studies. Only 4 years later, 22 years pold, he took his doctorate. He met Martin Heidegger when he was 23 years old and took a job as Heidegger's assistant. When he was 28 years old he took his second doctorate. Heidegger was then his supervisor.

Gadamer had a long teaching career which lasted 40 years. He was considered an eminent teacher.  He worked at the universities of Marburg, Kiel, Leipzig, Frankfurt and Heidelberg. It was while he worked at the University of Heidelberg that he wrote Truth and method. He retired in 1968. After his retirement, 70 and 80 years old, he worked at several Universities around the world: Vanderbilt University, University of Texas, Boston College and McMaster University in Canada. As a 90 year old, he participated in the international public debate on many different topics such as Europe's development, humanitarianism, education, the relationship between science and technology, the relationship between medical practice and health concept, as well as topics on law, ethics, philosophy and politics. His collected works are published in 10 volumes, and his minor writings are collected in four volumes.

One of Gadamer's best friends was Jürgen Habermas. They met in 1960, after Truth and Method came out. Then they conducted a famous debate in both speech and writing in public. The theme of their discourse was whether it was possible to rise above ones own history and culture in order to find the true objective position where it was possible to engage in social criticism.

Gadamer emphasized the practical philosophy, the relationship between application and understanding. This means that all understanding has a practical orientation, that our understanding is dependent on the situation we find ourselves in.

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