Birth of German Philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer

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German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer is born in Marburg, Germany. Gadamer's primary interest was hermeneutics - the study of the meaning of a text - and argues that the meaning of a text depends upon two things: the historical situations of the author and that of the interpreter or reader.

Gadamer will call this an "existential encounter" between two perspectives and two sets of expectations and argues that it is necessary for any sort of interpretation to be possible in the first place. Reading and interpreting require self-reflection and growing awareness of one's own mind and situation. Every reading is thus grounded in a unique context and no single reading can be claimed as a definitive or final interpretation of the text.

Hans-Georg Gadamer will be criticized for the nature of his teaching under the Nazi and Communist regimes. Gadamer never actually joinsthe Nazi party, but he definitely benefits from their actions because after his Jewish colleagues were removed, he moves up quickly through the vacant positions. He even attends a Nazi indoctrination camp and the Nazis use him to to teach about German philosopher Johann Gottfried von Herder's interpretation of the Volk, an important Nazi concept.

This pattern continues under the Soviets when his lectures begin praising the dictatorship of the proletariat. Thus what Gadamer claims to be apolitical academic research is viewed by others as crass opportunism. Supporters insist that Gadamer is simply pragmatic, doing what's necessary to survive.

This raises fundamental questions about the role teachers have in society - especially teachers who specialize in ideas and philosophy. Some, believe that such teachers should to stick to the realm of ideas and not get involved in politics. Others believe that philosophy divorced from daily life is meaningless and so philosophers have to be politically engaged.

Gadamer's "pragmatic" acquiescence to Nazi and Communist governments will thus arguably be both a moral failing and a philosophical failing.

Video

Gadamer Kunst im Zeitalter der Technik

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