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Gadamer, Hans-Georg (1900–2002)

Hans-Georg Gadamer, strongly influenced by his revered teacher, Martin Heidegger (1889–1976), argued that understanding cannot be instrumentalized, as René Descartes (1596–1650) famously claimed. Rather, it depends on the work of tradition (and its prejudices), which is never fully conscious, exceeds efforts to fix its meaning, and eludes method. Further, we belong to it more than it belongs to us, as shown by the fact that thought can only “incarnate” itself in preexisting language. Gadamer's “philosophical hermeneutics,” at variance with Heidegger's project in important respects, finds its best expression in Wahrheit und Methode(Truth and Method), published in 1960. The book's main argument is that there is more to truth than process or method can ever guarantee.

Understanding, apprehended as the ability to inhabit a world, has essentially ...

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