Sunday, January 01, 2017

Gadamer - Introduction 1

I've taken to try to translate a sentence or two a day of Hans-Georg Gadamer's Wahrheit und Methode: Grundzüge einer philosophischen Hermeneutik, Truth and Method: Basic Principles of a Philosophical Hermeneutic. Each time I finish a paragraph, I plan to post an installment here, possibly with a little commentary. Here's the first paragraph of the introduction.

The following investigations have to do with the problem of hermeneutics. The phenomenon of understanding and its proper interpretation is not only a problem particular to the question of how to study the non-sciences. From of old it has also applied to theological and legal hermeneutics, which have not so much had a "scientific" character in their theories. Rather, they have functioned and related much more to the practical behavior of a judge or a pastor formed through such study. Accordingly, the hermeneutical problem already pushes beyond the boundaries of its historical origins, which were set by the modern idea of how to study them. Understanding and the interpretation of texts is not only the concern of a type of study, but it obviously belongs entirely to the human experience of the world. The phenomenon of hermeneutics overall is originally not a problem of methodical study. It is not a method of understanding that is subject to the texts of scientific knowing in the same way as all other objects of experience. It is not at all in the first place a construction of visible knowledge, which ideally suits the idea of science--and still it is about a knowledge and truth just the same. In the understanding of tradition texts are not only understood but insights are acquired and truths known. What is this criterion for understanding and for truth? [1]

[1] Gadamer in effect is suggesting that there is a different "way of knowing" in the sciences and in what I have translated as the "non-sciences." This is a very difficult distinction to translate. The difference in German is actually between the "Naturwissenschaften" and the "Geisteswissenschaften." The first term translates easily enough as the "natural sciences," but English does not have a term "spiritual sciences," which is the other term. The "arts" is how we would classify this group of subjects--to some extent the liberal arts not including math and science. But he includes theology and legal understanding.

It seems to me that the Indiana Strategic Transfer General Education Core dabbles a little with Gadamer's categories when it distinguishes between "scientific ways of knowing" and "humanistic and artistic ways of knowing."

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