The Idea of the Good and Practical Philosophy in the Thought of Hans-Georg Gadamer

Dissertation, Boston College (1990)
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Abstract

This dissertation presents an interpretation of ethical themes in the work of Hans-Georg Gadamer, focusing upon Gadamer's interpretations of Plato and Aristotle. ;Chapter One is a reading of Gadamer's earliest book, Platos dialektische Ethik. Gadamer's interpretation of Platonic dialectic prefigures the linguistic and hermeneutic ontology of his own mature thought. From Gadamer's reading of Plato, language emerges as the medium in which things have their being for us. Language, moreover, has a twofold character: it is "eidetic," in that it expresses insights into the natures of things and tries to preserve those insights, and it is "dialogical," in that every such insight has meaning only within a contextual web of other meanings. Human understanding, by this account, is both normative and finite. ;Chapter Two examines Gadamer's early essays on Greek philosophy and Plato's role in Truth and Method. While Gadamer rejects Plato's reification of the eide and his intrumentalist account of language, nevertheless Plato's influence upon Gadamer is preserved in the latter's stress upon dialogue as the warrant of truth, his confidence in the meanings sedimented in language, and his interpretation of the "metaphysics of the beautiful." ;Chapter Three presents Gadamer's reading of Plato's unwritten doctrines and his account of the affinity between the Platonic and Aristotelian notions of the good. The major texts used in this chapter are Gadamer's late essays on Plato and his book The Idea of the Good in Platonic-Aristotelian Philosophy. ;Chapter Four summarizes the ways in which Platonic-Aristotelian themes are integrated into Gadamer's own philosophy. On the basis of this summary, it addresses four questions to Gadamer's ethical writings: How does Gadamer limit the role of philosophical ethics? Why does he see ethos as a more reliable source of moral norms than ethics? What does Gadamer see as the contribution of ethics to practical life? Finally, what does he mean when he describes hermeneutics as itself a kind of ethics or practical philosophy?

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Paulette Kidder
Seattle University

Citations of this work

Gadamer and the Lessons of Arithmetic in Plato’s Hippias Major.John V. Garner - 2017 - Meta: Research in Hermeneutics, Phenomenology, and Practical Philosophy 9 (1):105-136.

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