Hermeneutics and historical consciousness: An appraisal of the contribution of Hans-Georg Gadamer

South African Journal of Philosophy 21 (4):228-241 (2002)

Abstract

In this introductory article to the volume of the South African Journal of Philosophy in tribute of Hans- Georg Gadamer, the author, first, makes a few remarks about the nature of hermeneutics and Gadamer's views on the universality of the hermeneutical experience. This universality is, in particular, explained from the perspective of the “linguistic turn” in Gadamer's thought. Secondly, there is a brief discussion of certain particular aspects of Gadamer's contribution. Aspects of that contribution that are emphasized are: Gadamer's reevaluation of prejudice, authority and tradition, his idea of “Wirkungs -geschichte”, his idea of meaning as a process rather than a given entity, his analogy between game- playing and the interpretation of art, and his dialogical conception of interpretation. The author concludes by developing his own estimate of the main thrust of Gadamer's contribution. This contribution consists of the way in which Gadamer's thought, on the one hand, represents a demonstration and embodiment of the kind of historical consciousness so typical of our times, but, on the other hand, also accomplishes this exemplification of historical consciousness while imaginatively avoiding the kind of relativistic historicism so typical of many other manifestations of the same trend. S. Afr. J. Philos. Vol.21(4) 2002: 228-241

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