Gadamer: Truth and Method
A Teaser

Next week, at Verbal Vortex,  I hope to start with the help of a few friends out there to begin reading and discussing Gadamer’s book, Truth And Method. From the introduction (here he begins starts by introducing his topic, which is hermeneutics that is on the extraction of meaning from text):

Given the dominance of modern science in the philosophical elucidation and justification of the concept of knowledge and the concept of truth, this question [ed: the question of what kinds of knowledge and truth can be obtained by hermenuetical methods] does not appear legitimate. Yet it is unavoidable, even within the sciences. The phenomenon of understanding not only pervades all human relations to the world. It also has an independent validity within science, and it resists any attempt to reinterpret it in terms of scientific method. The following investigations start with the resistance in modern science itself to the universal claim of scientific method. They are concerned to seek the experience of truth that transcends the domain of scientific method wherever that experience is to be found, and to inquire into its legitimacy. Hence the human sciences are connected to modes of experience that lie outside science: with the experiences of philosophy, of art, and of history itself. These are all modes of experience in which a truth is communicated that cannot be verified by the methodological means proper to science.

[… a paragraph on the experience of philosophy elided …]

The same thing is true of the experience of art. Here the scholarly research pursued by the “science of art” is aware from the start that it can neither replace nor surpass the experience of art. The fact that through a work of art a truth is experienced that we cannot attain in any other way constitutes the philosophic importance of art, which asserts itself against all attempts to rationalize it away. Hence, together with the experience of philosophy, the experience of art is the most insistent admonition to scientific consciousness to acknowledge its own limits.  [note: emphasis mine]

A short commentary on this below the fold.

In a short discussion earlier in the week, I had written:

You, I think, lack an empirical method to assert the preeminence of the empirical epistemology over other epistemological or hermeneutic methods.

and the Jewish Atheist responded:

Empiricism works. The other stuff is usually just so much wankery.

Gadamer answers this question. That, uhm, nonsense is in part, hermeneutic (truth from text) from art, philosophy, from history, and experience. Gadamer acknowledges and knows the success which materialism and empirical methodologies have acheived. But, the limits of the same should be acknowledged, addressed, and understood. When we read this book, we will be trying to read, what one of the leading 20th century philosophers had to contribute to this question.

So, get the book, follow the link above, to Verbal Vortex and join in the conversation.

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3 comments

  1. jpe says:

    I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts on Gadamer, but I just have to note quickly that I made a Gadamer joke two days ago. Uncanny!

  2. Here the scholarly research pursued by the “science of art” is aware from the start that it can neither replace nor surpass the experience of art.

    I get that. A description or explanation of an experience cannot replace the experience.

    Here’s where he loses me:

    The fact that through a work of art a truth is experienced that we cannot attain in any other way…

    That’s a “fact?” What does he mean here by “a truth?”

    I’m considering getting the book, but if it’s going to be full of assumptions that don’t make sense to me, I don’t think I’d get much out of it.

  3. Mark says:

    JA,
    “a truth” in this I think is just that thing which you learn while experiencing art. That you can learn things from art, which you can’t learn in any other way … is a fact.