February 11, 1900|
Marburg, Hesse-Nassau, Prussia, German Empire
|Died||March 13, 2002
|Main interests||Metaphysics · Epistemology
Language · Ontology · Aesthetics
|Notable ideas||Philosophical hermeneutics
"All products of a tradition stand within that tradition"
Language as unity of the infinite and finite
Historically effected consciousness
Fusion of horizons
Hans-Georg Gadamer (German: [ˈɡaːdamɐ]; February 11, 1900 – March 13, 2002) was a German philosopher of the continental tradition, best known for his 1960 magnum opus, Truth and Method (Wahrheit und Methode).
Gadamer was born in Marburg, Germany, as the son of Johannes Gadamer (1867–1928) a pharmaceutical chemistry professor who later also served as the rector of the university there. He resisted his father's urging to take up the natural sciences and became more and more interested in the humanities. His mother, Emma Karoline Johanna Geiese (1869–1904) died of diabetes while Hans-Georg was four years old, and he later noted that this may have had an effect on his decision to not pursue scientific study; Jean Grondin describes Gadamer as finding in his mother "a poetic and almost religious counterpart to the iron fist of his father". Gadamer did not serve during World War I for reasons of ill-health and similarly was exempted from serving during World War II due to polio.
He grew up and studied philosophy in Breslau under Richard Hönigswald, but soon moved back to Marburg to study with the Neo-Kantian philosophers Paul Natorp and Nicolai Hartmann. He defended his dissertation in 1922.
Shortly thereafter, Gadamer moved to Freiburg University and began studying with Martin Heidegger, who was then a promising young scholar who had not yet received a professorship. He and Heidegger became close, and when Heidegger received a position at Marburg, Gadamer followed him there, where he became one of a group of students such as Leo Strauss, Karl Löwith, and Hannah Arendt. It was Heidegger's influence that gave Gadamer's thought its distinctive cast and led him away from the earlier neo-Kantian influences of Natorp and Hartmann.
Gadamer habilitated in 1929 and spent most of the early 1930s lecturing in Marburg. Unlike Heidegger, Gadamer was against Nazism, although he was not politically active during the Third Reich. In April 1937 he became a temporary professor at Marburg, then in 1938 he received a professorship at Leipzig. In 1946, he was found by the American occupation forces to be untainted by Nazism and named rector of the university.
Communist East Germany was no more to Gadamer's liking than the Third Reich, and he left for West Germany, accepting first a position in Frankfurt am Main and then the succession of Karl Jaspers in Heidelberg in 1949. He remained in this position, as emeritus, until his death in 2002 at the age of 102. He was also an Editorial Advisor of the journal Dionysius. It was during this time that he completed his magnum opus, Truth and Method (1960), and engaged in his famous debate with Jürgen Habermas over the possibility of transcending history and culture in order to find a truly objective position from which to critique society. The debate was inconclusive, but marked the beginning of warm relations between the two men. It was Gadamer who secured Habermas's first professorship in Heidelberg.
An attempt to engage Jacques Derrida proved less enlightening because the two thinkers had little in common. A last meeting between Gadamer and Derrida was held at the Stift of Heidelberg in July 2001, coordinated by Derrida's students, Joseph Cohen and Raphael Zagury-Orly. This meeting marked, in many ways, a turn in their philosophical encounter. After Gadamer's death, Derrida called their failure to find common ground one of the worst debacles of his life and expressed, in the main obituary for Gadamer, his great personal and philosophical respect.
In 1968, Gadamer invited Tomonobu Imamichi for lectures at Heidelberg, but their relationship became very cool after Imamichi pointed out that Heidegger had taken his concept of Dasein out of Okakura Kakuzo's concept of das in-der-Welt-sein (to be in the being of the world) expressed in The Book of Tea, which Imamichi's teacher had offered to Heidegger in 1919, after having followed lessons with him the year before. Imamichi and Gadamer renewed contact four years later during an international congress.
Gadamer's philosophical project, as explained in Truth and Method, was to elaborate on the concept of "philosophical hermeneutics", which Heidegger initiated but never dealt with at length. Gadamer's goal was to uncover the nature of human understanding. In the book Gadamer argued that "truth" and "method" were at odds with one another. He was critical of two approaches to the human sciences (Geisteswissenschaften). On the one hand, he was critical of modern approaches to humanities that modelled themselves on the natural sciences (and thus on rigorous scientific methods). On the other hand, he took issue with the traditional German approach to the humanities, represented for instance by Friedrich Schleiermacher and Wilhelm Dilthey, which believed that correctly interpreting a text meant recovering the original intention of the author who wrote it.
In contrast to both of these positions, Gadamer argued that people have a 'historically effected consciousness' (wirkungsgeschichtliches Bewußtsein) and that they are embedded in the particular history and culture that shaped them. Thus interpreting a text involves a fusion of horizons (Horizontverschmelzung) where the scholar finds the ways that the text's history articulates with their own background. Truth and Method is not meant to be a programmatic statement about a new 'hermeneutic' method of interpreting texts. Gadamer intended Truth and Method to be a description of what we always do when we interpret things (even if we do not know it): "My real concern was and is philosophic: not what we do or what we ought to do, but what happens to us over and above our wanting and doing".
Truth and Method was published twice in English, and the revised edition is now considered authoritative. The German-language edition of Gadamer's Collected Works includes a volume in which Gadamer elaborates his argument and discusses the critical response to the book. Finally, Gadamer's essay on Celan (entitled "Who Am I and Who Are You?") has been considered by many—including Heidegger and Gadamer himself—as a "second volume" or continuation of the argument in Truth and Method.
Gadamer also added philosophical substance to the notion of human health. In The Enigma of Health Gadamer explored what it means to heal, as a patient and a provider. In this work the practice and art of medicine are thoroughly examined, as is the inevitability of any cure.
In addition to his work in hermeneutics, Gadamer is also well known for a long list of publications on Greek philosophy. Indeed, while Truth and Method became central to his later career, much of Gadamer's early life centered around studying the classics. His work on Plato, for instance, is considered by some to be as important as his work on hermeneutics.
- Dialogue and Dialectic: Eight Hermeneutical Studies on Plato. Trans. and ed. by P. Christopher Smith. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1980.
- The Enigma of Health: The Art of Healing in a Scientific Age. Trans. John Gaiger and Richard Walker. Oxford: Polity Press, 1996.
- Gadamer on Celan: ‘Who Am I and Who Are You?’ and Other Essays. By Hans-Georg Gadamer. Trans. and ed. Richard Heinemann and Bruce Krajewski. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1997.
- The Gadamer Reader: A Bouquet of the Later Writings. Ed. by Richard E. Palmer. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2007.
- Hegel's Dialectic: Five Hermeneutical Studies. Trans. P. Christopher Smith. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1976.
- Heidegger's Ways. Trans. John W. Stanley. New York: SUNY Press, 1994.
- The Idea of the Good in Platonic-Aristotelian Philosophy. Trans. P. Christopher Smith. New Haven, CT: 1986.
- Literature and Philosophy in Dialogue: Essays in German Literary Theory. Trans. Robert H. Paslick. New York: SUNY Press, 1993.
- Philosophical Apprenticeships. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1985 (Gadamer's memoirs.)
- Philosophical Hermeneutics. Trans. and ed. by David Linge. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976.
- Plato's "Parmenides" and Its Influence. Dionysius, Volume VII (1983): 3-16
- Reason in the Age of Science. Trans. by Frederick Lawrence. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1981.
- The Relevance of the Beautiful and Other Essays. Trans. N. Walker. ed. R. Bernasconi, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.
- Praise of Theory. Trans. Chris Dawson. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998.
- Truth and Method. 2nd rev. edition. Trans. J. Weinsheimer and D. G. Marshall. New York: Crossroad, 2004. ISBN 978-0-8264-7697-5 excerpt
- Arthos, John. The Inner Word in Gadamer's Hermeneutics. South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2009.
- Cercel, Larisa (ed.), Übersetzung und Hermeneutik / Traduction et herméneutique, Bucharest, Zeta Books, 2009, ISBN 978-973-199-706-3.
- Dostal, Robert L. ed. The Cambridge Companion to Gadamer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
- Code, Lorraine. ed. Feminist Interpretations of Hans-Georg Gadamer. University Park: Penn State Press, 2003.
- Coltman, Robert. The Language of Hermeneutics: Gadamer and Heidegger in Dialogue. Albany: State University Press, 1998
- Grondin, Jean. The Philosophy of Gadamer. trans. Kathryn Plant. New York: McGill-Queens University Press, 2002.
- Grondin, Jean. Hans-Georg Gadamer: A Biography trans Joel Weinsheimer. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004.
- Lawn, Chris. Gadamer : a guide for the perplexed. (Guides for the perplexed) London: Continuum, c2006. ISBN 978-0-8264-8461-1
- Malpas, Jeff, and Santiago Zabala (eds),Consequences of Hermeneutics: Fifty Years after Truth and Method, (Northwestern University Press, 2010).
- Malpas, Jeff, Ulrich Arnswald and Jens Kertscher (eds.). Gadamer's Century: Essays in Honour of Hans-Georg Gadamer. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2002.
- Risser, James. Hermeneutics and the Voice of the other: Re-reading Gadamer's Philosophical Hermeneutics. Albany: SUNY Press, 1997.
- Warnke, Georgia. "Gadamer: Hermeneutics, Tradition and Reason". Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987.
- Weinsheimer, Joel. Gadamer's Hermeneutics: A Reading of "Truth and Method". New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985.
- Wright, Kathleen ed. Festivals of Interpretation: Essays on Hans-Georg Gadamer's Work. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1990.
Prizes and awards 
- 1971: Pour le mérite and the Reuchlin Prize
- 1972: Great Cross of Merit with Star of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
- 1979: Sigmund Freud Award for scientific prose and Hegel Prize
- 1986: Jaspers Prize
- 1990: Great Cross of Merit with Star and Sash of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
- 1993: Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
- 12 January 1996: appointed an honorary member of the Saxon Academy of Sciences in Leipzig
- Honorary Doctorates
- 1995 University of Wrocław
- 1996 University of Leipzig
- 1999 Philipps-University Marburg
See also 
- Grondin 2003, p. 12.
- Grondin 2003, p. 26, 33.
- Grondin 2003, p. 21.
- Grondin 2003, p. 45.
- Grondin 2003, p. 46.
- Grondin 2003, p. 37.
- De Cesare, Donatella (2013). Gadamer: A Philosophical Portrait. Indiana University Press. p. 17. ISBN 0253007631.
- Dostal, Robert (2002). The Cambridge Companion to Gadamer. Cambridge University Press. p. 20. ISBN 0521000416.
- "Hans-Georg Gadamer Dies; Noted German Philosopher". Washington Post. March 16, 2002. Retrieved March 25, 2011.
- Roberts, Julian (March 18, 2002). "Hans-Georg Gadamer". The Guardian. Retrieved March 25, 2011.
- "Hans-Georg Gadamer". The Independent. March 26, 2002. Retrieved March 25, 2011.
- Tomonobu Imamichi, In Search of Wisdom. One Philosopher's Journey, Tokyo, International House of Japan, 2004 (quoted by Anne Fagot-Largeau in her  course at the Collège de France on 7 December 2006).
- Truth and Method 2nd ed. Sheed and Ward, London 1989 XXVIII
- Grondin, Jean (2003). Hans-Georg Gadamer: A Biography.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Hans-Georg Gadamer|
- Hans-Georg Gadamer at Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Chronology (in German)
- Works by Gadamer
- Hans-Georg Gadamer: Plato as portratist
- Miguel Ángel Quintana Paz: "On Hermeneutical Ethics and Education", a paper on the relevance of Gadamer's Hermeneutics for our understanding of music, ethics and education in both.
- Larisa Cercel, Auf den Spuren einer verschütteten Evidenz: Übersetzung und Hermeneutik, in: Larisa Cercel (ed.), Übersetzung und Hermeneutik / Traduction et herméneutique, Bucharest, Zeta Books, 2009, ISBN 978-973-199-706-3 (paperback), 978-973-1997-07-0 (ebook).