Hans Georg Gadamer and Four Important ConceptsJune 27, 2021
1. Active historical consciousness
In the most general sense, it can be said that the basis of Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics is formed by four closely related concepts. The first of these is the concept of “active historical consciousness”, which states that it is influenced by history in every situation, and that it is affected by the effects of history.
As is clear, Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics fully preserves the idea that one’s understanding of both oneself and one’s own possibilities as a being is determined temporally, and more importantly historically, which corresponds to one of Heidegger’s main insights in Being and Time. Therefore, the historicity of understanding, which is the source of great fear for many modern philosophers and Enlightenment thinkers, especially Descartes, is considered as a positive quality for understanding rather than creating a fearful situation for Gadamer. Being influenced by history means that there is no starting point – the “first pillar” that Descartes seeks with his whole philosophy, while being open to the effects of history means that the texts or works of art that reach us through tradition allow us to troubleshoot our existing horizon of understanding. In the light of this basic idea, Gadamer invokes the Heideggerian concept of the “hermeneutic cycle” to explain how understanding is possible. Understanding is always cyclical, but this circularity is not circularity in the sense of a whirlwind.
Meaning expectation, pre-understandings or prejudices, the parts of the text or work of art that we are trying to interpret are also in a position to constitute our understanding because they reflect the whole of the text at hand. To put it more clearly, the second concept of Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics is “prejudice”. According to this, prejudices are not the biggest obstacle to understanding contrary to what most people think. On the contrary, it is prejudices that make understanding possible. Undoubtedly, Gadamer does not understand blindly sticking to prejudices, as some critics have pointed out, from the essential relationship he has established between prejudice and understanding. In other words, the fact that understanding is made possible by prejudices does not require us to lose our critical distance from prejudices. The main point to be emphasized here is that under no circumstances can we escape the hermeneutic cycle we encounter in the process of understanding, and therefore it is impossible to understand from an unprejudiced position, which is “nowhere”, so it is our duty to help us understand new understandings as much as possible by increasing our awareness of the “negative” prejudices that historically condition our understanding. is to improve.
The third concept is the concept of “game”, which Gadamer takes from Kant’s aesthetics and gives a new meaning (Kant’an uses it to mean the free play of mental faculties). The concept of game is a concept that is used in very important contexts, especially in two places of Truth and Method, to overcome the subjectivity of aesthetics in particular and to overcome the subjectivity of modern philosophy in general. In the first of these contexts, Gadamer describes how the subject loses himself in the game we play in relation to the works of art, just as the actor in a game is swallowed by the game itself. In Chapter 3, the second context in which the concept of play is analyzed, Gadamer concentrates on language that mediates the hermeneutic experience and, very close to Wiirgenstein’s later period, grounds language with the “language game” we call conversation, rather than grounding it with the consciousness of the subject.
4. The fusion of horizons
Language, which manifests itself through conversation, takes us to the fourth and perhaps the most important concept of philosophical hermeneutics, the concept of “fusion of horizons”. According to Gadamer, understanding the text or the work of art is a complete challenge because of the accuracy expressed by the text or work being understood. The interpreter’s horizon of understanding is initially based on excluding the experience of truth asserted by the work. However, when our own prejudices in the interpreter’s approach to the work allow the work to be made a problem, the horizon of otherness in the work will open itself to the interpreter. Clearly, what is at issue here is not only that the interpreter questions the experience of truth invoked by the work with a question-and-answer dialectic, but you also say yes to the call of the interpreter to question his own prejudices. The fusion of horizons ends when the interpreter understands the process in another way, that is, with the establishment of genuine dialogue between the work and the interpreter. Obviously, the ideal of fusion of horizons is possible only if the interpreter changes his prejudices in line with what he has learned from the work. On the other hand, Gadamer specifically states that sometimes the relations entered in the structure can have a result such as confirming the prejudices of the interpreter.