Notes for Hans-Georg Gadamer Truth and Method

Key concepts: concepts, hermeneutics, historical consciousness, science.

Related theorists: Dilthey, Hegel, Heidegger, Husserl, Kant.

Translators' Preface


Definition of hermeneutics as phenomenon of understanding and correct interpretation of what has been understood.

(xx) These studies are concerned with the problem of hermeneutics. The phenomenon of understanding and of the correct interpretation of what has been understood is not a problem specific to the methodology of the human sciences alone.

In many modes of experience truth cannot be verified by scientific method.

(xxi) 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.

Truth comes to speech in our historical tradition.

(xxii) Just as in the experience of art we are concerned with truths that go essentially beyond the range of methodical knowledge, so the same thing is true of the whole of the human sciences: in them our historical tradition in all its forms is certainly made the object of investigation, but at the same time truth comes to speech in it.

Hermeneutics as a way of doing philosophy.

(xxii) It is a question of recognizing in it an experience of truth that not only needs to be justified philosophically, but which is itself a way of doing philosophy.

Overstimulation of historical consciousness leads to short circuit of invoking eternal human nature and natural law.

(xxiii) In modern life, our historical consciousness is constantly overstimulated. As a consequence—though, as I hope to show, it is a pernicious short circuit—some react to this overstimulation of historical change by invoking the eternal orders of nature and appealing to human nature to legitimate the idea of natural law.

Reflections on truth founded on iterative development of concepts, not first principles.

(xxiii) It must be aware of the fact that its own understanding and interpretation are not constructions based on principles, but the furthering of an event that goes far back. Hence it will not be able to use its concepts unquestioningly, but will have to take over whatever features of the original meaning of its concepts have come down to it.

Rupture in continuity of Western philosophical tradition by emergence of historical consciousness.

Call for critical consciousness to philosophize responsibly.

(xxiii-xxiv) However important and fundamental were the transformations that took place with the Latinization of Greek concepts and the translation of Latin conceptual language into the modern languages, the emergence of historical consciousness over the last few centuries is a much more radical rupture. Since then, the continuity of the Western philosophical tradition has been effective only in a fragmentary way. . . . A new critical consciousness must now accompany all responsible philosophizing which takes the habits of thought and language built up in the individual in his communication with his environment and places them before the forum of the historical tradition to which we all belong.

Nod to Husserl, Dilthey, Heidegger for inquiry into history of concepts.

(xxiv) The following investigation tries to meet this demand by linking as closely as possible an inquiry into the history of concepts with the substantive exposition of its theme. That conscientiousness of phenomenological description which Husserl has made a duty for us all; the breadth of the historical horizon in which Dilthey has placed all philosophizing; and, not least, the penetration of both these influences by the impulse received from Heidegger, indicate that standard by which the writer desires to be measured, and which, despite all imperfection in the execution, he would like to see applied without reservation.

Foreword to the Second Edition

Gadamer, Hans-Georg. Truth and Method, second revised ed. Trans. Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall. NY: Continuum, 1989. Print.