Can we think what someone else thinks? Four letters on Gadamer by Ismar Jugo (guest post)

[With this guest post, I’d like to continue to present some of the works by my students that came out of research internships. During these internships, I often try to steer students towards a particular genre. This way, I hope to encourage students to experiment with different genres that allow for a focus different from “defending a claim”, as is often the case in essays. My own MA thesis (written in 1996) consisted of a translation, a commentary, and an interpretive introduction. Probably since the so-called Bologna reform, the forms of academic writing have become increasingly restricted even for students. Considering Helen De Cruz’ recent post, I’m hoping for the revival of various genres in the future. Having had a traditional essay, a review, a vlog and some other forms on this blog, the following piece consists of a series of letters. – ML]

Letter I

Dear Martin,

At the time I found out that I needed to do a research internship, I knew I would ask you. The reason was that you are one of the few professors that seem to explicitly think in front of the classroom. You bring yourself in dialogue with yourself, and thereby create the possibility of dialogue among everyone attending your class. This is a horrible exercise for a lazy student because it asks a lot of people to engage in a dialogue. Understanding someone else is, for good reason, a philosophical problem with huge ramifications in all aspects of human life, from all scientific enterprise till the very conversation a couple has after a fight. If understanding is such a huge aspect in our lives, then delving into the problem of understanding is a crucial step for every human being.

When I followed your classes I thought that I understood your train of thought quite well. Entering your train of thought took me some effort. I needed to write everything down and revise my notes before class. I was sure I understood what you were trying to convey. The question that we pose in this research internship is if it is possible to enter someone’s thoughts in the first place. Can we think what someone else is thinking? Can we see what someone else is seeing? Can someone recount their experiences in language so that we can experience the same experiences through a correct interpretation of words? Somewhere somehow, I got the idea that when I interpret a story, an utterance, or a philosophical essay in the right way, I could see, experience what the author saw and experienced. This never meant for me that the experiences of people were experiences of an objective reality, but of a subjective experienced, meaningful reality. So we could never say how things really were, but only how things were for humans and by language we could express that experience. If we interpreted the words of the subject that expressed it, then we could re-experience the experience. Is this view a naïve one?

The reason why I put my naïve theory of understanding forward is because I learned somethings of our “mutual friend” Hans-Georg Gadamer. We agreed that my first letter for this research internship would be about the second part of Wahrheit und Methode. More specifically, it is about the second part of the second part that is titled ‘Grundzüge einer Theorie der hermeneutischen Erfahrung’. I chose this part because here Gadamer discusses the main concepts of his hermeneutics, like hermeneutische Zirkel, Vorurteil and Wirkungsgeschichte. For Gadamer, I would be very right to write my own understanding of understanding down so explicitly like I have done above. Part of my process of understanding his notion of understanding is to work on my pre-understanding (Vorverständnis). If we want to be objective, we need to be as clear as possible on our pre-understanding. We need to know how we understand something to be able to see the difference in someone else’s account. In other words, I need to know how I understand X to create the possibility that I can see how someone else understands X.

I was surprised how concrete Gadamer was in his account. He clearly states that a hermeneutically schooled reader does two things:

1) The reader is aware that a text can be totally different from her expectation that she has before reading it.

2) The reader is aware of the meaning that she expects to find in a text and works from this expected meaning onwards to be able to make apparent what the text tries to convey.

The purpose of being aware is that we can work with our prejudices and expectations. By this we make room for die Sache selbst of a text:

Sieht man näher zu, so erkennt man jedoch, daß auch Meinungen nicht beliebig verstanden werden können. Sowenig wir einen Sprachgebrauch dauernd verkennen können, ohne daß der Sinn des Ganzen gestört wird, so wenig können wir an unserer eigenen Vormeinungen über die Sache blindlings festhalten, wenn wir die Meinungen eines anderen verstehen

This quote is interesting for our research purposes as is the concept of die Sache selbst in relation to a text or speech. Gadamer seems to think that there is something in a text limits the way we can understand it. When we engage in a dialogue with someone or engage in reading of a text, we cannot simply hold on to our pre-understanding about which a text writes or the other speaks of. There is something, an X (die Sache selbst?), that makes any interpretation impossible and a range of interpretations possible. This makes a lot of sense because any interpretation of a text cannot be right. Therefore, there must be something that limits the interpreter. But what is this? And can we assume its presence in a text?

Can we access each other’s thoughts? For now, it seems with Gadamer that we can access each other’s thoughts, by abiding to his two practical virtues of a good reader. This makes way for die Sache selbst of a text or utterance. If we would understand Gadamer in this way, should we then assume that the author can put his thoughts in a text and that the thoughts are die Sache selbst of a text. Is this the case of Gadamer? And what does it mean for our question when it is not? I will keep these questions in mind when I go on reading Wahrheit und Methode.

Before I end this letter, I want to discuss Gadamer’s view on bias (Vorurteil). He claims that prejudice or bias became discredited in the Enlightenment and that we still discredit it now. The Enlightenment knows two forms of prejudice. First, the prejudice that arises due to the authority of the speaker or author. Gadamer is a great philosopher, and he says so-and-so and because he is a great thinker according to a lot of philosophers, so-and-so must be true. Therefore, we can be prejudiced when we listen or read because of the status of an author or locutor. Second, and I like this one, we can judge too hastily. If we do not take our time and make good use of our Reason, we can judge too quickly on a matter. So if we do not take our time reading or listening, then we can make judgements about a matter from prejudice. In other words, if we want to understand someone’s message, we need to be aware that we can be biased towards certain people, and that we need to take our time.

I know I did not discuss everything I could from the part of Wahrheit und Methode that I read. When I looked at the wordcount, I thought that this letter would be too long if I would include the other concepts that Gadamer discusses. I will send another letter this week about the rest of the text. Next week on Monday I will send you a letter on the third part of Wahrheit und Methode that is focused on language and understanding.

I wish you all the best and thank you for reading my letter,


Letter II

Dear Martin,

In the first letter I wrote to you, I stayed much on the surface of the matter. In this letter I will try to give a short overview of the main themes I encountered in Wahrheit und Methode that are interesting for the question we asked the text. At the end of the letter, I will ask myself what Gadamer would think of the question: Are the thoughts of others accessible? I doubt if he would accept the question as we asked it.

Gadamer thinks that our prejudices play a fundamental part in our understanding of a subject matter (die Sache). This is not the case for a reason that understands itself as absolute reason which is able to attain knowledge of a subject matter outside of its historical and cultural embeddedness. Gadamer does not think that reason that understands itself as absolute is right, because reasons self-understanding is itself historical. To use an observation of my own, when René Descartes tries to unthink everything he knows in his Meditations, he still is dependent on language. His reason did not learn this language by itself, but language is something he is learned to do. Let us not even speak of the practice of doing philosophy or science. If it is the case that the self-understanding of reason is influenced by our historical and cultural disposition, then absolute reason does not exist. It is the case that the self-understanding of reason is influenced by its disposition. Therefore, absolute reason does not exist.

We can find this argument in the section named “Die Rehabilitierung von Autorität und Tradition.” In that text part we can also find Gadamer’s positive account of prejudice. According to Gadamer, there are two forms of prejudice that exist. We can fall into prejudice or prejudgment (Vorurteil) when we do not make disciplined use of our reason. If we judge to quickly, pre-judge (Vor-urteil), then we can jump to wrong conclusion that are untrue of the subject matter (die Sache). Second, prejudice can arise when we rely on authority instead of our own reason. If we rely on the authority and do not think of ourselves then we can make wrong judgement about the subject matter. On the first form Gadamer agrees with ignoring any further engagement. I must say that I agree with it as well and I do not think that many people would disagree with it. On the second form Gadamer has something interesting to say. He argues that there is no absolute difference between questioning authority and following tradition, because both can be grounded on a rational judgement. So we can use our reason and follow tradition. Why is this important for Gadamer to point out?

We are always already within tradition because we are part of the historical process that human beings research. When we make history our object of inquiry, we tend to forget that we are part of the object of study. Think only of the phenomenon that there is branch of history that inquires the history of history writing. But why write history? Why are we interested in our past? According to Gadamer we are being ‘addressed’ (angesprochen) by history. The reason that we can be addressed is due to our embeddedness in tradition. Being embedded in tradition enables the objects around us to appear as meaningful. What is meaningful for us is familiar what is not meaningful for us is unfamiliar. In this sense tradition is something that enables a certain disclosure of the world. We choose what parts of a tradition are continued and what parts are not, through using our reason. I think that Gadamer misses an account of power relations in his theory of traditions. This is present, however, in Walter Benjamin’s Über den Begriff der Geschichte where his argument against historicism is that we are always confronted with the perspective of the victor in historical sources. This is something to think about.

From the text part “Das Beispiel des Klassischen” I found one very interesting idea. The reason why we should study the classics is because the classics are such part of our reasoning that a self-reflective reason cannot but engage with them to know where his thoughts stand on. The classics play a pre-reflective role in our reasoning. Is Gadamer making a case of abiding to our established canon? And isn’t there something to say for this? Can we not read Kant and still understand certain ideas that we find in later philosophy?

In “Die Hermeneutische Bedeutung des Zeitabstandes” we can find the following quote that is interesting for our question:

Wenn wir einem Text zu verstehen suchen, versetzen wir uns nicht in die seelische Verfassung des Autors, sondern wenn Man schon von Sichversetzen sprechen will, so versetzen wir uns in die Perspektive, unter der der andere seine Meinung gewonnen hat. ” (P. 276)

Can we access each other’s thoughts? One thing that we cannot do is access each other’s mental states (seelische Verfassung). We can place ourselves (sich versetzen) in the perspective wherefrom the other formed their opinion. Does this mean that we can access each other’s perspective, according to Gadamer? And if so, then how would we do that?

According to Gadamer, we should not focus on the inner experience of the author. We should focus on the message at hand and the subject matter (die Sache) which is the object of the message. The most we can do here is to try to discover the objective truth of the message by entering into the perspective and even adding to the arguments that would be reasonable from that perspective. How can we do this? Of course, Gadamer refers to the hermeneutic circle that starts with the anticipation of meaning that we think we will get out of the message. When we walk to the beach, we expect there to be water. Likewise, when we want to interpret a text, we expect there will be a meaningful message. A message, like this letter, exists from parts- letters, words, sentences, paragraphs- and the assumed coherent meaning of the whole. The parts of the text make us adapt the coherent meaning of the whole and the coherent meaning of the whole makes us fit the parts together. Think of a poem where all the words together make the poem the poem that it is. You will read the poem expecting that there is coherent meaning that can be distilled from the whole. Word for word, sentence for sentence, your eyes move over these words and the individual words acquire their meaning through each other. The meaning of the whole is dependent on the sum and the specific order of the words. If there is one word or sentence missing, then the meaning of the whole is different. There is a circular movement between the coherent meaning of the whole and the specific words in their order. This is the road Gadamer presents to us, if our destination is the perspective of the other.

I could go on with other parts of the text I read. But for now, I think we have enough to entertain in our thoughts. I hope I described the concepts well enough. Wahrheit und Methode is such a rich text that it takes me longer to process it then I thought it would take. And, in the meantime I read an article on the relationship between Davidson’s and Gadamer’s philosophy. I will report on that in my next letter!

Kind regards,

Letter III

Dear Martin,

In this letter I will not engage with the text Wahrheit und Methode. Instead, I will take a little excurs to an article. The title is “Gadamer and Davidson on Language and Thought” and it is published in 2012 by David Vessey. Vessey argues in the beginning of his article that ‘bringing together analytic and continental philosophy (…) by bringing together Gadamer and Davidson makes sense given their shared commitments.’ What do you think about this ‘bringing together’ of analytic and continental philosophy? And what do you think about the relation between Davidson and Gadamer? Is an article like David Vessey’s not the proof that the Analytic-Continental divide only exists in virtue of us holding it there?

In Truth, Language, and History Davidson comments at length on Gadamer’s hermeneutics. In the text “Gadamer and Plato’s, Philebus”, Davidson argues that the difference between him and Gadamer is that for Davidson a shared language is not necessary for a dialogue or understanding. We can still communicate with one another, even when we do not have a shared language. The reason for this possibility is that we can still have a shared relation to the world and from that basis we can accurately understand what the other is trying to convey. To use an example, we can take a malapropism from the famous boxer Mike Tyson. When Tyson lost a boxing match in 2002, a journalist asked him what the next step will be in his career. And Tyson replied: “I just might fade into Bolivian.” We all understand that Tyson meant “oblivion” instead of “Bolivian”, so the point of his sentence comes across, despite the malapropism, despite he did not use the proper word. In other words, Davidson seems to say that we can have a different language but as long as we can make each other understand what we mean, we can have a dialogue and come to an understanding.

For Davidson a shared language is not necessary for having a successful conversation. We do not all share the same words, and, in many conversations, we encounter words we never heard before. In a dialogue the speaker and the listener have a prior theory. The idea of a prior theory is that the speaker and the listener have a preliminary idea of what they can expect from contextual information about the situation and the persons involved. In the process of a dialogue, on the one hand, the listener may have to change his or her prior theory to understand the speaker. The speaker, on the other hand, needs to change the use of words to make his or her point and get the information across. “Understanding occurs when the listener’s revised theory corresponds with the intended theory of the speaker,” writes Vessey. Successful theories are “passing theories”, according to Davidson. Passing theories occur when the listener has understood the intention of the words of the speaker. We could say then that in a conversation the speaker wants to convey A using the words x, y and z. The listener has the prior theory B. In the conversation the speaker senses that he needs to use the words x, y and h, instead of x, y and z, so that A is understood. If the listener understands A from the used words, then we have a case of a passing theory. If the listener does not understand A from the used words, we have a failed theory. The speaker will be challenged to revise his use of words again. I must admit, I really like Davidson’s theory of language because it seems like a clear description of what is happening when two people interact.

Now Vessey’s argument is that 1) Gadamer’s conception of dialogue (Gespräch) is different of Davidson’s and 2) this difference points towards a deeper disagreement between Davidson and Gadamer. Vessey even deploys a false conclusion in the middle of his article. In this conclusion the disagreement between the two thinkers is resolved by concluding that Davidson talks about language and communication in general, and Gadamer about a specific instance of dialogue. The true conclusion is that both thinkers have a deeper disagreement that lays in their conflictual understanding of the relation between language and thought.

For Gadamer a Gespräch is not simply the transfer of information between two interlocuters. It is rather the joint act of finding the best way to articulate a specific understanding of a subject matter (die Sache). This means that it is a social activity that has transformational power for the participants. With transformational power we mean to say that a dialogue changes our understanding of the world by transforming our understanding of a subject matter. The ultimate outcome of a dialogue is a ‘fusion of horizons’, which is an agreement on a common understanding of the subject matter or a disagreement on the understanding of a subject matter. In the latter, there needs to be a shared awareness that the disagreement does benefit the general understanding of the subject matter. Thus, either way there is some improvement in our understanding when there was a fusion of horizons.

Vessey argues that Davidson misses the point of Gadamer’s concept of dialogue. In de Gadamer’s dialogue the participants do not need to have a shared language, but the participants build towards a shared language so that they can have a shared understanding of the subject matter. This misunderstanding on Davidson’s part comes from a deeper misunderstanding about Gadamer’s idea on the relation of thought, language and reality. Vessey does not claim it specifically, but if Davidson wanted to argue against Gadamer, he should have argued against this part of Gadamer’s philosophy. Before I explain Gadamer’s position, I will reconstruct Davidson’s position.

For Davidson thoughts are dependent on language but thoughts do not need to be lingual. This means that language enables us to have thoughts but not all the thoughts that we have are lingual per se. To be a thinking, rational creature is to be able to express different thoughts and to interpret the thoughts of others. The content of the thoughts that we have is caused by external reality that operates independently from us. To establish what the proper cause is of my beliefs, we enter into a high-level triangulation. Which means that we must recognize others to have beliefs and thoughts as well. If we have the possibility to recognize thoughts and beliefs from others, then we have a concept of thoughts and beliefs. And, if we have a concept of thoughts and beliefs then we must have language. (Here I miss something: does he mean that having a concept implies having language?) Therefore, language is necessary to establish the empirical contents of our thoughts in triangulation. In short, language is necessary for thoughts and beliefs because it makes it possible to have the correct thoughts and beliefs about the world through triangulation.

Gadamer would probably argue that this view on language and thought is too instrumentalist. Language is perceived here as a tool that we can pick up and use to communicate our thoughts with. The purpose of this tool would be that we can have the correct, or true thoughts about the world. This contradicts his own position, where we are always already in language. We cannot unthink language, as we have seen with the example of the Cartesian meditation, where we could only deny everything through language. Language makes thought possible, according to Gadamer. Thinking implies a meaningful understanding of a subject matter, and this understanding is expressed in language. Therefore, any subject matter appears to us within language and expresses already a certain understanding of the world.

Vessey does not make it all to clear, according to me. I argue that there is an implication that he misses to point out clearly. The differences that Davidson and Gadamer have in their commitments about language and thought, implies a different understanding of our relation towards reality. For Davidson, what is there is there, irrespective of the words you use or the language you speak. Whereas for Gadamer, what is there is there in a certain way. The use of words, the culture and epoch we are born in makes reality appear as it appears to us. This does not mean that there is nothing outside our framework, there is the subject matter (die Sache), but the way the subject matter does appear to us depend on what words use to make it present to ourselves and others.

Maybe I am mistaking and misusing a term, but I think that we came to see that hermeneutics is an ontological enterprise. Gadamer’s hermeneutics is ontological. Davidson seems to accept a certain world that we can understand better or worse, so it seems that he stays on a more epistemological side by accepting certain naturalist ontology. I hope this makes sense and please correct me if I am wrong or to rash in my argumentation.

Letter IV

Dear Martin,

I did not write you a letter for a while. Nevertheless, I was busy with the subject of hermeneutics in many different ways. As we noted, understanding is always there: when you are in a conversation, reading a book or article, or when you perform an activity. As a subject you understand this as this or that as that, consciously or unconsciously, and understanding seems to open the world for us in a certain way. And the way the world is opened up, determines the way in which we think we can move around in it and so how we eventually move around it. This makes me remember one of the first classes you gave me in my first year. You tried to explain to us that sitting on a chair already assumed a certain understanding of the object, the situation and many other factors such as our self-understanding. This struck me a lot as a person who was sitting at that moment. 

According to my planning, I am supposed to write about the second chapter of part II – “Wiedergewinnung des hermeneutische Grundproblems”. I am reading this at the moment, but the theme of this letter will be about subsection d of the previous chapter of part II, Das princip der Wirkungsgeschichte. This subsection was left out of the last letter, but is of tremendous importance for our question: Can we access each other’s thoughts?

The central concept of this chapter is Wirkungsgeschichte and this concept, as you know, is central to Gadamer’s philosophy. Concepts that are related to the concept of Wirkungsgeschichte are situation, horizon and historical objectivism. This last concept refers to the hermeneutical school that thinks that we can understand the past objectively, which is not possible when you accept the concept of Wirkungsgeschichte. Interestingly, Gadamer praises the methodological stringency of the historical objectivists – and the method of statistics- but he tries to explain that they cannot move beyond or outside history itself with any method or whatsoever. We are historical subjects, our consciousness is historical, so history works through us.

The method of statistics and historical objectivism suggest that we can attain the objective truth of a subject matter by following a method. A method is perceived as a means to come to an end. Gadamer disagrees that this is ‘objective’ understanding of a subject matter is possible. The reason for this impossibility is that Wirkungsgeschichte is always at play in any interpretation. This means two things. First, the questions that arise in us, and so what we ask, are influenced by the working of history itself. An interesting example is an event like the war in Ukraine. The history of Russia and Ukraine becomes of interest due to the war which asks for our attention right now. The second point Gadamer wants to make is that we lose ourselves in the immediacy of the truth at hand when we confront an historical object. The truth of the object is lost due to our falling into the immediacy of the truth at hand. An example could be that when we read the concept ‘God’ in a Medieval text, we bring our modern, Western interpretation of the term with us. We need to correct this tendency which is, I think very natural, so that the text itself can start to speak to us. A result of not being aware of our historical situatedness could be, then, that we do not put current problems into their proper historical context, while even are smallest problems are part of our shared traditions.  (I read in a text by Davidson- I do not know which one- that Gadamer was a relativist, but more and more it seems that he is really concerned with the question of objectivity. At least, he still aims at it, and he tries to find ways to come to it. Do you see that as well?)

In the text, Gadamer moves from the concept of situation to the concept of horizon and ends at the conscious construction of two horizons which need to ‘cancel each other out’ (Abhebung). We will start with the concept of situation. The concept of situation asks of the reader to take a look around and think about our current position, or this is what it made me do. Situation is related to Hegel’s concept of substance, which is defined as the sum of our subjective convictions and behaviours. We can never move beyond our situation because we are always within a situation. When we try to objectify our situation then we are in the situation of objectifying our situation. It makes me think about objectifying yourself: you can never take yourself as an object of thought because that which objectifies always falls out of the objectification. In other words, you can never look at yourself because it always requires something looking and this what sees (the eye of the mind?) is not perceivable. Likewise, objectifying your subjective convictions and behaviours leads you to performing the act of objectifying your subjective convictions and behaviours, which is in itself a behaviour that comes from a subjective conviction. And objectifying the objectifying of our subjective convictions and behaviours etc.

After describing the concept of situation, Gadamer moves on to the concept of horizon. “Alle endliche Gegenwart hat ihre Schranken,” he writes. Thinking about our situation needs to make us aware of the limitations of our situation. Implicitly, I think, this relates to understanding of our pre-judgements or our horizon of expectations. Instead of making this relation, Gadamer starts to introduce the concept of horizon. Horizon is defined as our point of view, wherefrom everything becomes visible. Awareness of our horizon enables us to see what is important and what not, it puts events, things etc. into perspective. We always move within a horizon and we never move outside of a horizon because our horizon moves with us. Apropos the concept of horizon, I would like to pose some questions: where does a horizon come from? Does it come from our experiences or is it imposed on us by our culture/history? Is it a combination of both, because, on the one hand, our experiences are shaped by our culture, and, on the other hand, there first is the experience of a culture before it can shape our experiences later on?

One of the most important aspects of understanding is trying to find someone’s horizon. We want to find the other’s point of view, so that we can understand the person’s expressions from out this second person perspective. It is easy to see the critique that Gadamer has on this because he is very critical, but like with his critique on historical objectivism and statistic, he is not dismissing everything as wrong. This is apparent in the following quote:

Der Text, der historische verstanden wird, wird aus dem Anspruch, Wahres zu sagen, förmlich herausgedrängt. Indem man die Überlieferung vom historischen Standpunkt aussieht, d.h. sich in die historische Situation versetzen und den historische Horizont zu rekonstruieren sucht, meint man zu verstehen. In Wahrheit hat man den Anspruch grundsätzlich aufgegeben, in der Überlieferung für einen selber gültige und verständliche Wahrheit zu finden. Solche Anerkennung der Andersheit des anderen, die dieselbe zum Gegenstande objektiver Erkenntnis macht, ist insofern eine grundsätzliche Suspension seines Anspruchs.” (p.287)

When we read closely then we see that this quote exists out of two parts. The second part of the quote starts with the sentence ‘In Wahrheit’. In the first part, Gadamer argues that understanding is placing ourselves within the situation of the Other and that, let’s call it, a simple theory of interpretation argues that understanding is just reconstructing the Other’s horizon. In the second part of the quote, Gadamer makes clear that in this way we are pacifying the words of another because we do not let it claim any Truth (with the big T) – notice how the term Wahrheit has two meanings in the sentence. It seems that Gadamer argues that respecting the true difference between the self and the Other, we need to not only reconstruct a horizon but also let the Other make a truth claim which ‘touches’ us. Is Gadamer arguing that when we only understand someone relative from her horizon, that we cannot lose and the other cannot be right in some ways? Isn’t this idea in some way a critique against liberalism, where everyone can have their ‘own’ opinion about whatever?

After making this point and posing four questions on the concept of horizon, Gadamer redefines what a good construction is of making a historical horizon. Understanding does require the construction of a historical horizon but it does not mean that we leave our own contemporary horizon behind so that we can wholly place ourselves in the horizon of the Other. We cannot place ourselves in the shoes of the Other, and if we would try to do that then we would break them because we cannot put off our own shoes ever. The following quote exemplifies that:

Denn was heißt Sichversetzen? Gewiß nicht einfach: Von-sich-absehen. Natürlich bedarf es dessen insoweit, als man die andere Situation sich wirklich vor Augen stellen muß. Aber in diese andere Situation muß man sich selber gerade mitbringen. Das erst erfüllt den Sinn des Sichversetzen. Versetz man sich z.B. in die Lage eines anderen Menschen, dann wird Man ihn verstehen, d.h. sich der Andersheit, ja der unauflöslichen Individualität des Anderen gerade dadurch bewußt werden, daß man sich in seine Lage versetzt.” (p. 288)

I want to read this quote from the perspective of our research question: Can we access each other thoughts? It seems that two things need to be done: 1) we need to place ourselves in the situation (horizon?) of the Other and 2) we need to bring ourselves to the party, so to say. This second point is important here for Gadamer. If we want to grasp the point of view of the other, as it is, the point of view of the Other and not of ourselves, then we need to keep being aware that we are interpreting from our current point of view. Later, he calls this the superior wide view that comes with the difficult task of the Wirkungsgeschichtliches Bewusstsein.

Vielmehr ist Verstehen immer der Vorgang der Verschmelzung solcher vermeintlich für sich seiender Horizonte,” writes Gadamer. In the process of historical understanding, we need to momentarily construct two horizons so that we can lift the constructed difference, to see how the past made our current standpoint possible and to see how the standpoint from the past Other is effectively different. Is understanding then for Gadamer always understanding ourselves? And, are Gadamer’s claims only important in relation to interpreting the past? For me it seems, at least, that they are evenly important for understanding, let’s say, you or someone from a different culture. What do you think of this?

Thank you for taking the time to read my letters. I missed writing them a lot and in the same manner, I missed our discussions.

Kind regards,

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