November 9: Morten Sørensen Thaning presents on Gadamer

In addition to functioning as a Canguilhem–Foucault reading group, the workshop will host one guest speaker this fall.

Morten Sørensen Thaning,

a visiting scholar from Copenhagen who is attending our meetings through his stay in Chicago, will present his paper

“The Concept of Tradition in Philosophical Hermeneutics”.

The talk will take place at  our regular Tuesday time on November 9, from 4:30–6:20 pm in Foster 505.

The paper contributes, among other things, to our examination of different kinds of normativity by analyzing the double role of tradition as enabling and constraining the possibilities of understanding and interpretation.

Here is an abstract:

The paper is an attempt to reinterpret Hans-Georg Gadamer’s concept of tradition and it begins by arguing that the notion of tradition plays an important epistemological role in his theory of understanding. A common criticism of Gadamer’s concept of tradition is that it plays down the space for critical reflection. The notion of tradition is perceived by many of his critics as an example of postulating a fundamental level in our experiential life that cannot be questioned and criticized. As an alternative to this readinøg, I interpret Gadamer’s concepts of tradition and prejudice in the light of his explicit acknowledgement that every appeal to bare immediacy beyond the reach of reflective scrutiny is futile. Rather than an invocation of immediacy, Gadamer’s idea is that tradition and prejudice positively contribute to every successful act of understanding in a way that outstrips our ability to bring to reflective transparency. Appreciating this point makes us able to understand why Gadamer describes understanding as an activity that is constitutively not at our disposal (unverfügbar). In a further step, I examine the ontological or metaphysical implications of the concept of tradition which become clear when we focus on how Gadamer conceives tradition as a successor to the doctrine of belongingness (Zugehörigkeit) between mind and world that shaped Classic Greek metaphysical thought. A consequence of this ontological dimension is that our initiation into tradition is the way we acquire a world-view at all. The concept of tradition thus stresses the historicity of meaning and at the same time opposes any account of meaning and intentionality in constructivist terms. In a third and final step, I attempt to show how this concept of tradition undermines Robert Brandom’s pragmatist appropriation of philosophical hermeneutics, in particular his distinction between de dicto and de re interpretation.

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