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In 1960 Hans-Georg Gadamer, then a sixty-year-old German philosophy professor at Heidelberg, published Truth and Method ( Wahrheit und Methode). Although he had authored many essays, articles, and reviews, to this point Gadamer had published only one other book, his habilitation on Plato in 1931: Plato’s Dialectical Ethics. As a title for this work on a theory of interpretation, he first proposed to his publisher, Mohr Siebeck, “Philosophical Hermeneutics.” The publisher responded that “hermeneutics” was too obscure a term. Gadamer then proposed “Truth and Method” for a work that found, over time, great resonance and made “hermeneutics” and Gadamer’s name commonplace in intellectual circles worldwide. Truth and Method has been translated into many languages, including Chinese and Japanese. It found and still finds a receptive readership, in part, because, as the title suggests, it addresses large and central philosophical issues in an attempt to find a way between or beyond objectivism and relativism, and scientism and irrationalism. He accomplishes this by developing an account of what he takes to be the universal hermeneutic experience of understanding. Understanding, for Gadamer, is itself always a matter of interpretation. Understanding is also always a matter of language.
This chapter provides a biography of Gadamer and includes an overview of the philosophical work that Gadamer produced. It provides an account of his youth and education, his early career in Nazi Germany, and his career after World War II. He was named Rektor of Leipzig University in East Germany but gave up the position and came to West Germany, first to Frankfurt and then to Heidelberg. In 1960 he published Truth and Method, which slowly became recognized world-wide. He retired in 1968 and was very productive throughout his old age.
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