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Bookmarks Hans-Georg Gadamer's Truth andMethod is probably one ofthe least thoroughly read of influential books in modern thought. Like Hegel's Phenomenology, it is a work diat tends to be started, rather than finished. Beyond considering dieir own laziness, English readers may apportion some of the blame to die only translation available to them, but the German is tough going too. When Gadamer was beginning his career, his lectures tended toward difficulty. He reports, "My friends had even invented a new scientific unit: it was called a 'Gad' and designated a certain measure of unnecessary complexity." The remark is quoted byJoel C. Weinsheimer in the preface to his lucid and rewarding study, Gadamer's Hermeneutics: A Reading of Truth and Method (Yale University Press, 1985, $20.00). Weinsheimer's object is to make Gadamer's argument more intelligible by a Gad or two, and he does so splendidly. One problem with Gadamer's magnum opus is that it presupposes a background which many English readers will not have. Names such as Kant, Schleiermacher, Dilthey, Ranke, and even Rickert may be familiar, but Gadamer also depends on such figures as Chladenius, Rambach, and Droysen. Weinsheimer helps here, but what makes this book even more attractive is the way he has tied Gadamer's hermeneutics to many vexed questions in the philosophy ofscience. Gadamer himself has something to say about Mill's Logk; in a long, brilliant opening essay, "Hermeneutics and the Natural Sciences," Weinsheimer extends the arguments to Carnap, Tarski, Godei, Russell, Popper, Lakatos, and Kuhn. The clarity of Weinsheimer's writing is an uncommon thing in hermeneutic theory, and I've found most stimulating his treatment of fundamental ideas in Gadamer, including the critique of historicism, the concept of Bildung, and die concept of a classic. There is an excellent discussion of problems of application in hermeneutics. It is "the first and last principle" of Gadamer's hermeneutics, Weinsheimer says, that we "have something to learn from history, and any theory of historical interpretation that tends to ignore, repress, or repudiate truth arouses Gadamer's suspicion. Repudiation of the truth claim of the past constitutes explicit or implicit self-aggrandizement. . . ." That literary theorists cannot responsibly ignore the philosophy of science is a point demonstrated by Weinsheimer's book. Yet it can be exasperating to encounter postmodern types who cite the work of philosophers of science— 155 156Philosophy and Literature especially those who deny the value ofaconception ofscientific truth—as though it represented a variety of uncontested ("true") scientific fact. Some of these folks could profit from reading an amusingly aggressive book I've only recendy come across. It's by David Stove: Popper and After: Four Modern Irrationalists (Pergamon Press, 1982, $10.50 paperbound). As you might guess from the title, Stove thinks the philosophy of science has gone badly wrong in the work of Popper and Kuhn; the other two "irrationalists" are Lakatos and, naturally, Feyerabend. The book might prove a bracing antidote for lit critters who have swallowed too much Kuhn, and it includes a "Helps to Young Authors" as an appendix to the first chapter on "neutralising success words." Stove tells us how to rewrite, in the style of the best modern authorities, the sentence "Cook discovered Cook Strait." Imre Lakatos: "Cook 'discovered' Cook Strait." Karl Popper: "Among an infinity of equally impossible alternatives, one hypothesis which has been especially fruitful in suggesting problems for further research and critical discussion is the conjecture (first 'confirmed' by the work of Cook) that a Strait separates northern from southern New Zealand." T. S. Kuhn: "It would of course be a gross anachronism to call the flat-earth paradigm in geography mistaken. . . . Under the Magellanic paradigm, however, one of the problems posed, and solved in the negative, was that of whether New Zealand is a single land mass. That this problem was solved by Cook is, however, a vulgar error of whig historians, utterly discredited by recent historiography . . . . Much more research by my graduate students into the current sociology of the geographical profession will be needed, however, before it will be known whether, under present paradigms, the problem of the existence of Cook Straitremains solved, or has become...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 155-158
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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