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Unquiet Understanding

Gadamer's Philosophical Hermeneutics

Nicholas Davey

Publication Year: 2006

In Unquiet Understanding, Nicholas Davey reappropriates the radical content of Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics to reveal that it offers a powerful critique of Nietzsche’s philosophy of language, nihilism, and post-structuralist deconstructions of meaning. By critically engaging with the practical and ethical implications of philosophical hermeneutics, Davey asserts that the importance of philosophical hermeneutics resides in a formidable double claim that strikes at the heart of both traditional philosophy and deconstruction. He shows that to seek control over the fluid nature of linguistic meaning with rigid conceptual regimes or to despair of such fluidity because it frustrates hope for stable meaning is to succumb to nihilism. Both are indicative of a failure to appreciate that understanding depends upon the vital instability of the “word.” This innovative book demonstrates that Gadamer’s thought merits a radical reappraisal and that it is more provocative than commonly supposed.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page

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pp. iii

Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iv-vi


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pp. vii-ix

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pp. xi-xvi

If there can be no last word in philosophical hermeneutics, there can be no first. The question is how and where to join a continuing “conversation.” Gadamer’s hermeneutics has evolved in large part as a response to provocative questions concerning the finitude and subjectivity of understanding in the work of Dilthey and Heidegger. The character of that response is far from settled. The Wirkungsgeschichte of Gadamer’s Werke continues to unfold.

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pp. xvii

My thanks to the University of Dundee for the period of research leave (2002–2003) that enabled me to write the initial draft of this book. A great intellectual debt is owed to all those who took part in the Heidelberg Hermeneutics Seminar (1989–2002). For tutoring me in the ways of the unspoken, I owe so much to Barbara, Cecily, and Felix. I am grateful to Dorothea Franck and Karin Hiscock for the openings their conversations...

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CHAPTER ONE: Philosophical Hermeneutics: Navigating the Approaches

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pp. 1-36

Philosophical hermeneutics is not a traditional theory of interpretation. It does not seek to establish a generally acceptable method for the reading of obscure and difficult texts. Philosophical hermeneutics is, much rather, an interpretation of interpretation, a prolonged meditation upon what “happens” to us within “hermeneutic experience” when we are challenged by texts and artworks, ancient and modern. Though it eschews formal...

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CHAPTER TWO: Philosophical Hermeneutics and Bildung

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pp. 37-108

No term in Gadamer’s philosophy is more worthy of undergoing a form of Heideggerian Destruktion than the concept of Bildung.1 The term has a variety of plain and obscure meanings, which respectively imply formation, cultivation, and education. These lend the term its traditional gravitas though some of the more conservative resonances have notably detracted from the philosophical intentions of philosophical hermeneutics.

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CHAPTER THREE: Intimations of Meaning: Philosophical Hermeneutics and the Defense of Speculative Understanding

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pp. 109-170

Philosophical hermeneutics is philosophical in that it strives to discern objectivities within the subjective voice. The concern with tradition, with Bildung and with die Sachen endeavors to articulate the historical and ontological “truths” that inflect that voice. The articulation of a hermeneutic practice that strains to discern such objectivities in both the spoken and the written is integral to a conception of language as a world disclosive...

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CHAPTER FOUR: Understanding’s Disquiet

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pp. 171-252

The position of Hermes was truly unenviable. On the one hand, he had to translate the wishes of the gods into terms that mortals could understand, and on the other he had to transpose the language of humans into an idiom that the immortals might grasp. Hermes was in genuine difficulty. Though he could communicate with both gods and humans he could not communicate his particular predicament of being caught in between...


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pp. 253-274


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pp. 275-284

Index [Includes Back Cover]

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pp. 285-291

E-ISBN-13: 9780791481288
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791468418
Print-ISBN-10: 0791468410

Page Count: 302
Publication Year: 2006