Truly unmethodical: Gadamer’s “Truth and Method” in English translation

Photograph of H. G. GadamerThis spring, I had the privilege of teaching a seminar in which H.-G. Gadamer’s Truth and Method was the core text through which we worked over the course of the term. The work’s English translation is in its second edition, prepared by Joel Weinsheimer and Donald Marshall. This second edition, however, now exists in at least four different printings with four different sets of pagination.

An overview of the printings

In his Whose Community? Which Interpretation?, Merold Westphal has the following helpful note about the earliest two of these printings:

In a reader-unfriendly gesture, Crossroad reissued this second edition in 2004 with different pagination. (70n2)

I haven’t found a 2004 edition issued by “Crossroad.” The first English edition seems to have been issued in 1975 by Sheed and Ward, with the second edition following in 1989 by Crossroad. The second printing of the second edition I’ve only yet found to have been issued by Continuum. The first of these was in 2004. A second Continuum (third overall for the second edition of the English translation) was issued in 2006.

The main difference between the second and third printings (both by Continuum) seems to be the shift from footnotes in 2004 to endnotes in 2006. So, I wonder whether I’m missing a printing somewhere or whether Westphal’s footnote should perhaps read “Continuum reissued this second edition….”

In any case, the pagination shifts induce Westphal to adopt an awkward-but-helpful citation format of “TM x/y”

where x = pagination for the 1989 edition and y = pagination for the 2004 edition. (70n2)

Westphal’s volume came to press itself in 2009. So, the differences in the 2006 printing of Truth and Method may have come to light insufficiently early to have invited yet a third set of pagination to be included in Westphal’s footnotes.

The situation has, however, now been still further compounded with Bloomsbury’s 2013 release of its own edition in the Bloomsbury Revelations series. This fourth printing of the second edition has been entirely re-typeset, producing still a fourth set of pagination that readers and researchers must handle.

Further, this fourth printing appears currently to be the only one readily in print, Continuum having been absorbed by Bloomsbury. The second  and third printings under the Continuum name seem to have been discontinued but are still available in a variety of more-or-less used copies. The two times that I’ve previously taught the seminar that I did again this spring, I’d used the 2006 text. But, students started having an increasingly difficult time obtaining copies in good shape. In addition, not until writing this post did I fully realize some of the shifts involved between the 2004 and 2006 texts themselves. So, for this spring, we shifted over to the 2013 text, hoping to bring things current and make getting one standard text into folks hands a bit easier process.

The 2013 printing and its difficulties

Ahead of obtaining my copy, I looked at some of its reviews on Amazon, and three in particular struck me. One concern was related to this fourth printing’s durability and margin size. Having now worked through and thoroughly marked up the whole text of the 2013 printing, both its durability and margin size seem quite reasonable to me. (On advice I first encountered in Rick Ostrov’s Power Reading, however, I do routinely prepare a book’s spine before I start reading the volume. So, this may account for why the binding may or may not hold up well under different circumstances.)

Of more concern were two reviews that addressed the quality of the reprint itself (1, 2). Surely, though, I thought, these must be overly critical reviewers—who might themselves not be entirely able at judging where errors occur in what is admittedly quite a difficult text to begin with. Unfortunately, having now worked through it, there are several features in the 2013 printing that do make it seem to be a reasonable hypothesis that it was produced by scanning the 2006 text (which also has endnotes, as does the 2013 text), running it through optical character recognition software, and not proofreading it as attentively as would have been helpful to readers before it went to press (cf. Steve S.).

More minor errata

Some of the errata I’ve noted in the 2013 printing are below with the corresponding correction from the 2004 printing. (Yes, despite the fact that it looks like the 2013 printing derives from the 2006 printing, I’ve used the 2004 printing for this discussion as the reference basis for the table and class exchange scenario below.)

On page in the 2013 printing, the text Should read, as found in the 2004 printing
xii Erfah-rung Erfahrung
xv Ver-ständigung Verständigung
107 instead Instead
319 sciences: sciences.
326 techne —but techne—but
361 iilustrates illustrates
361 latter— “experience” latter—”experience”
370 platonic dialectic Platonic dialectic
417 bat but
456 language —differentiates language—differentiates
471 As f see it As I see it
496 grasped, ft grasped. It
518 “feeling [the smart quotation mark curls in the wrong direction] “feeling
520 need only have be need only have be [“need only have been”? a mutual error in the two printings?]
536 Historistnus Historismus
552 —”all [the smart quotation mark curls in the wrong direction] —”all
558 modem modern
559 Bewußitseins Bewußtseins
587 language —seems language—seems

A more serious erratum

Doubtless, this list is not a full one, and some of these errata are fairly nominal. But, in the seminar, we also came across a more serious erratum that we had to spend several minutes sorting out in order to understand what was happening.

In the 2013 printing, we read the following sentence:

In a real community of language, on the other hand, we do not first decide to agree but are always already in agreement, as Aristotle showed.82 (463)

On consulting note 82 to follow up on the Aristotle reference, we found

Cf. pp. 429f. above [and GW, II, 16, 74]

The bracketed portion is a reference to the series of Gadamer’s Gesammelte Werke (Collected Works). Dutifully following the reference to pages 429–30, therefore, we were puzzled to find not a discussion of Aristotle but of Plato and Socrates in Cratylus. After perusing that section for some minutes, I finally pulled the 2004 printing off the shelf, found the corresponding note (446n82), and followed its indication to pages 431–32 in that printing. Lo and behold, there, the discussion is indeed of Aristotle and his Topics in a way that helpfully informs the latter comment quoted above.

In the 2013 printing, however, this discussion doesn’t occur on pages 429–30—per the note in that printing. Rather, it appears on pages 448–49 (!). The endnote reading “Cf. pp. 429f. above [and GW, II, 16, 74]” apparently derives from the 2006 text. In that text, the endnote has the same reading as in the 2013 text, but the discussion of Aristotle and his Topics actually does occur in the 2006 text on pages 429–30.

In addition, the above-noted errata from xii and xv in the 2013 text do not involve hyphenation in the 2004 printing. But, both involve line-breaking hyphens in the 2006 printing that apparently weren’t removed when the formatting changed for the 2013 text and these terms no longer fell at the ends of lines.

Summary

In sum, Gadamer’s Truth and Method is a seminal text for contemporary reflection on hermeneutics. It is also, unquestionably, a difficult text through which to work. (For an introduction and overview, see the very good walk-through in this post.) English speakers can surely be grateful for English editions of the work, but the publication history of this text in English and what seem to be the errata in the most up-to-date English printing mean that—at least for the present—there are a few additional matters to be noted and navigated as readers work through and with this tome.

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