Hermeneutics and “the Near”

Concerning interpreters’ obligation to look beyond themselves, Hans-Georg Gadamer observes the following:

We are always affected, in hope and fear, by what is nearest to us, and hence we approach the testimony of the past under its influence. Thus it is constantly necessary to guard against overhastily assimilating the past to our own expectations of meaning. Only then can we listen to tradition in a way that permits it to make its own meaning heard (Gadamer 304).

Thus, Gadamer advises interpreters always to seek to put themselves into the position of the other person(s) whom these interpreters wish to understand. For, by so doing, interpreters may begin, albeit imperfectly, to look beyond themselves “not in order to look away from [what is near] but to see it better, within a larger whole and in truer proportion” (Gadamer 304).

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Hans Georg Gadamer
Hans Georg Gadamer

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