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Logos [12-29-09]

“It is not then, at all a case of safeguarding ourselves against the tradition that speaks out of the text, but, on the contrary, to keep everything away that could hinder us in understanding it in terms of the thing.  It is the tyranny of hidden prejudices that makes us deaf to the language that speaks to us in tradition.  Heidegger’s demonstration that the concept of consciousness in Descartes and of spirit in Hegel is still influenced by Greek substance-ontology, which sees being in terms of what is present and actual, undoubtedly goes beyond the self-understanding of modern metaphysics, yet not in an arbitrary, wilful way, but on the basis of a fore-having that in fact makes this tradition intelligible by revealing the ontological premises of the concept of subjectivity.  On the other hand, Heidegger discovers in Kant’s critique of ‘dogmatic’ metaphysics the idea of a metaphysics the finite which is a challenge to his own ontological scheme.  Thus he ‘secures’ the scientific theme by framing it within the understanding of tradition and so putting it, in a sense, at risk.  This is the concrete form of the historical consciousness that is involved in understanding.

This recognition that all understanding inevitably involves some prejudice gives the hermeneutical problem its real thrust.  By the light of this insight it appears that historicism, despite its critique of rationalism and of natural law philosophy, is based on the modern enlightenment and unknowingly shares its prejudices.  And there is one prejudice of the enlightenment that is essential to it: the fundamental prejudice of the enlightenment is the prejudice against prejudice itself, which deprives tradition of its power.”
-Hans-Georg Gadamer,  Truth and Method

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