chapter  2
19 Pages

Plato as Impulse and Obstacle in Gadamer’s Development of a Hermeneutical Theory

WithP. Christopher Smith

Plato's dialectic as exemplified in Socratic dialegesthai thus establishes a central point for Hans-Georg Gadamer's hermeneutical theory: people learn precisely from Plato that an understanding of something is reached in a dialogical process, i.e., in discussion. Though Hegel's dialectic and Heidegger's destruction of metaphysics are certainly very important, this chapter expresses that the "effect" of Plato's dialogues on Gadamer's thought is more distinctive than any other. This "effect", however, is both an impulse and an obstacle for Gadamer's endeavors, and it discusses sides of this ambivalence, focusing chiefly on Truth and Method. Gadamer predictably places great emphasis on Socrates' "bracketing" in the Phaedo of naturalist assumptions about the world in itself and his "flight into the logoi". For here the confirmation is to be found of his own way through Husserl's phenomenology to an exploration of language as the mirror or speculum, in which, by the "speculative power of language", the world first takes shape for people.