This book contains translations of eight of Hans-Georg Gadamer‘s best known studies on Plato. Although they all display the interpretive art for which Gadamer is so well known and may be said to exemplify the hermeneutical theory which he elaborated in his magnum opus, Truth and Method, they come from different periods in his development, and consequently the emphases are somewhat different in each of them. The first two studies are later works, “Logos and Ergon in Plato’s Lysis” and “The Proofs of Immortality in Plato’s Phaedo“. These were chosen to begin this volume because they most clearly illustrate Gadamer’s hermeneutical approach to Plato, an approach rather different from that with which the English-speaking world is familiar, although one which should make good sense to us now , given the development in our philosophy of language from the later Wittgenstein to Austin. Gadamer maintains that each of Plato’s dialogues…must be understood as spoken language, as a developing discussion.
Hans-Georg Gadamer is the father of contemporary philosophical hermeneutics. His work seeks a recovery of the Greek sense of a comprehensive and coherent worldview, which he believes has been lost in the fragmentation of modern industrial culture. Gadamer has written major studies of Plato, Aristotle, and Hegel. He is known for opposing science as it is developed and valued in Enlightenment thought. Gadamer’s major contribution has been his work in hermeneutics, an approach that seeks to liberate the humanistic interpretation of experience from the strictures of science and technology, challenging the doctrine that truth is correspondence between an external fact and an idea in the mind of a subject. In place of mechanistic perspectives that regard nature as nothing but raw material for human manipulation, philosophical hermeneutics aims to develop a broader interpretation of experience by showing that all experience is conditioned by history. Thus, various investigations of the same subject can lead to different conclusions. Only interpretation provides the means to understand how this can occur and also to open culture once again to the voices of art. As developed by Gadamer, hermeneutics engages tradition critically so that culture can become alert to its own moral horizons and thereby restore a continuity of thought and practice.