Saturday, May 9, 2009

Background thinking of Gadamer

It is early days as I begin to understand Gadamer. He uses a lot of terms that I am only now becoming familiar with one of them is Bildung. So I did a little searching to expand my understanding of it. This is what I found using the Literary Encyclopedia.1
The noun “Bildung” has several meanings, which is why the term Bildungsroman is often left untranslated.
By the mid-eighteenth century Bildung had assimilated the humanist-philosophical ideas of the Age of Enlightenment and become a secular term.
Wilhelm von Humboldt, influenced by a botanical and morphological framework from the natural sciences, achieved maybe the most refined and comprehensive definition of Bildung as a combination of Anbildung (acquisition of qualities or knowledge), Ausbildung (development of already existing qualities), Entfaltung (creative broadening of acquired skills or qualities without external restriction) and Assimilation. Goethe 2 defined his idea of Bildung with his own concepts of metamorphosis and morphology as a natural, organic process of maturation as well as a pedagogic principle leading to an overall harmonic wholeness.

So I gather what he means that it is a process but not a procedure or a behaviour. It is a growing or a creation. Gadamer seems to be placing it inside culture or historical tradition (cultivated consciousness). That's a bigger place. We can't forget the place we came from and the collection of voices from that place. Yet we bring with us our own sense of self -right? He calls it developing one's capacities or talents, a transition from becoming to being. The result is not a technical construction but a natural one rather, it grows out of being personally involved in your own life. We educate ourselves within culture (p. 10). It has an element of spirit but not an absolute spirit. A state of development not a means to an end (p.12). He seems to be looking at universality differently than what I understood it to mean. He says it gives us distance, it keeps us open to what is 'other'. To look at something the way an 'other' might (p.15). He does not mean that this can be measured by some fixed rule. We are just open the viewpoints of others.

A little about Gadamer:

It is said that a fusion of the Heideggerian notion of phronesis or “practical wisdom” with the Platonic insight into the dialogical nature of being that provides the basis for the development of Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics.

“All understanding is historically situated in a number of ways: for example, interpretations always come out of a way of life that shapes expectations; and interpretations are always configured in relation to some linguistic and conceptual schema; in addition, interpretation always arises in the form of specific hypotheses that relate to the particular events or beings to be understood. It is this situatedness to which Gadamer refers when he claims that any understanding is always already laden with pre-judgements. These pre-judgements are not theoretical positions, but un-reflective interests, orientations, and attitudes. Thus they are more being than being-conscious: “history does not belong to us; we belong to it [. . .]. The individual’s self-reflection is only a flickering in the closed circuits of historical life”.3

It is my desire to be reflective in my attitudes and my understanding of my place in the world.

Thoughts to remember from today:
  • the notion of truth as the event of disclosure, or un-concealment (aletheia)
  • What is fixed in writing has detached itself from the contingency of its origin
  • no interpretation can be definitive
  • finite play of disclosure and concealment does not prevent intelligibility; rather it is what allows interpretation in the first place
  • dialogue - if it is to be reasonable - must possess the attitude of hermeneutical openness to what is utterly foreign
  • It is only the transformative experience of the shattering of expectations that allows true insight
Gadamer teaches me that in order to judge an event I must take into account the accompanying circumstances (p.17). So I gather that if I am to understand why some teachers are successfully infusing technology into their practice I guess I need come to an understanding of that place.

1 Literary Encyclopedia
(Free to many universities)
2 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) Playwright, Novelist, Poet.
Born 1749; died 1832. Active 1767-1832 in Germany, Continental Europe
3 Wood, Kelsey. "Hans-Georg Gadamer". The Literary Encyclopedia. 21 December 2003.
[, accessed 9 May 2009.]

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