La hermenéutica gadameriana

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3. Philosophical Hermeneutics
3.1 The Positivity of ‘Prejudice’
One might respond to Gadamer's emphasis on our prior hermeneutic involvement, whether in the
experience of art or elsewhere, that such involvement cannot but remain subjective simply on the
grounds that it is always determined by our particular dispositions to experience things in certain
ways rather than others—our involvement,one might say, is thus always based on
subjective prejudice). Such an objection can be seen as a simple reiteration of the basic tendency
towards subjectivism that Gadamer rejects, but Gadamer also takes issue directly with this view of
prejudice and the negative connotations often associated with the notion, arguing that, rather than
closing us off, our prejudices are themselves what open usup to what is to be understood. In this
way Gadamer can be seen as attempting to retrieve a positive conception of prejudice as prejudgment
(prae-judicium) that was lost during the Renaissance. In Truth and Method, Gadamer
redeploys the notion of our prior hermeneutical situatedness as it is worked out in more particular
fashion in Heidegger's Being and Time (first published in 1927) in termsof the ‘fore-structures' of
understanding, that is, in terms of the anticipatory structures that allow what is to be interpreted or
understood to be grasped in a preliminary fashion. The fact that understanding operates by means of
such anticipatory structures means that understanding always involves what Gadamer terms the
‘anticipation of completeness’—it always involves the revisablepresupposition that what is to be
understood constitutes something that is understandable, that is, something that is constituted as a
coherent, and therefore meaningful, whole.
Gadamer's positive conception of prejudice as pre-judgment is connected with a number of different
ideas in his hermeneutics. The way in which our prejudgments open us up to the matter at issue in
such a way that thoseprejudgments are themselves capable of being revised exhibits the character
of the Gadamerian conception of prejudgment, and its role in understanding, as itself constituting a
version of the hermeneutic circle. The hermeneutical priority Gadamer assigns to prejudgment is
also tied to Gadamer's emphasis on the priority of the question in the structure of understanding—
the latter emphasis beingsomething Gadamer takes both from Platonic dialectic and also, in Truth
and Method, from the work of R. G. Collingwood. Moreover, the indispensable role of prejudgment
in understanding connects directly with Gadamer's rethinking of the traditional concept of
hermeneutics as necessarily involving, not merely explication, but also application. In this respect,
all interpretation, even of the past,is necessarily ‘prejudgmental’ in the sense that it is always
oriented to present concerns and interests, and it is those present concerns and interests that allow us
to enter into the dialogue with the matter at issue. Here, of course, there is a further connection with
the Aristotelian emphasis on the practical—not only is understanding a matter of the application of
something like‘practical wisdom’, but it is also always determined by the practical context out of
which it arises.
The prejudicial character of understanding means that, whenever we understand, we are involved in
a dialogue that encompasses both our own self-understanding and our understanding of the matter at
issue. In the dialogue of understanding our prejudices come to the fore, both inasmuch as they play
acrucial role in opening up what is to be understood, and inasmuch as they themselves become
evident in that process. As our prejudices thereby become apparent to us, so they can also become
the focus of questioning in their own turn. While Gadamer has claimed that ‘temporal distance’ can
play a useful role in enabling us better to identify those prejudices that exercise a problematic
influence...
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