A Critique of Dialogue in Philosophical Hermeneutics
AbstractThe idea of dialogue occupies arguably the most central position in Hans-Georg Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics (Gadamer 1960/1989). Dialogue is here not understood merely as the conversation between two subjects about something of common interest in a shared medium of understanding, but rather as the foundational phenomenon within which objects and themes, subjects and perspectives, and common interest and shared understanding are grounded. The foundational character of dialogue derives from the fact that all experience is understood to be linguistically mediated, while language as a medium exists in its true and essential form as dialogue. The strongest support for this approach comes from a phenomenological perspective on understanding, i.e. on what really happens when we understand something, when we make sense of something by interpreting it. Bringing together the encompassing and foundational role of dialogue with its concrete origin in the act of interpretation will yield, as I will show, a post- metaphysical concept of understanding as dialogue. Gadamer’s own philosophical-hermeneutic conception of dialogue both suggests and yet misses its full articulation, as our analysis of the idea of dialogue in philosophical hermeneutics, the question of the metaphysical grounds of understanding in language, and the issue of the epistemological significance of dialogue will show.