Marta James

What is the Equivalent of the 'Good Life' for Hans-George Gadamer's Hermeneutic Ethics?

My paper focuses on the genesis of Hans-Georg Gadamer’s hermeneutics as he re-appropriates the imperative ethics of Aristotle through the aporetic dialectic of Plato. The research investigates the relevance of H.-G. Gadamer’s argument of the possibility of philosophical ethics and the deployment of his hermeneutical thought as a practical philosophy.

H.-G. Gadamer’s readings of Plato and Aristotle unfold as a philosophical conversation he maintained and enjoyed for more than eight decades. In its two parts, this study retrieves some of the main lines of this dialogue by deploying three directions of research:

  1. The philosophical exposition of the main ideas about the good life in Hans-Georg Gadamer’s dialogical interpretation of texts by Plato and Aristotle (for example, the theory of ideas, the unwritten doctrines). This direction aims to discern how those aspects of Hans-Georg Gadamer’s view of the complex philosophical relationship between Plato and Aristotle contrast with the standard view.

  2. The analysis of Hans-Georg Gadamer’s hermeneutic approach to the Socratic question of the good. This direction detects and discusses the issues involved in Hans-Georg Gadamer’s Platonic and Aristotelian hermeneutic presuppositions and strategies.

  3. The evaluation of the dimensions of Hans-Georg Gadamer’s dialectic of understanding and the features of his dialectical ethics. This direction attempts to establish the consequences of his reading of Plato and Aristotle’s texts on the good life in developing his own philosophy. It will also reflect on his contribution to the contemporary philosophical approaches to ancient Greek philosophy.

Hence, the study proposes in its first part:

- to explore the Platonic conception of the beautiful within H.-G. Gadamer’s discussion of the finite character of truth (see truth’s dialectic).

- to critically analyse the related universal claim of hermeneutics implied in the dialectic of understanding (see theoria and praxis).

- to answer whether H.-G. Gadamer’s hermeneutics tackles previous philosophical studies (including M. Heidegger’s) on the ontological limits of language at Plato and Aristotle.

In the second part, the research seeks to examine both the hermeneutic continuity between mythos and lógos, and the close hermeneutic link between lógos and êthos, and to inquire on the ethical dialogue between the Greek thought and the contemporary philosophy.

Consequently, the study of Hans-Georg Gadamer’s appropriation of the philosophical concepts, such as the Platonic chorismós and methéxis and the Aristotelian phrónesis and logos, that play a central role in his dialectical hermeneutics, shows how Hans-Georg Gadamer’s epistemology operates with the human context in the hermeneutic tradition. It also answers that the equivalent of “the good life” for his hermeneutic ethics is based on his retrieval of the Aristotelian phronesis.