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History as conversation versus history as science

Gadamer and Dilthey

Anders Odenstedt

pp. 63-100

This chapter examines Gadamer's view that Dilthey's approach to historical study and, more generally, the approach of historicism, does not permit a "genuine conversation" (echten Gespräch) with the claims of the past. A genuine conversation is, Gadamer holds, such that its "subject matter" (Sache) is stressed. Although trust normally prevails in conversation, one may of course come to doubt the claims of the conversation partner and ultimately deny them. What historicism does, Gadamer argues, is something different. Historicism neither affirms nor denies the claims of the past in treating them as mere historical sources. However, Dilthey sometimes argues that metaphysical claims are "expressions of life" (Lebensäußerungen) that are independent of the historical contexts in which they occur, and that they are not historical sources alone. But Gadamer holds that treating claims as expressions, as Dilthey does, means treating them in a way that differs from the circumstances of a "genuine conversation." According to Gadamer, Dilthey fails to respect the "moral bond" (sittliche Verbindlichkeit) of hermeneutical encounters. Respecting this bond means treating claims as true or false and not as mere expressions.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-59558-0_3

Full citation:

Odenstedt, A. (2017). History as conversation versus history as science: Gadamer and Dilthey, in Gadamer on tradition - historical context and the limits of reflection, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 63-100.

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