Sunday, April 11, 2010
Bowler, Michael. Review of Lauren Swayne Barthold, GADAMER'S DIALECTICAL HERMENEUTICS. NDPR (April 2010).
Barthold, Lauren Swayne. Gadamer's Dialectical Hermeneutics. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2010. In Gadamer's Dialectical Hermeneutics, Barthold takes on at least three interrelated and important scholarly and philosophical tasks. First, she provides an account of the development of Gadamer's notion of dialectical hermeneutics in its relationship to his reading of Plato and Aristotle, and in particular the manner in which this offers a foundation for a Gadamerian "dialectical ethics." Second, she situates this notion of dialectical hermeneutics and ethics within the debate coming out of Bernstein, Wachterhauser and others over whether or not Gadamer's hermeneutics amounts to a form relativism, essentialism, and/or realism and whether or not it has any ethical import or not. Finally, she attempts to formulate the foundations of Gadamer's dialectical ethics in his analysis of dialogue and its two essential components, solidarity and a transcendent good-beyond-being. I believe that the analysis that comes out of Barthold's attempt to fulfill all three tasks is interesting and insightful. In Chapter 1 she examines Gadamer's reflections on Platonic dialectic and its essential relation to chorismos or separation and in Chapter 2 she looks at Gadamer's account of the unified role played by theoria and praxis in Aristotle's ethics and practical philosophy. In Chapter 3, Barthold considers the eventual divisive separation between theoria and praxis in modern accounts of knowledge in conjunction with Gadamer's attempt to return to Plato and Aristotle in order to retrieve a unity in difference of theoria and praxis in a hermeneutical account of understanding. These three chapters are all fascinating reads that contain substantial insights for those interested in what a dialectical hermeneutics could look like and how it could avoid what many see as the traps of relativism, essentialism and an acontextual, ahistorical realism. Moreover, I think that she is absolutely right to suggest that a proper understanding of solidarity (the "good-for-us") and a "good-beyond-being," namely a notion of the good that transcends our momentary desires, beliefs, etc., is crucial to formulating a dialectical ethics of a particular stripe (Chapter 4, but especially Chapter 5). Furthermore, she demonstrates that reading Gadamer can afford us important insights into each of these issues. . . . Read the whole review here: http://ndpr.nd.edu/review.cfm?id=19347.