Unfinished Worlds

Unfinished Worlds: Hermeneutics, Aesthetics and Gadamer

Nicholas Davey
Series: Crosscurrents
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Unfinished Worlds
    Book Description:

    Hans-Georg Gadamer's poetics completely overturns the European aesthetic tradition. By concentrating on the experience of meaning, Unfinished Worlds shows how Gadamer's philosophical hermeneutics transforms aesthetics into a mode of attentive practice. It has deep implications for all of the humanities, and how we can understand the meaning of poetry, art, literature, history and theology. His emphasis on participation promises an approach that will revolutionise aesthetic and hermeneutic practice, and gives us new ways to think about the cultural productivity and social legitimacy of the humanities.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-8623-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Series Editor’s Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
    Christopher Watkin
  5. Introduction: Images of Movement
    (pp. 1-19)

    If art moves, understanding moves. Schleiermacher and Dilthey showed how within hermeneutics, understanding upholds itself by a constant, irresolvable and inconclusive movement between part and whole. The philosophy of Hans-Georg Gadamer uniquely transfers insights relating to the movement of understanding to the question of aesthetic attentiveness. In his thought, aesthetic contemplation no longer attends to changeless forms but participates in the movement of a work’s constitutive elements. Aesthetic contemplation is no longer passive but an active participant (theoros) in the bringing forth what a work can disclose. Where Dilthey laments the inconclusiveness of understanding, Gadamer celebrates it. The ceaseless movement...

  6. 1. Hermeneutics and Aesthetics: Contextual Issues
    (pp. 20-41)

    Jan Faye’s bookAfter Postmodernism: A Naturalistic Reconstruction of the Humanitiesreworks the hermeneutical part–whole relationship within the following conceptual confi guration: all expressions of human communication fall into an ‘intention–context–dependency, persuasion’ nexus.¹ Leaving aside the question of the persuasiveness of aesthetical communications, which will be discussed later, the intellectual context of Gadamer’s reformation of aesthetics requires a preliminary mapping. The important claims that Gadamer makes about the cognitive content of art and the transformative character of aesthetic experience are not established by strict deductive reasoning or by a dialectic of assertion and counter-assertion. Gadamer’s is a...

  7. 2. Gadamer’s Re-Orientation of Aesthetics
    (pp. 42-64)

    Gadamer’s approach to aesthetic experience stands squarely in the phenomenological tradition: his concern is with the place of art in ourexperienceof the world.² His reflection on aesthetic theory is a rare intellectual achievement, simultaneously deconstructive and constructive. It dismantles elements of the grand traditions of Platonic and Kantian aesthetics but offers, nevertheless, a phenomenological reconstruction of many of their central insights. This makes for a flexible philosophical approach to artwork which ranges freely over a number of art forms and styles, discussing both the singularity of works and their broader significance. The approach is hermeneutical: it reacquaints us...

  8. 3. Aesthetic Attentiveness and the Question of Distanciation
    (pp. 65-102)

    Gadamer’s reflection on the experience of art is vexed by a tension between the existential interests that dominate his phenomenological account of experience and his rejection of Kantian disinterestedness in aesthetics. How can Gadamer defend his phenomenological approach to experience and demonstrate how art supports its cognitive concerns, and yet proclaim the autonomy of art without losing its connectedness to the everyday world? Having examined Gadamer’s critique of subjectivist aesthetics, we suggest that his approach to aesthetic attentiveness offers a persuasive reconciliation of the interested and the disinterested. The reconciliation is one of Gadamer’s greatest unremarked contributions to contemporary aesthetics....

  9. 4. Theoros and Spectorial Participation
    (pp. 103-115)

    Gadamer’s reconstruction of aesthetic experience as a participatory act offers a new valence to the part–whole relationship within hermeneutics. The emphasis given to experiential movement and transformational understanding implies participation in a part–whole nexus. In traditional literary hermeneutics, the part–whole relationship is deployed by the knowing subject as a contextualising procedure of understanding: a section of a text is explained by being set into an exposition of the whole. For Gadamer, however, the part–whole structure is not a fixed epistemological device utilised by the interpreter to set a work into a given context but an ontological...

  10. 5. Presentation, Appearance and Likeness
    (pp. 116-139)

    Gadamer’s critique of aesthetic subjectivity insists that, phenomenologically speaking, an involvement with art demonstrates that the experience of meaning has primacy over the experience of aesthetic properties. If meaning results from the conveyance of significance within bodies of semantic relations (which Gadamer describes collectively as linguisticality), meaning’s mode of being, whether visual or literary, ispresentational. With characteristic restraint, this simple move in Gadamer’s aesthetics prompts a major ontological shift in thinking about the ancient but nonetheless continuingly contentious question of art’s relation to reality. The prominence of word and image in the experience of meaning attests to the ontological...

  11. 6. Art and the Art of Language
    (pp. 140-164)

    What does Gadamer mean by his claim that ‘art addresses us’? It is a signature claim of philosophical hermeneutics and follows directly upon Gadamer’s assertion of the phenomenological priority of meaning in the experience of art. Not only does this emphasise Gadamer’s dialogical approach to art but it is the culmination of his critique of aesthetic subjectivism. By asserting the primacy of meaning, philosophical hermeneutics affirms the ontic priority of those cultural horizons which shape a spectator’s consciousness and in which he or she must partake as a precondition of achieving transformed understanding. However, a central question remains unavoidable: what...

  12. 7. The Redemptive Image
    (pp. 165-178)

    In the essay ‘Creation as an Open System’, Jürgen Moltmann proposes that ‘redemption is . . . nothing but the restitution of the original – restoration of the beginning’.¹ His remark offers three concluding routes of reflection for this study of Gadamer, hermeneutics and aesthetics: first, Gadamer’s endeavour to redeem aesthetics by absorbing it within hermeneutics; second, Gadamer’s development of a mode of aesthetic attentiveness that returns us not to an original way of seeing but to a way of seeing which facilitates origination within and amongst aesthetic ideas and subject-matters; and third, the ability of the aesthetic image to serve...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 179-186)
  14. Index
    (pp. 187-190)