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The Library of Living Philosophers
by Kai Hammermeister
Hans-Georg Gadamer (b 1900) is best known for his path-breaking work in philosophical hermeneutics, most prominently advanced in his book Truth and Method of 1960. Traditionally, hermeneutics (from the Greek word hermeneuein, ‘to comprehend’) meant the correct interpretation and understanding of texts, usually those either of ancient authors or of the Bible. Gadamer, taking up clues from Martin Heidegger, turned understanding from a reading skill into a characteristic of human existence that demanded philosophical investigation. Hermeneutics as the theory of understanding was promoted to the status of a fundamental philosophical discipline.
Understanding for Gadamer means to regard oneself as embedded in a tradition and in a community.