Cognition and cultural context: An inquiry into Gadamer's theory of context-dependence
2009 (English)Book (Other academic)
This study deals with the problem of the dependence of thought on its historical context, as discussed by the German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer (1900-2002).
Gadamer argues that historical contexts are cognitively homogeneous in an unreflected way, and that this state of affairs typically involves basic presuppositions (Vorurteile) that underlie seemingly divergent views in such a context. However, in opposition to this claim, it may be argued that historical contexts contain a shared conceptual framework, or a preoccupation with certain problems, but that they may nevertheless be heterogeneous in terms of presuppositions as such. But Gadamer holds that the cognitive heterogeneity of a historical context is easily overrated by individuals situated in it insofar as shared presuppositions are not questioned or even detected.
A central issue of this study is the extent to which unreflected context-dependence persists in the modern era. Gadamer, while not denying that the very notion of this dependence requires that it is at least partly reflected, argues that the scope of this reflection has been overestimated, notably by philosophers in the Enlightenment tradition. Gadamer refers to Karl Popper and Jürgen Habermas as examples of this overestimation. According to Gadamer, the current awareness of context-dependence and of, e.g., the corresponding problem of anachronism in historical study, surpasses that of previous epochs, but this difference is nevertheless a matter of degree rather than kind.
In what sense is it correct to say that the very notion of unreflected context-dependence requires reflection, and that it therefore casts doubt on the claims made by Gadamer himself? According to a rather frequent objection to Gadamer, awareness of context-dependence occurs in a situation in which this dependence is reduced. Conversely, an individual subject to unreflected context-dependence would not be able to recognise his or her predicament in this respect. In this study, this objection is discussed in connection with general problems of interpretation in cultural and historical studies.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Köln: Lambert Academic Publishing , 2009. , 185 p.
Gadamer, context-dependence, historicity, hermeneutics, reflection, presupposition
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-26469ISBN: 978-3-8383-1989-6OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-26469DiVA: diva2:266295