Ricoeur and the Habermas-Gadamer Debate

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THE LOGIC OF POLITICAL ENQUIRY (POLS7045) JOHNATHAN PAOLI (312912) Ricoeur’s Critical Hermeneutics and the Habermas-Gadamer Debate The debate originating in the 1960s between Hans-Georg Gadamer and Jürgen Habermas portrays the fundamental importance around considerations of interpretation. Despite the fact that both philosophical hermeneutics and ideological critique on a certain level concern the importance of interpretation, especially in relation to the power structures which facilitates the engagement with tradition and the acquisition of new forms and sources of ‘truth’, the debate surrounding the ontological framework for hermeneutics and the consistency or compatibility of a critical theory within that discourse has proven a breeding ground for new considerations and reconsiderations of the relationships between tradition, prejudice, authority, interest and reflection and their position within the system of knowledge surrounding human inquiry. Hermeneutics is presented as that by means of which the investigation of the basic structures of factual existence is to be pursued—not as that which constitutes a ‘theory’ of textual interpretation nor a method of ‘scientific’ understanding, but rather as that which allows the self-disclosure of the structure of understanding as such. In line with this then the Habermas-Gadamer debate “…hinges most fundamentally on the relation of critical theory to the living traditions which prevail in the societies in which critique arises and which it seeks to transform” [Mendelson 1979:44]. The debate between the humility of hermeneutics versus the hostile defiance of ideological critique represents two opposing perspectives, in some ways addressing each other and in other ways addressing separate problems, concerning the foundational position of understanding. And it is in light of the ethical element to both the projects of

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