These autobiographical reflections by a major contemporary philosopher offer an enjoyable and enlightening tour not only of his own intellectual development but of the rich and fruitful collaboration of minds during a rich period in German cultural history. Hans-Georg Gadamer, the author of Truth and Method, traces his "philosophical apprenticeships" with some of the most important thinkers of the 20th century
Gadamer is a sharp observer of individuals and of communities, and his characterizations are rich in insight. From his birthplace in Breslau, his intellectual odyssey covers many of the major centers of German academics: Marburg, Leipzig, Frankfurt, and Heidelberg. The people he describes, along with their work, include the neo-Kantian Paul Natorp, Max Scheler ("completely unbelievable," yet hardly known today), Martin Heidegger (marked by "well-integrated spiritual energy laced together with such a plain power of verbal expression and such a radical simplicity of questions"; also an adept at skiing and handball), Rudolf Bultmann ("The organization of his intellectual life was one of unprecedented discipline and the utmost will to frugality"), Gerhard Krüger, Richard Kroner, Hans Lipps, Karl Reinhardt, Karl Jaspers ("As glittering fire beams forth from a thousand facets of a pure stone, so the fine-grained brightness of experience, insight, and existential movement also shines out from the sentences of Jaspers's philosophy"), and Karl Löwith. Gadamer concludes with a chapter "On the Development of My Thinking."
Perhaps more than anyone else, Hans-Georg Gadamer is the doyen of German philosophy and the recognized chief theorist of hermeneutics. His book Reason in the Age of Science (MIT Press paperback) is an ideal introduction to his thought and to the problems of hermeneutics more generally. Philosophical Apprenticeships is included in the series Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought, edited by Thomas McCarthy.
The essays in this book deal broadly with the question of what form reasoning about life and society can take in a culture permeated by scientific and technical modes of thought. They attempt to identify certain very basic types of questions that seem to escape scientific resolution and call for, in Gadamer's view, philosophical reflection of a hermeneutic sort.
In effect, Gadamer argues for the continued practical relevance of Socratic-Platonic modes of thought in respect to contemporary issues. As part of this argument, he advances his own views on the interplay of science, technology, and social policy.
These essays, which are not available in any existing translation or collection of Gadamer's work, are remarkably up-to-date with respect to the present state of his thinking, and they address issues that are particularly critical to social theory and philosophy.
Perhaps more than anyone else, Hans-Georg Gadamer, who is Professor Emeritus at the University of Heidelberg and Distinguished Visiting Professor at Boston College, is the doyen of German Philosophy. His previously translated works have been widely and enthusiastically received in this country. He is recognized as the chief theorist of hermeneutics, a strong and growing movement here in a number of disciplines, from theology and literary criticism to philosophy and social theory.
A book in the series Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought.