Hans-Georg Gadamer: Political Essays

Professor Dr. Wolfgang Drechsler
With the assistance of Rainer Kattel

Unless otherwise noted, all classes are in the PA lecture room (236), Wednesdays from 12 to 2 pm

This year, we celebrate the 100th birthday of the most eminent living philosopher, Hans-Georg Gadamer. Gadamer has always emphasized that he is not a political nor „public" philosopher, but he has published some highly interesting essays that can be called political and which explicitly deal with the political-philosophical subjects and phenomena. Moreover, in this class these political essays are carefully read on the basis of Gadamer's work in and on hermeneutics and his highly profound yet still underrated dealing with the Ancient Greek philosophers and their polis theories. Also, to illustrate the Gadamer's way of thinking, two highly interesting videos are shown in the course of the class: first, Gadamer's lecture on the nature of art; second, a biographical and philosophical documentry on Gadamer.

All the required reading is available in English translations, which will serve as basis for discussion, as well as in the German original. The class is meant for students of all fields of study interested in political philosophy; it carries credit both in Political Science and in Public Administration. It will be thought in English, the two videos are however translated simultaneuosly into Estonian.

The class covers 1 credit.

Requirements: oral exam.

Prerequisites: introduction to political philosophy is helpful.





Introduction: Life and Hermeneutics



Greek basics I



Greek basics II



Applications I


1.3. 18-20, room 247

Impressions I: Lecture video


7.3. (Tuesday)

Applications II



Applications III


14.3. (Tuesday), room 247

Impressions II: Biographical video





Oral Exam

Drechsler, Kattel


Reading Assignments and Further Reading (texts are available in the PA office):

The following works by Hans-Georg Gadamer contain more than one reference and are thus abbreviated as follows:

GW: Gesammelte Werke, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 10 vols., repr. altogether (as UTB) 1999

EE: Das Erbe Europas. Beiträge, Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp, 1989

LdTh: Lob der Theorie, Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp, 3rd edn. 1991

LLP: The Philosophy of Hans-Georg Gadamer, The Library of Living Philosophers, vol. 24, Lewis Edwin Hahn, ed., Chicago - La Salle: Open Court, 1997

PoT: Praise of Theory: Speeches and Essays, New Haven, Conn.: Yale UP, 1980


1st Session (Wed., 9 February):

1.1 Required reading:

1.1.1 Gadamer, Hans-Georg: „Hans-Georg Gadamer" (1977), in Philosophische Selbstdarstellun-gen, vol. 3, Ludwig J. Pongratz, Hg., Hamburg: Meiner, 60 ff, GW 2: 479 ff; slightly revised English version: LLP 3 ff.

1.1.2 Drechsler, Wolfgang: „The Philosophy of Hans-Georg Gadamer", Trames, vol. (52/47), no. 4 (Winter 1998), pp. 338-351 (review essay of LLP). Shorter, more humanities-focused version also in Semeiotik?/I>. Sign System Studies, vol. 26 (1998), 425 ff.

1.2 Helpful reading:

1.2.1 Gadamer, Hans-Georg: Wahrheit und Methode, 6th edn. 1990, repr. as GW 1; English translation: Truth and Method, New York: Seabury, 2nd edn. 1989 (also repr.; do not use the 1st edn. which is not reliable!), Estonian translation of excerpts by Andrus Tool in: Filosoofilise hermeneutika klassikat. F. D. E. Schleiermacher, Wilhelm Dilthey, Martin Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Tallinn: Ilmamaa, 1997.

1.2.2 Gadamer, Hans-Georg: Philosophische Lehrjahre, Frankfurt/Main: Klostermann, 1977; English translation: Philosophical Apprenticeships, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1985.

1.2.3 Safranski, Rüdiger: Ein Meister aus Deutschland. Heidegger und seine Zeit, München: Hanser, 1994; English translation: Martin Heidegger: Between Good and Evil, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1998.

1.2.4 Rosen, Stanley: „Horizontverschmelzung", LLP 207 ff (in English).

1.2.5 Sokolowski, Robert: „Gadamer's Theory of Hermeneutics", LLP 223 ff.


2nd - 3rd Session (Wed., 16 and 23 February):

2-3.1 Required reading:

2-3.1.1 Gadamer, Hans-Georg: Plato und die Dichter, Frankfurt/Main: Klostermann, 1934, GW 5: 187 ff; English translation: „Plato and the Poets", in Dialogue and Dialectic: Eight Hermeneutical Studies on Plato, New Haven, Conn.: Yale UP, 1980, 39 ff.

2-3.1.2 Drechsler, Wolfgang: „Platons Nomoi als Objekt der Rechtsvergleichung", in Werner / Häberle / Kitagawa / Saenger, eds., Brücken für die Rechtsvergleichung. Festschrift für Hans G. Leser zum 70. Geburtstag, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1998, 44 ff. (only if you read German; see 2-3.2.3 below).

2-3.2 Helpful reading:

2-3.2.1 Gadamer, Hans-Georg: „Platos Denken in Utopien. Ein Vortrag vor Philologen" (1983), GW 7: 270 ff. (no English version).

2-3.2.2 Plato: Politikos, Politeia, and Nomoi.

2-3.2.3 Drechsler, Wolfgang: „Plato", in The Elgar Companion to Law and Economics, Aldershot: Edward Elgar, 1999. (Recommended especially if you cannot read the German 2-3.1.2!)

2-3.2.4 Sullivan, Robert R.: „Gadamer's Early and Distinctively Political Hermeneutics", LLP 237 ff.


4th Session (Wed., 1 March):

4.1 Required reading:

4.1.1 „Die Idee der Toleranz 1782-1982" (1983), LdTh 103 ff.; English translation: „The Idea of Tolerance 1782-1982", PoT 84 ff.

4.1.2 „Über die Macht der Vernunft" (1969), LdTh 51 ff; English translation: „The Power of Reason", PoT 37 ff.

4.2 Helpful reading:

4.2.1 Grundlagen der Freiheit des Menschen" (1987), EE 126 ff.


5th Session (Wed., 1 March, 18-20; Gadamer lecture video, room 247; translation into Estonian):

5.2. Helpful reading:

5.2.1.Drechsler, Wolfgang: ?A href="http://polyglot.lss.edu/german/celan/papers/drechslerReview.htm" target=_blank>Gadamer on Celan", The Germanic Review, vol. 73 (1998), no. 2, 175 ff, also at the Celan homepage (University of Wisconsin - Madison)


6th Session (Tues., 7 March):

6.1 Required reading:

6.1.1. „Wissenschaft und Öffentlichkeit" (1977), LdTh 77 ff.; English translation: „Science and the Public Sphere", PoT 62 ff.

6.1.2.„Die Grenzen des Experten" (1989), EE 136 ff; English translation: „The Limitations of the Expert", in Hans-Georg Gadamer on Education, Poetry and History: Applied Hermeneutics, Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press, 1992; Estonian translation by Rainer Kattel (recommended): „Eksperdi piirid", in Avaliku halduse alused. Valimik Euroopa esseid, Wolfgang Drechsler, toim., Tartu: Tartu Ülikooli Kirjastus, 1997, 177 ff.


7th Session (Wed., 8 March):

7.1 Required reading:

7.1.1. „Lob der Theorie" (1980), LdTh 26 ff, GW 4: 37 ff; English translation: „Praise of Theory", PoT 16 ff.

7.1.2.„Vom Ideal der praktischen Philosophie" (1980), LdTh 67 ff, GW 2: 319 ff; English translation: „The Ideal of Practical Philosophy", PoT 50 ff.


8th Session (Tues., 14 March; Safranski video, room 247; translation into Estonian):

8.2 Helpful reading:

8.2.1.Drechsler, Wolfgang: „Rüdiger Safranski: Ein Meister aus Deutschland. Heidegger und seine Zeit", The Germanic Review, vol. 70, no. 3 (Summer 1995), 123 f. (in German)

8.2.1. again, 1.1.1, 1.2.2, and 1.2.3


9th Session (Wed., 15 March):

9.2 Helpful reading:

9.2.1. Drechsler, Wolfgang: „On the Possibility of Quantitative-Mathematical Social Science, Chiefly Economics: Some Preliminary Considerations", Journal of Economic Studies, vol. 27, in press.

9.2.2. Madison, G.B.: „Hermeneutics' Claim to Universality", LLP 349 ff.

Course description in MS Word format (for printing)