Hans-Georg Gadamer

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Hans-Georg Gadamer around 2000
Hans-Georg Gadamer

Hans-Georg Gadamer (born February 11, 1900 in Marburg , † March 13, 2002 in Heidelberg ) was a German philosopher . He became internationally known for his work, Truth and Method (1960), which is fundamental to philosophical hermeneutics .

Live and act

Memorial plaque in Wroclaw for Johannes Gadamer, 1902-1919 director of the Pharmaceutical Institute of the University of Wroclaw , professor of toxicology at the Wroclaw University and Hans-Georg Gadamer, important philosopher of the XX. C . 1993 awarded the Doctor Honoris Causa of the University of Wroclaw, Wroclaw 2003

Family framework and doctorate

Hans-Georg Gadamer's grandfather Oskar Gadamer was an entrepreneur in Waldenburg-Dittersbach (Lower Silesia), his father Johannes Gadamer was a pharmacist and chemist . In 1902 Johannes Gadamer accepted an appointment as full professor of pharmaceutical chemistry at the University of Breslau and stayed there until 1919. His first marriage (1897–1904) was Johanna Gadamer nee Gewiese, daughter of the master mason and carpenter Hugo Gewiese and his wife Adele Becker. In 1904 Johanna Gadamer, the mother of Hans-Georg Gadamer and his brother, died. From 1905 Johannes Gadamer was married to Hedwig Gadamer geb. Hellich, daughter of the mining director Erich Hellich and his wife Ida Ehlert. His uncle was the district administrator Georg Gewiese .

Hans-Georg Gadamer grew up in Breslau and graduated from university there in 1918 . Gadamer then took up a degree in German, history, art history, philosophy and education at the universities of Breslau, Marburg and Munich and studied with Richard Hönigswald , among others . In 1919 he continued his studies at the University of Marburg. There he was in 1922 when Paul Natorp and Nicolai Hartmann with his doctoral thesis on The essence of pleasure to the Platonic dialogues to Dr. phil. PhD.

Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, Paul Friedländer

Heidegger's “ hut ” above Todtnauberg

From 1923 Gadamer attended lectures by Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg and during the summer in Heidegger's “hut” in Todtnauberg . For Gadamer, the encounter with Heidegger was “a complete shake of all too early self-confidence”. A year later, in 1924, Gadamer began studying classical philology with Paul Friedländer because he “had the feeling that he would simply be overwhelmed by the superiority of this thinker [Heidegger] if I didn't find my own ground on which I might be would stand more firmly than this mighty thinker himself ”. In 1927 Gadamer completed his state examination for higher teaching qualifications.

Habilitation at the University of Marburg

In 1929 Gadamer completed his habilitation with Heidegger and Friedländer in Marburg for philosophy and became a private lecturer at the University of Marburg. The title of his habilitation thesis is: Plato's Dialectical Ethics. Interpretations of the "Philebos" . Two years later his work Plato's Dialectical Ethics was published. After a stay in Paris in 1933, he published his work Plato and the Poets in 1934 , with which he achieved a breakthrough in the interpretation of Plato's Politeia . The writing shows the first, very clear beginnings of Gadamer's hermeneutics and proves his partly uncritical attitude towards National Socialism .

time of the nationalsocialism

In August 1933 Gadamer became a member of the National Socialist teachers' association . On November 11, 1933, he signed the professors' commitment to Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist state at German universities and colleges . 1934/35 represented Gadamer at the University of Kiel the vacant Chair of Richard Kroner , who because of his Jewish descent of the teaching license had been suspended. In October 1935 Gadamer took part voluntarily in the lecturer camp of the NS-Dozentbund (NSDDB) in Weichselmünde near Danzig. As a result, he was awarded the title of non-civil servant extraordinary professor in Marburg in 1937 , which he had previously been refused, although he had already completed the usual six years of a private lectureship. Gadamer also received the replacement of the vacant chair from Erich Frank at the University of Marburg , whose license to teach was revoked because of his Jewish descent. Two years later, Gadamer was offered a professorship at the University of Leipzig , where he was appointed full professor and director of the Philosophical Institute at the University of Leipzig in 1938/39 as successor to Arnold Gehlen . The security service of the Reichsführer SS classified Gadamer in the ideological assessment within the “SD dossiers on philosophy professors” from the SS point of view as “indifferent” in his attitude to National Socialism. During the time of the Second World War , Gadamer worked on the Nazi project “ War Deployment of the Humanities ”. Gadamer was involved in National Socialism, but avoided exposing himself too much during the Nazi era .

First years after the Second World War

After the war, Hans-Georg Gadamer became dean of the Philosophical Faculty in 1945 and later rector of Leipzig University until 1947. After hopes for a democratic development in the Soviet zone of occupation had been dashed, Gadamer actively sought a position in the western zone. On August 14, 1947, he announced his resignation from the rector's office on October 1, and on that day he received a position at the University of Frankfurt am Main , initially on a substitute basis, from July 1, 1948 as a full professor, after returning to Leipzig for He was arrested on denunciation and interrogated by a Russian officer, but released. In 1949 he was appointed to Heidelberg University as the successor to Karl Jaspers .

Helmut Kuhn and Karl Löwith return to Germany

Gadamer founded the Philosophische Rundschau with Helmut Kuhn in 1953 . In the same year Karl Löwith , who had emigrated from Germany in 1934 because of his Jewish origins, returned through Gadamer's mediation and accepted a call from Heidelberg University. In 1951 Gadamer became a member of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences . In 1960, " Truth and Method " was published, and in 1962 Gadamer became President of the General Society for Philosophy in Germany . An application for the rectorate of the University of Heidelberg, however, failed. This was followed by the establishment of the International Association for the Promotion of Hegel Studies , of which he became President. In 1966, as President of the General Society for Philosophy in Heidelberg, he organized a congress on language.

Gadamer and Jürgen Habermas

From 1967 to 1971 Gadamer and Habermas debated , until 1977 he wrote little writings in four volumes . In 1968 he retired in Heidelberg, but continued to teach. From 1969 to 1972 he was President of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences . In 1971 he was awarded the Order Pour le Mérite , received the Reuchlin Prize of the City of Pforzheim and the Great Federal Cross of Merit . In the 1980s and 1990s he taught regularly at the Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Filosofici in Naples.

Late years

Hans-Georg Gadamer 1995: Handwritten thanks for congratulating your 95th birthday.

Hans-Georg Gadamer lived in the Ziegelhausen district of Heidelberg until his death at the age of 103 and found his final resting place in the cemetery there, on a hill above the Neckar valley. Hans-Georg Gadamer is an honorary citizen of the city of Heidelberg and the city of Naples. His estate is in the German Literature Archive in Marbach .


Gadamer's students include Wolfgang Bartuschat , Gottfried Boehm , Manfred Frank , Dieter Henrich , Robert Kirchhoff and Wolfgang Wieland .

Gadamer's Philosophical Approach: Founder of Universal Hermeneutics

Hans-Georg Gadamer was one of the most prominent German philosophers of the 20th century. He is regarded as the founder of a universal hermeneutics , which developed in the successor to Heidegger from the criticism of the methodology of traditional hermeneutics by Friedrich Schleiermacher and Wilhelm Dilthey .

For Gadamer, any understanding , regardless of whether it is about texts, works of art and buildings or the other person in a conversation, is bound to the linguistic quality of being in front of the horizon of time. When interpreting works, this presupposes openness, the awareness of one's own prejudice structure and the willingness to talk or to reflect on it. He was less concerned with working out a method of hermeneutics than with describing how understanding “always happens” (WM II 394). For Gadamer, understanding is not just one type of knowledge, but universal. Here he ties in with Heidegger, who writes about the subject (“Dasein”) that it is in the world only in the way “that it has ever understood or not understood”. (SZ 144) The being of the human being is to understand oneself orientated in the world. Gadamer explicitly builds on this and tries to explain the consequences for the humanities (WM I, 269). His criticism of the humanities' self-image is therefore that all methodology is always preceded by an unmistakable understanding. The trust in the method only covers over the irreversible prejudice structure to which the human being remains bound in his historicity.

Classification in the humanities currents

Neo-Kantianism and the phenomenology of the mind

At first Gadamer belonged to the environment of the Marburg Neo-Kantianism of the late 19th century, which was predominantly oriented towards the mathematical sciences and their methods and focused on the "way of knowing" objects. The work of Paul Natorp and Nicolai Hartmann was also initially committed to this approach. The critique of their methodological basic position - of "problem-historical" historicism - was the starting point for Gadamer's detachment from neo-Kantianism. Then he turned to the phenomenology of Husserl (1859-1938), which also shaped his habilitation thesis. At this time he met Heidegger, from whose existential philosophy he adopted many elements. According to his own statements, in it he found the counterforce he was looking for to Plato .

Truth and method

He formulated his positions in his major work, Truth and Method, from 1960. Gadamer understands hermeneutics not only as an art theory, but considers understanding to be one of the foundations of human life. In the debate with Habermas and Karl-Otto Apel , there was a shift in emphasis. The main exponent of philosophical deconstruction , Jacques Derrida, also criticized his hermeneutics. Several features in Gadamer's thinking earned him the reputation of a liberal conservative. His work is permeated by a technology skepticism based on Heidegger.

In his work, created against the background of the collapse of Neo-Kantianism after the First World War , he tries to answer the question of what constitutes philosophy in view of the dominance of the natural sciences.

The Gadamer endowed professorship

The "Gadamer Endowed Professorship" is an endowed professorship named after Hans-Georg Gadamer at the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg . It was established in 2001 at the Philosophical Seminar of the University of Heidelberg with the aim of promoting the discussion of important international humanities scholars with hermeneutics . The Gadamer professorship was supported by the Deutsche Bank Foundation, the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science, Research and Art, the University of Heidelberg and the Fund of Honorary Citizens of the University of Heidelberg. Previous winners were Karl Heinz Bohrer , Peter Burke , Jan Assmann , Horst Bredekamp , Wolfram Hogrebe and Eberhard Jüngel . The fund's resources have been exhausted since 2007 and no further professorships have been awarded.

Honors, prizes and awards

Hans-Georg Gadamer received numerous honors and awards in the course of his life. These included:


  • "Born 1900", Germany / Great Britain / USA, 1999/2000, 75 min. - In the film, the German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer, the British author Barbara Cartland and the American theater director Martin Magner look back on a hundred years of life. German-French first broadcast: August 2000 on ARTE - written and directed by Christoph Weinert

Editions of works autobiographical selected writings

Work editions

  • Small writings Tübingen, Mohr, 1967 ff.
  • Collected Works . Tübingen: Mohr, 1985–1995 (10 volumes).
    • Volume 1. Hermeneutics 1: Truth and Method : Basic Features e. philos. hermeneutics
    • Volume 2. Hermeneutics 2: Truth and Method: Additions a. register
    • Volume 3. Modern Philosophy 1: Hegel, Husserl, Heidegger
    • Volume 4. Modern Philosophy 2: Problems, Shaping
    • Volume 5. Greek Philosophy 1
    • Volume 6. Greek Philosophy 2
    • Volume 7. Greek Philosophy 3: Plato in Dialogue
    • Volume 8. Aesthetics and Poetics 1: Art as a Statement
    • Volume 9. Aesthetics and Poetics 2: Hermeneutics in Execution
    • Volume 10. Hermeneutics in Review


  • Philosophical apprenticeship. A review , Klostermann, Frankfurt a. M. 1977, 3rd edition 2012, ISBN 978-3-465-04165-8 .
  • Self-expression . In: Ludwig J. Pongratz (editor): Philosophy in Self-Representations , Volume III, Meiner, Hamburg 1977. Also in: Collected Works , Volume 2.
  • In conversation with Silvio Vietta Munich 2002.

selected Writings

  • Truth and method. Basic features of a philosophical hermeneutics . (Tübingen 1960), unchanged. Reprint d. 3rd ext. Edition Tübingen 1975, ISBN 3-16-833912-1 .
  • The father image in Greek thought , in: "The father image in myth and history: Egypt, Greece, Old Testament, New Testament", ed. by Hubertus Tellenbach , Kohlhammer Verlag , Mainz 1976, pp. 102–115, ISBN 3-17-002645-3 .
  • In praise of theory , Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt a. M., 1983.
  • The Heritage of Europe , Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt a. M. 1989.
  • On the hiddenness of health , Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt a. M. 1993.
  • The beginning of philosophy , Philipp Reclam, Stuttgart 1996.
  • Education is education , Heidelberg 2000.
  • Hermeneutic drafts. Lectures and essays , Tübingen 2000.
  • Plato's dialectical ethics. Phenomenological interpretations of the Philebos , Hamburg 2000.

Published visual and audio material

  • Hans Georg Gadamer tells the story of philosophy , Rome / Hamburg 2000/2006. (VHS / DVD)
  • From the desire for dialogue , an interview and a conversation about the concept of the Kairos Berlin 2000. (2 CDs)
  • Gadamer audio book: Three radio lectures , Berlin 1999. (MC)
  • Autobiography and stories , two lectures and a conversation. Heidelberg 1998. (MC)
  • Postmodern and the end of the modern era? Lecture 1992 , Heidelberg 1996. (MC)
  • Truth and awareness. Heidelberg 1996 (MC)
  • Philosophy Today: The Art of Understanding. Hans-Georg Gadamer , Hamburg 1996. (VHS)
  • The inevitability of art , Freiburg 1996 (MC)
  • Lectures , Heidelberg 1996 (MC)


  • Hans-Georg Gadamer in the German biography
  • Ulrich Arnswald, Jens Kertscher, Jeff Malpas (eds.): Gadamer's Century. Essays in Honor of Hans-Georg Gadamer , Cambridge, MA / London, England: MIT Press 2002, ISBN 0-262-63247-0 .
  • Dominic E. Delarue, Johann Schulz and Laura Sobez (eds.): The picture as an event. On the legibility of late medieval art with Hans-Georg Gadamer . Winter Verlag, Heidelberg 2012, ISBN 978-3-8253-6036-8 .
  • Donatella Di Cesare : Gadamer - A philosophical portrait . Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2009, ISBN 978-3-16-149946-3 .
  • Wolfgang Drechsler : Gadamer in Marburg . Blaues Schloss, Marburg 2013, ISBN 978-3-943556-27-8 .
  • Carsten Dutt (ed.): Gadamer's philosophical hermeneutics and literary studies. Marbach Colloquium on the 50th anniversary of the publication of “Truth and Method” . Winter Verlag, Heidelberg 2012, ISBN 978-3-8253-5954-6 .
  • Günter Figal (Ed.): Hans-Georg Gadamer: Truth and Method . 2nd Edition. Akademie Verlag, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-05-005107-9 .
  • Günter Figal and Hans-Helmuth Gander (eds.): Dimensions of the hermeneutic. Heidegger and Gadamer. Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main 2005, ISBN 978-3-465-03432-2 .
  • Jean Grondin: Hans-Georg Gadamer. A biography. Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 1999, ISBN 3-16-146855-4 .
  • Jean Grondin: Hans-Georg Gadamer: a biography. 2., through u. exp. Ed., Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013, ISBN 978-3-16-152316-8 .
  • Thorsten Gubatz: Heidegger, Gadamer and the Turin School. The twisting of metaphysics in the field of tension between belief and philosophy . Ergon, Würzburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-89913-711-8 .
  • Kai Hammermeister : Hans-Georg Gadamer . 2nd expanded edition. CH Beck, Munich 2006.
  • Michael Hofer, Mirko Wischke (eds.): Understanding Gadamer - understanding Gadamer . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2003.
  • Catherine Hürzeler: Architecture as an addition to being. Hans-Georg Gadamer in conversation with Catherine Hürzeler . In: Raimund Blödt et al .: Beyond Metropolis. An examination of the urbanized landscape . Niggli , Sulgen / Zurich 2006, ISBN 3-7212-0583-9 .
  • Hans Krämer: Critique of Hermeneutics. Interpretation philosophy and realism. Beck, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-406-56486-4 .
  • Bruce Krajewski (Ed.): Gadamer's Repercussions. Reconsidering Philosophical Hermeneutics . Berkeley, Los Angeles 2004. (incl. Response to T. Orozco's accusations).
  • Annika Krüger: Understanding as confession. Scientific limitation of responsibility and hermeneutical knowledge. Wilhelm Dilthey's and Hans-Georg Gadamer's attempt at emancipation in the humanities . Laatzen, Wehrhahn 2006, ISBN 3-86525-059-9 .
  • Ram Adhar Mall: Hans-Georg Gadamer's hermeneutics read interculturally . Bautz, Nordhausen 2005, ISBN 3-88309-180-4 .
  • Teresa Orozco: Platonic violence. Gadamer's political hermeneutics of the Nazi era. Preface by Wolfgang F. Haug . Argument, Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-88619-240-7 .
  • Friederike Rese: Hans-Georg Gadamer. In: Matías Martínez , Michael Scheffel (ed.): Classics of modern literary theory. From Sigmund Freud to Judith Butler (= Beck'sche series. 1822). Beck, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-406-60829-2 , pp. 168-190.
  • Udo Tietz: Hans-Georg Gadamer for an introduction . Junius, Hamburg 2005, 3rd edition, ISBN 3-88506-612-2 .
  • Andreas Vasilache: Intercultural understanding according to Gadamer and Foucault . Campus, Frankfurt am Main / New York 2003, ISBN 3-593-37345-9 .
  • Wasim Salman: History of the impact of Hans-Georg Gadamer in the theology of Claude Geffré, David Tracy et Wolfhart Pannenberg , Ed. Pontificia Univ. Gregoriana, Roma 2010, ISBN 978-88-7839-155-0 .
  • Short biography for:  Gadamer, Hans-Georg . In: Who was who in the GDR? 5th edition. Volume 1. Ch. Links, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-86153-561-4 .

Web links

Commons : Hans-Georg Gadamer  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. Quoted from Neue deutsche Biographie , Vol. 6: Gaál - Grasmann , Berlin 1964.
  2. Professor catalog of the University of Leipzig, Vita Prof. Dr. phil. habil. et Dr. hc mult. Hans-Georg Gadamer
  3. Philosophical apprenticeship , p. 23.
  4. ^ Reason in the Age of Science , 1976, pp. 159 ff.
  5. ^ Teresa Orozco: Platonic violence. Gadamer's Hermeneutics of the Nazi Era. Argument Verlag, 2nd edition, Hamburg 2004.
  6. Ideological Powers in German Fascism Volume 5: Heidegger in Context: Complete Overview of the Nazi Engagement of University Philosophers , George Leaman, Rainer Alisch, Thomas Laugstien, Verlag: Argument Hamburg, 1993, page 105, ISBN 3886192059
  7. a b Ernst Klee : The dictionary of persons on the Third Reich. Who was what before and after 1945 . Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Second updated edition, Frankfurt am Main 2005, p. 172.
  8. See Grondin: Hans Georg Gadamer (see below), pp. 378-380.
  9. Leaman, Georg / Simon, Gerd: German Philosophers from the View of the Security Service of the Reichsführer SS. Yearbook for Sociological History 1992, pp. 261–292.
  10. ^ Richard Wolin, 'Nazism and the complicities of Hans-Georg Gadamer. Untruth and Method ', The New Republic , May 15, 2000, pp. 36-45. Critical to Richard Wolin and Teresa Orozco: Richard E. Palmer: A Response to Richard Wolin on Gadamer and the Nazis , in: International Journal of Philosophical Studies 10 (2002) pp. 467-482.
  11. See Grondin: Hans Georg Gadamer (see below), p. 383f.
  12. See Grondin: Hans-Georg Gadamer (see below), p. 386 f.
  13. Landscape and Forestry Office of the City of Heidelberg
  14. ^ La Città di Napoli a Hans Georg Gadamer (Napoli, Castel Nuovo, Sala dei Baroni November 27, 1990) , Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Filosofici, Napoli 2000
  15. See Hannes Kerber: The concept of the history of problems and the problem of the history of concepts. Gadamer's forgotten criticism of Nicolai Hartmann's historicism , in: International Yearbook for Hermeneutics 15 (2016), 294-314.
  16. See on the “dialogue” between the two: Derrida, Jacques / Gadamer, Hans-Georg: The uninterrupted dialogue , Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 2004. In the afterword, the editor Martin Gessmann writes : “The 'unfolding (n) relation' provides Derrida thus first of all opposes the “break in relation”, the offer to talk, the refusal to talk. From a deconstructive point of view, this is nothing short of consistent. For it would mean getting involved in the truth claims of hermeneutics if one were to begin the conversation with her from a position that is skeptical from the outset about the philosophical yield of such a conversation. It was not for nothing that Gadamer pointed out that the conversation could not be evaded - in order to formulate the dissent, prior consent would be required. ”(Gessmann, Martin:“ Afterword ”, in: Ibid., P. 104).
  17. Marion Heinz, Goran Gretić: philosophy and the spirit of National Socialism , 2006, p 334; Jean Grondin: Hans-Georg Gadamer. Eine Biographie , 2000, p. 256.
  18. ^ Gadamer professorship at the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg (uni-hd.de); Retrieved December 27, 2012
  19. ^ Deceased Fellows. British Academy, accessed May 29, 2020 .