a little bit of Gadamer on the language of understanding

recently, the information space free from olympics or weather, or other things of local importance, was filled with chunks and pieces of three things that somehow get mentioned together, but are related only remotely. the three things are the ordination of women, homosexual marriage and hate crimes. i am writing a longer post about it sometime soon. as an introduction and a general basis, i would like to quote from H.G.Gadamer’s  Language and Understanding* – the fragment quoted deals with establishing a dialogue and the inevitable results of understanding. and so – Hans Georg Gadamer:

“But why is understanding, when it comes into the open, linguistic in character? Why does the “silent agreement” among people that again and again is built up as the commonality of an orientation to the world point to what we may call “linguisticality”? The question, so posed, carries the answer implicitly in itself. Language is what is constantly building up and bearing within itself this commonality of world-orientation.

To speak with one another is not primarily hashing things out with each other. It seems to me characteristic of the tensions within modernity that it loves this manner of speaking. To speak with another person is also not speaking past him or her. Rather, in speaking with another person one builds up an aspect held in common, the thing that is being talked about. The true reality of human communication is such that a conversation does not simply carry one person’s opinion through against another’s in argument, or even simply add one opinion to another. Genuine conversation transforms the viewpoint of both.

A conversation that is truly successful is such that one cannot fall back into the disagreement that touched it off. The commonality between the partners is so very strong that the point is no longer the fact that I think this and you think that, but rather it involves the shared interpretation of the world which makes moral and social solidarity possible.

What is right and is recognized as right by both sides requires by its very nature the commonality that is built up when human beings understand each other. Agreement in opinions is in fact constantly being built up as we speak with each other, and then it sinks back into the stillness of agreement in understanding and things that both regard as self-evident. For this reason the thesis is justified which asserts that all extra-verbal forms of understanding go back to an understanding that unfolds in speaking and in speaking with another person.”

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*(p. 96, THE GADAMER READER. eds. D.Kolb, J. McCumber, A.J. Steinbock. © 2007 by Richard E. Palmer. Published 2007 by Northwestern University Press)Language and Understanding

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