"For both Habermas and Apel the importance of hermeneutics lies in its critique of a positivist 'unity of science' that attempts to reduce all forms of knowledge to the model of the natural sciences. On their view, Gadamer’s merit is to have provided an account of hermeneutic understanding that both indicates the extent to which it deviates from natural scientific explanation and justifies it as an unavoidable component of social scientific inquiry. In this regard, Gadamer’s insights into effective history and the force of prejudice are crucial. They show the way in which all forms of knowledge adhere to a set of historically produced norms and conventions and hence the naivety of the claim that the natural sciences provide an unconditioned 'objective' view of their subject-matter which it is the task of the social sciences to emulate. Moreover, these insights indicate an important difference between the natural and the social sciences in so far as they reveal the 'double hermeneutic' characteristic of the latter, which Gadamer describes as an encounter or dialogue between two sets of prejudices or historical horizons. The successful conclusion of such dialogue is a mutual understanding of the subject-matter at issue that goes beyond both the views of one’s text or text-analogue and one’s own initial assumptions, prejudices and aims. In stressing this new understanding, Gadamer’s hermeneutics attempts to move beyond both the conservatism of simply adopting the views of the 'text' and the subjectivism of interpreting it as a verification of one's own prejudices. Hermeneutic understanding rather participates in the self-formation of an interpretive tradition in which each new effort to understand reflects a new education and a new form of the tradition itself.
Both Habermas and Apel criticize this analysis of tradition for its failure to reflect on the possibility of ideological distortion within the tradition's self-formation. …the problem they see is really two-fold. On the one hand, that which we are trying to understand may systematically obscure its connections to social relations of power and domination. Hence, in appropriating it hermeneutically as possibly true we may deform our own development, as, it could be argued, women did. On the other hand, our own understanding—that is the way we appropriate or take seriously that which we are trying to understand—may itself reflect the influence of ideology. In this case, what we learn from others will be deformed by the very language and categories in terms of which we understand it" (Warnke 1987:139-140).
1987 Gadamer: Hermeneutics, Tradition and Reason. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
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