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Vattimo:

Gadamer elaborates Heideggers connection between Being and language, and stresses the pole of language, understood
as an historicaly determined language. In this language we experience that world that we possess and share, which
embraces past history and the present, and which receieves its linguistic articulation in the discourse that men
reciprocally address to each other. This shared world that is articulated in language posseses the traits of rationlity; the
logos. As the place of total mediation, language is precisely this kind of reason and this logos that lives in the collective
belonging to a web of living tradition, or an ethos. Rationality in the historical experience of individuals and groups
may be defined only in reference to this logos which is at once world and language. The logos does not possess the
infinite quality of self-transparence of the Hegelian absolute spirit; it is dialectical only insofar as it lives in the beings.
Always finite and qualified dialogue of historical human beings. Gadamer also calls it 'social understanding' and social
consciousness.

The insistence and force of conviction with which the inheritance of collective consciousness impresses itself upon us
are of a rhetorical kind: Hermeneutic truth is essentially rhetorical.

To convince and to explain without being able to adduce proofs.

The rhetorical nature of science can be seen in its effective dependence upon paradigms that are always historical and
mutable. Scientific theories are proven on the basis of observations that are possible, and that have a meaning, only
within the confines of those same theories and their paradigms. For this reason, the emergence of a paradigm is not in
turn a fact that can be described in terms of a scientific demonstration. But Thomas Kuhn effectively leaves open the
question of how we are to conceive of the historical event of a shift in paradigms. Scientific theories are demonstrable
only from within paradigms which are in turn not logically verifiable, but are accepted on the basis of a rhetorical kind
of persuasiveness. It might be said that conventions upon which the demonstrative methods of science rest are not
assumed 'arbitrarily' or on the basis of abstract criteria of economy or practical utility, but rather on the basis of their
'conformity' to 'forms of life', and thus also lo historically defined traditions and cultures. The public nature of these
rules is their effective grounding in an historically and culturally determinate public domain. To arrive at the truth does
not so much mean to attain that state of luminous interiority which traditionally is considered 'evidence', as rather to
pass to the level of those shared and commonly elaborated assumptions that appear obvious (rather. Than evident) and
not in need of interrogation. In this way collective consciousness serves as the basis for our judgements, although this
is not always apparent to us.

Vattimo sees this gadamerian hermeneutics as somewhat reactionary. To arrive at the truth fundamentally means to refer
back to the logos/collective consciousness, and also to reconnect to it the discourses – no matter how partial – of
science, technology, and perhaps even of particular groups in a society. But the logos/collective consciousness together
with its content can itself never be placed in doubt. In the name of what can a critique of the majority opinion be made
legitimate?

the mass media play a decisive role in the birth of a postmodern society; that they do not make this postmodern society
more 'transparent', but more complex, even chaotic; and finally that it is in precisely this relative 'chaos' that our hopes
for emancipation lie.

In the media society, the ideal of emancipation modelled on lucid self-consciousness, on the perfect knowledge of one
who knows how things stand (compare Hegel's Absolute Spirit or Marx's conception of man freed from ideology), iT
replaced by an ideal of emancipation based on oscillation, pluraUty and, ultimately, on the erosion of the very 'principle
of reality'. Humanity today can finally become aware that perfect freedom is not that described by Spinoza, and does
not lie in having a perfect knowledge of the necessary structure of reality and conforming to it – as metaphysics has
always dreamt. This is where the philosophical lessons learnt from Nietzsche and Heidegger are most important. But
what exactly might this loss of reality, this genuine erosion of the principle of reahty, mean for emancipation and
liberation? Emancipation, here, consists in disorientation, which is at the same time also the Hberation of differences, of
local elements, of what could generally be called dialect.

I, if there is an ethics delineated in hermeneutics, it is one in which, taking interpretation as an act of translation the
various logoi – discourses of specialized janguages, but also spheres of interest, regions of 'autonomous' rationality –
are to be referred back to the logos-common consciousness, to the cradling substratum of values shared by a living
historical community and expressed in its language. To be sure, according to this view, ethics seems to be static (or
simply reactionary, and at least traditionalist), and this impression is reinforced the more one forgets – as Gadamer does
not – that the bounds of the logos, of the common language-consciousness within which we are thrown and to which we
must appeal in 'rationalizing' our choices, cannot be rigidly defined.

The conservative and reactionary appearance of the ethics inspired by hermeneutics thereby reveals itself to be, in fact,
merely an appearance. Yet, and for these very same reasons, the transition to the logos-common consciousness, as a
normative moral ideal, seems to be deduced to too little.
Habermasian normative ideal of unrestricted communication displays its categorical character in its recognition of an
essential structure, holding for every historical experience, but itself withdrawn from becom- ing. Apel and Habermas
agree in recognizing that experience is made possible, in the final analysis, by the a priori of unrestricted
communication or communicative action. Habermas believes that by affirming the intersubjec- tive constitution of the I
he is doing justice to the finitude of the subject and breaking with idealism, understood primarily as creeping soHpsism
(his objec- tions to Adorno may be seen in Theory of Communicative Action). In reaUty, however, his principal concern
is to reflect the finitude of the subject which results from its having become an object of positive knowledge. The
finitude that Habermas guarantees the subject is there- fore only that which belongs to objects of science,^ and not that
of historical existence. By contrast, hermeneutics 'deposes' the idealist subject, but not in order to lay it open to
investigation by the positive sciences. For Habermas, the fact that the I is 'ascribed' to its relations with others means
that it is finite insofar as it can thereby become the object of the human sciences. For hermeneutics, that the I is ascribed
to intersubjective constitution (or, with Heidegger, 'thrown' into a world) means that nothing that concerns it can be the
object of structural descrip- tion, but may be given only as destiny. To be sure, the human sciences may form a part of
this destiny as well, Ught. But in this case they are presented in a very different light.

Hermeneutics can live up to its ethical inclination in an appropriate fashion only by thinking of itself not as an
ultimately metaphysical descriptive theory of the hermeneutic constitutioi existence, but rather as the thought belonging
to the epoch of the end of metaphysics, and nothing more. Hermeneutics is not the adequate description of the human
condition, which is finally making headway only at a certain point in history, thanks to a particular thinker or a series of
fortuitous circumstances. It is the philosophical thought of secularized Europe.

It is in the world of public opinion, of the mass media, of Weberian 'polytheism'. Of the technical and potentially total
organization of existence, that a theory of truth not as correspondence but as interpretation may be found.

Hermeneutics is the philosophy of this world in which being is given in the form of weakening or dissolution. The
thesis 'there are no facts, only interpretations' has a reductive sense, of the loss of reahty, which is essential to
hermeneutics. On the ethical plane, the effect of all this is to replace an ethics of communication with an ethics of
interpreta- tion. The former, as we have seen, singled out the norm of unrestricted communication, or communicative
action, only at the price of placing itself in a substantially ahistorical position.

Hermeneutics, as an awareness that truth is not reflection but belonging.

Contrary to what critical sociology has long believed (with good reason, unfortunately), standardization, uniformity, the
manipulation of consensus and the I errors of totalitarianism are not the only possible outcome of the advent of
generalized communication, the mass media and reproduction. Alongside these possibilities – which are objects of
political choice - there opens an alternative possible outcome. The advent of the media enhances the inconstancy and
superficiality of experience. In so doing, it runs counter to the generalization of domination, insofar as it allows a kind
of 'weakening' of the very notion of reality, and thus a weakening of its persuasive force. The society of the spectacle
spoken of by the situationists is not simply a society of appearance manipulated by power: it is also the society in which
reality presents itself as softer ana more fluid, and in which experience can again acquire the characteristics of
oscillation, disorientation and play.