Gadamer on understanding, knowledge and truth: An interpretation and critique of his epistemology

Matthew P Kuenning, Fordham University


Chapter 1 reconstructs Gadamer's fundamental philosophical task. The task is the problem of certainty, which is the problem of responding in some way or another to reasons that seem to show that we need, but cannot complete, the justificationalist project. Justificationalism is the view that we need a special philosophical of all human knowledge all at once. Chapter 2 argues that Hegel and Heidegger both try to solve the problem of certainty by transforming the realist conception of truth on which it depends. Chapters 3 and 4 argue that Gadamer provides the resources for a different response. By exploiting similarities between Gadamer's account of understanding and externalism in analytic epistemology, I argue that there is a possible position, hermeneutic externalism, which is based on Gadamer's concept of authority. Chapter 5 tries to show how hermeneutic externalism finally provides an answer to the problem of certainty. The conclusion that I would like to draw from the whole of this work is that Gadamer is a realist and an externalist, in the sense that those views represent what he should think. He should embrace externalism and realism because they best represent his genuine insights and they best address the philosophical task as he conceives it.

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Recommended Citation

Kuenning, Matthew P, "Gadamer on understanding, knowledge and truth: An interpretation and critique of his epistemology" (1998). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9825854.