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Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy

Volume 26, Issue 2, Spring 2022

John V. James
Pages 411-428

On the Several Senses of Forgetting in Gadamer’s Hermeneutics

Following Martin Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer states that the primordial way we experience the past is through forgetting rather than memory. This essay seeks to explore the various senses of forgetting as it appears in Gadamer’s thought with a particular emphasis on how forgetting and memory structure the unique temporality of the work of art. This exploration reveals that the interplay between forgetting and remembering is more complicated than mere opposition; this interplay is specifically revealed in Gadamer’s analyses of the epochal transition and the transmissive event of history. In both cases, forgetting is revealed not as a lack or lacuna, but as a dynamic generating structure that elevates the work of art from its original past—constituting the immemorial dimension of the work. This essay concludes by gesturing toward the repercussions of forgetting on subjectivity and a theory of time in Gadamer’s hermeneutics.