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Idealistic Studies

Volume 37, Issue 3, Fall 2007

Sebastian Luft
Pages 219-254
DOI: 10.5840/idstudies200737315

The Subjectivity of Effective History and the Suppressed Husserlian Elements in Gadamer’s Philosophical Hermeneutics

This essay makes two claims. The first, exegetical, point shows that there are Husserlian elements in Gadamer’s hermeneutics that are usually overlooked. The second, systematic, claim takes issue with the fact that Gadamer saw himself in alliance with the project of the later Heidegger. It would have been more fruitful had Gadamer aligned himself with Husserl and the Enlightenment tradition. Following Heidegger in his concept of “effective history,” Gadamer risks betraying the main tenets of the Enlightenment by shifting the weight from subjectivity to effective history as the “agent” in history. This is not a wholesale dismissal of Gadamer’s project, however. The problem in Gadamer’s effective history can be remedied by insisting, with Husserl, on the subjective character of effective history. Gadamer was right to criticize Husserl’s idea of a transcendental genesis, but went too far in giving up the idea of human subjectivity as the agent in history.