Volume 46, Issue 3, Fall 2016
Karen E. Davis
Playing with Others
A Gadamerian Ethics of Non-Differentiation
Scholars of hermeneutics have recently taken up the task of elucidating Gadamer’s ethics by studying his work on the structure of understanding and human experience. This article seeks to contribute to that scholarship through an examination of Gadamer’s aesthetics. I suggest that Gadamer’s notions of play and aesthetic non-differentiation provide further resources for understanding Gadamer’s hermeneutic ethics as an ethics of non-differentiation, i.e., a unification of theory and practice (understanding and application). For Gadamer, an understanding of the good is its enactment in the context of the dialogical play we find ourselves engaged in with others. Furthermore, Gadamer’s identification of aesthetic non-differentiation with play reveals that his ethics aims not only to unify theory and practice but also to unite participants in the ethical play as intersubjective elements of a shared experience. Retrieving the ethical import of Gadamer’s aesthetics also helps to unfold Gadamer’s suggestion that hermeneutics itself is an ethical enterprise.