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Proceedings of the XXII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 21, 2008

Philosophical Hermeneutics

Wei-Ding Tsai
Pages 105-112

On the Linguistic Philosophical Foundation for the Ontological Shift of Hermeneutics

This research tried to make a contribution to the discussion around the conditions, under which the ontological shift of the philosophical hermeneutics can be done. It began with an analysis of Gadamer's well-known formula: " Being that can be understood is language. (Sein, das verstanden werden kann, ist Sprache.)". Scholars interpret it differently. By means of the grammatical analysis, I showed on the one hand an interpretation of the formula from the perspective of pan‐lingualism as absurd, because they regard Being and language as identical. On the other hand, an interpretation from the perspective of the linguistic ontology should be eliminated, according to which the being possesses a linguistic character, so that its unconcealment can complete itself without the effort of understanding. The two interpretations come from a misunderstanding that they regard the subordinate clause of that formula as descriptive relative clause. There is still another interpretive problem, if we regard the subordinate clause as restrictive relative clause and thus interpret Gadamer's theory as linguistic idealism. However Gadamer indicates that such an interpretation remains on the level of German idealism, because it limits understanding to an intellectual grasping. Another reading of the subordinate clause as restrictive relative clause is appropriate, because it takes understanding as a practical ability (Können) into its consideration and at the same time emphasizes the non-identity between Being and language despite their ontological inseparableness. Gadamer finds out a linguistic theory, in order to support such kind of reading. He extends his principle of aesthetic non-differentiation to the range of language. By means of this linguistic non-differentiation, the ontological shift of the hermeneutics can complete itself.

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