Heidegger and Gadamer on Understanding and Interpretation

Graduate Program (& Advanced Certificate) Status

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Course Open to: 
Students on-site
Academic Year: 
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Course Description: 

Heidegger developed a conception of grasping the world as understanding in contrast to the usual paradigm of propositional knowledge. Understanding is universal and underlies all intelligibility and knowledge. We will examine closely Heidegger’s conception of understanding in Being and Time and his closely aligned concept of interpretation. We will discuss the beginnings of the hermeneutic tradition and selections from two pre-20th century hermeneutic theorists. We will then read slowly about 80 pages in Gadamer’s Truth and Method which is a further contribution to the history of hermeneutics strongly influenced by Heidegger’s theory of understanding.  We will examine the consequences of their thinking in terms of an alternative epistemology that is holistic and pluralist and read more recent discussions of the Heideggerean/hermeneutic ideas of understanding and interpretation.

Learning Outcomes: 

By the end of this course, students will have gained a good grounding in Heidegger’s and Gadamer’s philosophies as well as the ability to see their virtues and shortcomings. Students will have also a broader and deeper familiarity with issues in epistemology. Students will also have become more skilled readers of difficult, older texts. They will have further developed their argumentation and writing skills and become better able to articulate their own positions on the key questions.


Students are required to attend classes and finish the readings prior to class and are strongly encouraged to participate in discussion. One 4000 word term paper assessed according to accuracy, clarity, organization, strength of argument and originality. The final grade is based on 20% classroom participation, 80% term paper.