' href="index.html?page=backend&format=rss&ident=1270" />

Camille E. AtkinsonCorresponding author

Is Gadamer's Hermeneutics Inherently Conservative?

14/2 - Fall 2009, pages 285-306
Date of online publication: 15 November 2009
Date of publication: 01 November 2009


According to two critics, Georgia Warnke and John Caputo, Gadamer's hermeneutics is inherently “conservative” insofar as he appeals to tradition as a constituent in understanding. They insist that he simply preserves the ideals, norms and values of the Western metaphysical tradition without critically examining them. I do not agree and will argue that views like this depend upon several false assumptions—for example, that Gadamer reifies the text as a “thing-in-itself” (Sache selbst) and remains trapped in subjectivism. I will begin by examining some of the ways in which these charges might be warranted before proceeding to defend him.


Cite this article

Atkinson, Camille E. “Is Gadamer's Hermeneutics Inherently Conservative?” Forum Philosophicum 14, no. 2 (2009): 285–306. doi:10.35765/forphil.2009.1402.22.


Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Translated by Martin Ostwald. New York: Macmillan, 1962.

Bakhtin, Mikhail. Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics. Edited and translated by Caryl Emerson. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984.

Caputo, John D. Radical Hermeneutics: Repetition, Deconstruction, and the Hermeneutic Project. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1987.

Gadamer, Hans-Georg. “Historical Transformations of Reason.” In Rationality Today, edited by Theodore F. Geraets, 3–14. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1979.

Gadamer, Hans-Georg. Truth and Method. Translated by Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall, New York: Continuum, 1994.

Grondin, Jean. Sources of Hermeneutics. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1995.

Hirsch, Eric Donald. Validity in Interpretation. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Untimely Meditations. Translated by R. J. Hollingdale. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

Warnke, Georgia. Gadamer: Hermeneutics, Tradition and Reason. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987.

Wills, Garry. “There’s Nothing Conservative About the Classics Revival.” New York Times, February 16, 1997. http://www.nytimes.com/1997/02/16/magazine/there-s-nothing-conservative-about-the-classics-revival.html.