Qualifying Exams - Philosophical Ethics

From BrothersBrothers


Discuss the concerns that motivated Gadamer in Truth and Method to radically depart from the earlier traditions in the field of hermeneutics, and instead to explore the problem of understanding from the perspective of practical philosophy.


  1. Gadamer dedicates an entire chapter of Truth and Method to the thought of earlier scholars working in the area of philosophical hermeneutics. In particular, he addresses the work of Schleiermacher, Dilthey, and Droysen.
  2. In this chapter he explores the accounts of hermeneutics these figures provided, focusing in particular on (1) their view of the role of historical consciousness in the interpretation of texts or works of art and (2) the attention they play to the methods appropriate to discovering the meaning of texts or works of art.
  3. His focus here is highly revealing, though. Gadamer's explicit aim in Truth and Method is to develop his own account of hermeneutics. But his account of his predecessors in the field of hermeneutics reveals that while he is taking up some of the same problems involved in encountering a text, his Truth and Method is no mere evolutionary step in the field of hermeneutics. Rather, Truth and Method is a radical departure from the field that had previously been labeled hermeneutics.
  4. In fact, Truth and Method is not a book really about the interpretation of texts or works of art, despite evidence in the table of contents to the contrary. Rather, Truth and Method is a book about understanding itself - about the "event" of understanding.
  5. In this way, Gadamer is taking his departure not from the field of hermeneutics, but is rather addressing the topic of hermeneutics from within the tradition of practical philosophy.
  6. In this paper, I will address the question of which intellectual tradition provides the foundation for Gadamer's Truth and Method. What is the tradition whose effect (wirkung) provides the backdrop for Gadamer's account of hermeneutical consciousness?
  7. In order order to answer this question, I will begin by clarifying how Gadamer interprets the accounts of hermeneutics provided by, in particular, Schleiermacher and Droysen. Of particular interest in this section will be the features of these accounts that draw his attention: What questions is he asking when encountering their work? What do these questions indicate about his concerns?
  8. Next, I will explore what Gadamer has to say in both Truth and Method and his shorter works about the ways in which his aims align with those of practical philosophy, and how this tradition informs his thought.
  9. I will argue that while Gadamer simultaneously negotiates and responds to the concerns and claims of a wide range of scholars, his work falls primarily within the tradition of practical philosophy.

Part One

Historical Consciousness: Meaning vs. Truth

Part Two

Scriptural and Legal Hermeneutics
Hermeneutics as Practical Philosophy
Cartesian Anxiety


Discuss the influence of Aristotle and Aristotelian ethics on Gadamer’s thought. Address in particular the relationship between Aristotle’s virtue of practical rationality and Gadamer’s account of practical philosophy.

Analyze Gadamer’s account of the relationship between tradition and effective history (Wirkungsgeschichte), and the relationship of these to his account of hermeneutic understanding.


Write an essay in which you critically apply Gadamer’s insights to a particular case in medical or clinical ethics.


Construct a syllabus and bibliography for a course you would be prepared to facilitate on Hermaneutics and Practical Ethics.