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Full Access On the Sources of Ethical Life

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On the Sources of Ethical Life

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Abstract The purpose of this paper is to argue that the connection between hermeneutics and practical philosophy is so strong that one needs to consider hermeneutics as the outline of an ethical sensibility, one that takes up the challenges that are outlined by Heidegger’s call for an “original ethics.” Part of this argument entails demonstrating how understanding, the real task of every hermeneutic project, is ultimately a form of self-understanding.

1. FN11) H.-G. Gadamer, Gesammelte Werke, Bd. I (Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck Verlag, 1990), 329. Henceforth all volumes in the Gesammelte Werke will be cited as GW, followed by the volume number and the page number.
2. FN22) H.-G. Gadamer, Vernunft im Zeitalter der Wissenschaft (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1976), 109.
3. FN33) M. Heidegger, Wegmarken (Frankfurt: Klostermann Verlag, 1978), 187 (emphasis added). This sameness of ontology and ethics—and indeed much more—remind one of Spinoza, about whom Heidegger’s silence is deafening.
4. FN44) One finds this double sense of ἦθος expressed by the way this word is used in both senses in Laws 792e (on children and habit as cultivating an ἦθος) and 865e (on a murderer who returns to his haunt, ἦθος, the place where he is comfortable and at ease).
5. FN55) Heraclitus, fragment 119, in Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, ed. H. Diels and W. Kranz, Bd. 1 (Hildesheim: Weidmann, 1989), 177.
6. FN66) Heidegger, Wegmarken, 184.
7. FN77) On this, see my “Einige Betrachtungen zu Sprache und Freiheit aus einem hermeneutischen Blinkwinkel,” in Heidegger Jahrbuch (Frankfurt: Klostermann Verlag, 2005), 59–73.
8. FN88) H.-G. Gadamer, Gadamer Lesebuch (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1997), 110.
9. FN99) Gadamer, GW 1: 312.
10. FN1010) M. Heidegger, Sein und Zeit (Frankfurt a,M.: Klostermann, 1977), 436.
11. FN1111) See, for instance, “Über die Möglichkeit einer philosophischen Ethik,” in GW 4: 175.
12. FN1212) Gadamer, GW 3: 400.
13. FN1313) One finds this notion expressed often, but to refer only to two such references, see the Apology (29d), where Socrates complains that most people do not care for the self but for other things, and the Euthyphro (2d), where Socrates speaks of the importance of this care for the upbringing of a child. On this point, see also the work of Pierre Hadot.
14. FN1414) See, for instance, Michel Foucault, The Hermeneutics of the Subject, trans. Graham Burchell (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).
15. FN1515) Gadamer, GW 4: 172.

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Affiliations: 1: Pennsylvania State University


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