Truth and Method/Translator's Preface
It is well worth reading the translator's preface. Consider what a monumental task these people have devoted themselves to and why anyone would attempt such a thing, especially when previous work of this kind already existed and the attempt to improve upon it is bound to fail, no matter how supreme the translator's skill. One of the most impressive things about the translator's preface is the insight and appreciation of the high value of what has been donated to us in Truth and Method. Why was this, 'subject matter about which we both care deeply.' (Page xviii)? An example serves to indicate one answer to this question:
- The double relation of historically effected consciousness to the past, Gadamer names "belonging." The German term is gehören, which contains the root hören, "listen to." In many languages, "to hear" and "to obey" are the same word. When we genuinely listen to another's insight into whatever we are seriously discussing, Gadamer suggests, we discover validity in it, something about the thing itself that would not have shown itself simply within our own limited horizon. But this gain in insight is only possible where both participants in a conversation grant what "is due" to the subject matter (another sense of gehören). In that sense, participants in a conversation "belong" to and with each other, "belong" to and with the subject of their discussion, and mutually participate in the process which brings out the nature of that subject (Gadamer's standing example is the Platonic dialogues). This ongoing conversation is Überlieferung, "tradition." English has no corresponding verb, nor any adjective that maintains the active verbal implication, nor any noun for what is carried down in "tradition." We have therefore admitted the neologism "traditionary text," and have sometimes used the phrase "what comes down to us from the past" or "handed down from the past" to convey the active sense of the German. We are likely to think of "tradition" as what lies merely behind us or as what we take over more or less automatically. On the contrary, for Gadamer "tradition" or "what is handed down from the past" confronts us as a task, as an effort of understanding we feel ourselves required to make because we recognize our limitations, even though no one compels us to do so. It precludes complacency, passivity, and self-satisfaction with what we securely possess; instead it requires active questioning and self-questioning. Page xv, The Translators, 1988
Consider the subtlety of the original language here, and the meaning that could be lost without these nuances. These nuances are much needed in our fraught world. What sympathy and sensitivity in communication would be the product of genuine listening, as suggested here. This translator's preface demonstrates the humility that they avow.
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