Monday, April 27, 2009

Experience, question, and opinion

Gadamer begins by explaining that what we experience is really what brings about what we know about truth. "We cannot have experience without asking questions (325)." Experience is essentially the answer to a question, even if we didn't know we had a question to begin with. By being open to an experience we are in fact allowing ourselves to undergo change from what we have already known. By being open to experience we open ourselves out to something that is completely new, without being open to experience we live in a life that is boring, predictable, mundane - we don't ask any questions about the possibility of experiences that we have yet to experience. However, this isn't to say that once we experience something we immediately know all the answers (how could it be? we would know everything after only experiencing it the a single time (I am thinking of love and how it can be experienced but each subsequent experience is bound to be completely different)).

This experiencing of experience (redundant, I know) can happen in our everyday lives as well. This is why we also need to be open to the possibilities of existence that are constantly present around us, even if we essentially do the same things day after day. When something stands out for us in a particular way (maybe a sunrise) we gain meaning from it, and through this meaning we see that the experience itself was really a kind of revelation. "In order to be able to ask, one must want to know, which involves knowing that one does not know (326)." Thus, so that we are able to remain open to experience we need to be able to know we do not know. By knowing that we don't know, we remain open to experience (and by being open to experience we see it as an answer to some unknown question).

This leads to the problem (?) of opinion, which undermines the fact that we really don't know. "It is opinion that suppresses questions (329)." I think this means to say that when we gain knowledge, we begin to make up our decisions about what actually constitutes that "knowledge", and in this we already have a bias about what knowledge might be for us. By already thinking we know, we are not understanding that we really do not know, and therefore closing ourselves to the possibility of being open to experience. This is where a question comes up. If we have opinions how do we reconcile them with the ability to have meaningful experiences? If we already have opinions (I am thinking of these as a sort of bias possibly) then how can we be unbiased in our experience? A possible answer could be that by having an opinion, yet still being open to experience, you can see that there is a difference in such an opposition. This difference can still be an answer to a question, but then you define how much of it will influence your opinion thereafter.

Discussion I saw as essentially this inter-relationship between experience, the question, and opinion. "To conduct a conversation means to allow oneself to be conducted by the object to which the partners in the conversation are directed (330)." It can occur internally or with others, but the key still seems to be an openness to the possibility of its occurrence and a working together, or by yourself, to reach...

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