Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Questioning Questions

In this passage, Gadamer tackles the issue of Questioning - especially in regards to questioning a text. What struck me was his claim that we cannot "reconstruct the question to which the transmitted text is the answer. But we shall not be able to do this without going beyond the historical horizon it presents us with. (337)" I take this as meaning that anytime we read a text, we gain insight into a question that has been historically asked - and the book is at once the answer to and extension of that question. It then becomes our job to tease out the question; but we can never really do this and at the same time remain true to the question, because questioning is an open activity and the question-as-it-was when the text was written is different from the question-as-it-is now. So we must broaden our horizons and hermenutically interpret and ask the right questions of the text, to make sure that the text speaks to us correctly. We must enter into a dialectical conversation with the text. We must go beyond mere reconstruction. Whenever we interpret works of past, make assumptions about the questions being asked, we must at the same time be aware of our own inescapable prejudices and beliefs. Gadamer writes, "Questions always bring out the undetermined possibilities of a thing." By this, I take him to mean that it is through questioning, in a Socratic, Platonic style, that we come to understand thinks in the world. Perhaps one can call this an Ontological statement - but I don't think that Gadamer intends it as such. He means not that we question phenomena and then learn of it's true being, but rather, that we question ourselves, we question concepts and ideas, we question the validity and meaning of texts as if they were individuals with thoughts and ideas and an historical orientation. This, for Gadamer, is when humans are most authentic, most real - when they are questioning. Not in a general sense, but in a very deliberate, intentional, and human sense. Thus, in is in questioning that problems become realized and "solved". 

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