Saturday, May 9, 2009

Essay Exam

The exam will be evaluated as two essays of about two pages each(formatted the same as the first paper). The guidelines for evaluation will be rigorously applied. Because the essays bear a direct relationship to the texts we read and our discussion of them, I expect the essays to reflect an understanding of the basic concepts in hermeneutics as espoused in the texts and as developed in our discussion. This being a philosophy exam, the questions are also geared to require that you go beyond what we have said in class and display your ability to philosophize in ”the continental style,” using the text to ground your discourse. You may, of course, converse with your colleagues about the questions (How could it be otherwise, given our discussions of hermeneutical conversation?), but the essays must be comprised of your own thoughts in your own words.

Papers are due “in the box” by Friday, May 15, at 3 p.m.

Choose two of the following, and put the question you are responding to at the top of the first page.

1.Gadamer, as we know, was Heidegger’s most influential student and arguably his philosophical heir. With that in mind, discuss the relationship between a central concept in Gadamer’s hermeneutics, namely hermeneutical experience, and the aspect of Heidegger’s project that he called “undergoing an experience with language.”

2.Explain the following two quotes from Truth and Method and discuss the light they shed on one another and on the relationship between question and experience they imply.

“Every sudden idea has the structure of a question” (329).

“It is clear that the structure of the question is implicit in all experience” (325).

3. On p. one, Davies claims that “philosophical hermeneutics is philosophical in that it strives to discern objectivities within the subjective voice.” That claim is rather theoretical. But Gadamer, I believe, turns theory into practice with his very practical and basic guideline for hermeneutical conversation: “ To conduct a conversation means to be conducted by the object to which the partners in the conversation are directed” (330). You may choose either quote as the theme of your essay, explaining it and discussing its significance, using ( if you wish) the other as a backdrop.

4 .As I suggested in class, I believe that though Gadamer’s hermeneutics might be romantic it is also very practical, by which I mean doable. Assuming the “doability” of Gadamer’s recommendation in the following quote, identify and explain the difficulties involved in putting the recommendation into practice and discuss some possible ways of overcoming these difficulties:

“It is not the art of arguing that is able to make a strong case out of weak one, but the art of thinking that is able to strengthen what is said by referring to the object” (331).

5. In our discussion of Gadamer’s essay, “To What Extent Does Language Preform Thought?” I mentioned Kenneth Burke’ observation that “language does your thinking for you.” Grounding your response in Gadamer’s text, discuss the degree to which you think Gadamer’s argument successfully counters Burke’s observation?

Note: Please feel free to post questions of clarification on the blog, and I will do my best to respond to them in a timely fashion (beginning Sunday evening when I return), without, of course, giving away too much.

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