To understand Hans-Georg Gadamer one must first understand hermeneutics, the theory of interpretation. Initially restricted to biblical texts, hermeneutics was expanded in the modern period to include all texts and multimedia productions. Chief among hermeneutic theorists, and the greatest influence on Gadamer, was Heidegger. Where previous proponents had applied a logical, scientific method to the interpretation of texts, Heidegger embraced a more subjective approach, arguing that the truth of texts could only be known existentially, in its relationship to being and to the social context in which a text is created.
One of Gadamer’s major contributions was to stress the role of prejudice, nourished by tradition, that informs interpretation. For Gadamer, prejudice had a neutral rather than a pejorative connotation: for example, positive traits such as empathy and tolerance can color understanding just as strongly as superstition and stereotypical thinking. To enhance objectivity, Gadamer embraced Plato’s dialectical method, which required readers to challenge their own presuppositions as they struggle to understand a text’s meaning. Gadamer called this process the “fusion of horizons,” horizon being a metaphor for the different points of view separating the text from the reader.
Like Heidegger, Gadamer emphasized Phronesis (practical wisdom), insisting that unless interpretation addressed real life experiences and buttressed social bonds, it would be dismissed as inconsequential. Although not overtly ideological, he did speak out on certain issues important to the European community: German reunification, the formation of the European Union, education in the humanities, and strategies for managing collective health. Gadamer lived to be 102, by which time he had influenced theorizing in a variety of disciplines, from art, literature, and religion to law and communication studies.
Philosophical Hermeneutics is a collection of Gadamer’s essays written from 1960 to 1972. They focus on the role of language, phenomenology, and aesthetics in hermeneutic theory; a large part is also devoted to the philosophies of Husserl and Heidegger. A 30th anniversary deluxe edition is available from amazon.com, starting from $16.29 used. However, much cheaper non-deluxe editions, again used, are listed on bookfinder.com for under $10.00 (this includes shipping and handling).
The following resources provide analyses, bibliographies, and videos:
Wikipedia: "Hans-Georg Gadamer", "Hermeneutics", "Fusion of Horizons", "Hermeneutic Circle"
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: "Hans-Georg Gadamer", "Gadamer's Aesthetics", "Hermeneutics"
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: "Hans-Georg Gadamer"
"Hans-Georg Gadamer Quotes" compiled by The European Graduate School
Paul Regan. “Hans-Georg Gadamer’s Philosophical Hermeneutics: Concepts of Reading, Understanding and Interpretation.” Meta: Research in Hermeneutics, Phenomenology, and Practical Philosophy 4.2 (December, 2012), pp. 286-303.
Andrzej Wiercinski. "Hans-Georg-Gadamer and the Truth of Hermeneutic Experience." Analecta Hermeneutica 1 (2009), pp. 3-14.
Dmitri N. Shalin. “Hermeneutics and Prejudice: Heidegger and Gadamer in Their Historical Setting." Russian Journal of Communication 3.1/2 (Winter/Spring 2010), pp. 7-24.
Jean Grondin. "Gadamer's Basic Understanding of Understanding." In The Cambridge Companion to Gadamer." Cambridge University Press, 2002: 36-51.
David Vessey. “Gadamer's Critique of Heidegger's Account of Authentic Relations to Others.” (author is Professor of Philosophy, Grand Valley State University)
Stavroula Tsirogianni and Eleni Andreouli. “Beyond Social Cohesion: The Role of 'Fusion of Horizons' in Inter-group Solidarities.” Papers on Social Representations 20 (2011), pp. [masked]
Duška Dobrosavljev. “Gadamer’s Hermeneutics as Practical Philosophy.” Philosophy, Sociology and Psychology 2.9 (2002), pp. 605-618.
Martin Asiner. "Review of Gadamer’s Truth and Method." (specifically the Bloomsbury Academic edition of 2013; review posted on amazon.com, July 21, 2013)
Jeff Mitscherling. “Truth and Method: Hermeneutics or History?” Arhe 6 (2009), pp. 211-220.
Thorsten Botz-Bornstein. “Speech, Writing, and Play in Gadamer and Derrida.” Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy 9.1 (2013), pp. 249-264.
Julian Roberts. “Hans-Georg Gadamer.” The Guardian (March 18, 2002). (obituary)
Videos: "Ways in and Out of the Hermeneutic Circle" and "Configurative Reading" by Professor Paul Fry, Dept. of English, Yale University