The Conflict of Paideias in Gadamer's Thought


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The Conflict of Paideias in Gadamer's Thought (1) ABSTRACT: Although Gadamer's study of Greek paideia has been virtually ignored in the scholarly literature, I argue that it is central to his philosophy of education. Gadamer singles out three kinds of paideia: traditional, sophistic and philosophic. Traditional paideia , grounded in an unaware habit or disposition of the soul, was vulnerable when sophistic paideia brought reasoned argument against it. This 'new' paideia originally supported traditional notions of the just and the good with its conscious art of argumentation and pragmatic enhancement of success. But this paideia also undermined conventional morality by arguing that it is only convention, thereby corrupting the youth of Athens by appealing to the untrammeled desire for power. Philosophical paideia takes its bearings from the sophistic as its deepest opponent and counterimage. It turns out, however, that the two are virtually indistinguishable. Both bring thinking to consciousness; both are rhetorical arts; both create confusion; and both are subject to the 'weakness of the logoi.'


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In sophistry that tendency is liberated. This is the inner story of sophistic paideia, which, with an historical twist, is repeated today, in an age when the hunger for power readily finds institutional expression and information is routinely, and unapologetically, subjected to manipulation. (52) The historical twist is the "molding of social consciousness," as Gadamer puts it, by the competition of ideologies and interests in modern society. (53) Modern ideological thinking is a kind of hybrid between dialectics and sophistry. It is well-meaning, at least in the ideologue's self-image, and certainly attempts to hold to what is right as opposed to the demagogue's narrow self-interest; (54) but it also involves the false assumption and deceptive appearance of knowledge. The fundamental question, then, is: What is semblance (Schein)? (55) With this question we are taken beyond ethical assertion to a close reading of the invisible yet radical difference between the sophist and the philosopher as it is presented in the Platonic dialogues. Semblance as distinguished from that which appears is not what it appears to be. Semblance is connected with the problem of nonbeing, but as appearance of something it is not nonbeing.


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(My translation) (58) "On the Primordiality of Science," in Hans-Georg Gadamer on Education, Poetry, and History, 19. See also "Hermeneutics as Practical Philosophy," in Reason in the Age of Science, 89 f. (59) "On the Scope and Function of Hermeneutical Reflection," op. (60) "Reply to My Critics," op. (61) See The Idea of the Good, 34. (62) "Science and Philosophy," in Reason in the Age of Science, 6. (63) "Theory, Technology, Praxis," in Jason Gaiger and Nicholas Walker, trs., The Enigma of Health (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996), 22. (64) "Notes on Planning for the Future," op. (65) "Reflections on my Philosophical Journey," in Lewis Edwin Hahn, ed., The Philosophy of Hans-Georg Gadamer (Chicago: Open Court, 1997), 17.


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