The Problem of Objectivity in Gadamer's Hermeneutics in Light of McDowell's Empiricism

  • Morten S. Thaning

Part of the Contributions to Hermeneutics book series (CONT HERMEN, volume 1)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-vi
  2. Morten S. Thaning
    Pages 37-59
  3. Morten S. Thaning
    Pages 167-202
  4. Back Matter
    Pages 203-212

About this book


This book reassesses Gadamer’s hermeneutics by bringing it into a dialogue with John McDowell’s minimal empiricism. It employs the resources of McDowell’s minimal empiricism to address the transcendental and ontological presuppositions for objective experience and understanding, while retaining Gadamer’s emphasis on the historicity of understanding. By means of the dialogue with McDowell, the book develops a hermeneutical conception of objectivity and perceptual experience, which also entails reinterpretations of Gadamer’s notions of tradition, practical wisdom and meaning. The book explores the philosophical space beyond the analytic-Continental divide and demonstrates that hermeneutics is not limited to a reflection on understanding as it is practiced in the human sciences, but can be revived as a distinct and cogent philosophical approach with a transcendental and ontological dimension.

Thaning's book is a richly detailed, well-argued and coherent presentation of a defensible, and potentially very important, philosophical position. It demonstrates an impressively deep understanding of the literature both from the phenomenological tradition and from the part of the analytical tradition, inspired by Wilfred Sellars, to which John McDowell belongs. Being a substantial philosophical achievement in its own right, the book raises far-reaching questions that will be of interest to a wide audience.

Dr. Steven Crowell, Rice University, Houston (USA)


Morten Thaning’s book is an important contribution to the discourse of philosophical hermeneutics. Thaning extensively discusses a topic, which recent debates have touched upon, but which up to now has not been the subject matter of concentrated scholarly work: the relation between Gadamer’s hermeneutics and McDowell’s empiricism. With Thaning’s interpretation Gadamer’ work can be read anew as concerning the problem of hermeneutical objectivity.

Prof. Dr. Günter Figal, University of Freiburg (Germany)


Conceptual content of perceptual experience Critique of Brandom’s distinction between de re and de dicto Critique of Vattimo’s conception of interpretation Gadamer and Sellars’ space of reasons Gadamer’s notion of objectivity Heidegger on assertion Hermeneutics and transcendental philosophy McDowell’s reading of Kant and Hegel Phronesis Tradition and prejudice Wittgenstein on rule-following

Authors and affiliations

  • Morten S. Thaning
    • 1
  1. 1.Copenhagen Business SchoolDepartment of Politics, Management and PhilosophyFrederiksbergDenmark

Bibliographic information