To what extent does Hans-Georg Gadamer’s theory of science provide a basis for the articulation of an ecological hermeneutics? As "hermeneutics" is the art of interpretation and understanding, "ecological hermeneutics" is understood as the act of interpreting the impact of technology within the lifeworld. I consider the potential for ecological hermeneutics based upon Gadamer’s theory of science. First, I outline his theory of science. Second, I delineate ecological hermeneutics as an application of this theory. Third, I discuss what can be expected from the act of ecological hermeneutics. Finally, I make some general comments about the affinity between ecological hermeneutics and brute common-sense.
Our question is: to what extent does Hans-Georg Gadamer’s theory of science provide a basis for an articulation of an ecological hermeneutics? As "hermeneutics" is the art or activity of interpretation and understanding, "ecological hermeneutics" is to be understood as the activity of interpreting the impact of uses of technology within the context of the lifeworld. (1) Our considerations of the uses of technology (2) include the spheres of scientific research on one hand and industrial production processes on the other, specifically capitalism. The similarity which makes these two spheres felicitous to ecological hermeneutics is their respective detachment from the lifeworld, a detachment which characterizes each of their decision procedures.
Gadamer’s hermeneutic enterprise is modeled on a retrieval of the Aristotelian model of science which calls into question the modern notion of ratiocination detached a priori from experience, from the lifeworld. Through this hermeneutic enterprise Gadamer develops a theory of science whic...
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(15) Op. cit., trans. David Ross (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984), p. 3.
(16) Reason in the Age of Science, p. 8
(17) Ibid., p. 105. Italics mine.
(18) In passing it is interesting to note that from the perspective of ecological hermeneutics, such attempts such as Julian Simon’s to discount any aspect of human life which cannot be quantitatively measured are exceedingly tenuous. As he sees it, the "simplest and most accurate measure of health is length of life, summed up as the average life expectancy." But in an effort to remain objective, Simon blatantly overlooks the possibility that life expectancy might have nothing to do with quality of life, as in the cases of terminally ill patients kept alive on respirators. See The Ultimate Resource (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1981), p. 130.