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 which questions the idea that a human being can be epistemologically detached from the lifeworld, objectively observing it. This modern view Gadamer sees as a dangerous affirmation of disembodied theory from experience (viz., practice in the lifeworld). In response to modern science Gadamer develops his own contramodern theory of science. The problem with the modern ideal of science, as Gadamer sees it, is that in an effort to remain "objective" science often carries on a project because the technical expertise exists to enable it to be done. But what about the question should it be done? Just because a scientist can splice genes, does that mean a scientist should splice genes? As Gadamer asks, "For whose benefit is the work being accomplished? And how much do the achievements of technology serve life?" (3) Ecological hermeneutics endeavors to answer such questions.
The purpose of this paper is to consider the potential for ecological hermeneutics based on Gadamer’s theory of science. First we will outline his theory of science and its implications on the modern notion of science. Second, we will delineate ecological hermeneutics as an application of this theory of science. Third we will consider what we can expect from...