The Experience of Truth: Gadamer on the Belonging Together of Self, World, and Language, by David W. Johnson

In this paper, David Johnson begins from the twin premises: (a) that there is a crisis in moral confidence consisting in a debilitating pessimism about the ability of human reason to reach or uncover truths expressed in the evaluative language of a self anchored in lived experience (e.g., value judgments), and (b) that this crisis is caused by the narrow conception of truth and instrumental conception of reason that arise from epistemic and ontological forms of objectivism. Johnson seeks to address this crisis by developing a rehabilitated understanding of truth and rationality made possible by Heidegger’s critique of objectivism—an understanding that arises out of our situatedness in the concrete, finite, historical world—and developed in Gadamer’s work on dialogical reason. Johnson goes on to defend this conception of truth from the objection that it amounts to nothing more than the achievement of dialogical consensus. He shows that there is a far more radical conception of truth at stake in Gadamer’s analysis of dialogical rationality that is grounded in the ontological continuity of subject and object, and reaches far beyond the simple experience of intersubjective agreement. Johnson contends that such a conception of truth is only visible if we hew closely to Gadamer’s account of the experience of dialogue as a process in which the individual actions and intentions of the participants are taken up into a movement that has its own dynamic, such that the truth is something that acts on our understanding in an event that happens to us.

Article available through Philosophy Documentation Center, here.

David W. Johnson is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Boston College, and currently Visiting Research Fellow at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies in Kyoto, Japan. Among his recent publications are “Watsuji’s Topology of the Self,” in The Bloomsbury Research Handbook of Contemporary Japanese Philosophy (Bloomsbury, forthcoming), “Acting-Intuition and the Acheivement of Perception: Merleau-Ponty with Nishida,” Philosophy East and West (2017), and Perception, Expression, and the Continuity of Being: Some Intersections between Nashida and Gadamer,” Asian Philosophy (2014), and “Merleau-Ponty and the Other World of Painting: A Response,” Journal of the British Society of Phenomenology (2009).

David W. Johnson, “The Experience of Truth: Gadamer on the Belonging Together of Self, World, and Language,” Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal 36:2 (2015), pp. 373–96.

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