I'll be writing a paper soon on successful dialogue in the context of religious commitments, and I thought that Gadamer's Ethics of Play by Monica Vilhauer, a book I had stumbled upon online last summer, might help. I'm still in the middle of it, but it has been a great resource so far. Not only does Vilhauer offer a very interesting take on the significance of Hans-Georg Gadamer's philosophical hermeneutics for the ethics of dialogue, she also provides a very clear and succinct overview of Gadamer's hermeneutics itself. Vilhauer definitely writes "for the rest of us."
Gadamer is known for his description of hermeneutics as the fundamental structure of understanding, or his "philosophical hermeneutics." It is his contention that all understanding takes the form of interpretation, and from this assumption he goes on to offer a description of the process of understanding itself in his magnum opus, Truth and Method. Against some of his intellectual opponents, Gadamer holds that understanding is always possible in principle, and that individuals, as well as readers of texts, are not ultimately estranged from their dialogue partners.
In this book, Vilhauer takes up Gadamer's concept of "play" as a beneficial method of engaging in dialogue in order to "illuminate the ethical conditions for genuine dialogue and understanding that emerge from Gadamer's hermeneutic philosophy." By analyzing Gadamer's description of the phenomenon of understanding and focusing specifically upon those preconditions which allow understanding to occur, Vilhauer attempts to lay out an ethical framework in which successful dialogue can take place.
I think I'll try to find a relaxing novel to read next. I'll be graduating soon, and I plan on taking advantage of the breather!
Neil Baker majors in Liberal Arts here at Hope, with a concentration in Philosophy and Theology. He is in his fourth year, and will be graduating in May.
Gadamer's Ethics of Play: Hermeneutics and the Other by Monica Vilhauer, Lexington Books, 2010.
This book can be purchased from Amazon.com, Banes and Noble, and Better World Books.
You may also find this book at your local library by searching WorldCat.org.