Philosophy Dictionary of Arguments

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Gadamer I 322
Morality/Aristotle/Gadamer: The task of the moral decision is (...) to make the right decision in the concrete situation (...) , i.e. to look into the situation concretely and to take action in it. The [morally acting] person must therefore also take hold and choose the right means, and his or her action must be guided in the same way as that of the craftsman. Why is it, however, a knowledge of a different kind?
One learns a "techne" - and can also unlearn it. But one does not learn moral knowledge and cannot unlearn it. One does not face it in such a way that one can or cannot acquire it, just as one can or cannot choose an objective skill, a techne. Rather, one is always already in the situation of the one who is to act (...).
Application: This is precisely why the concept of application is highly problematic. Because you can only apply something that you already have for yourself. But one does not possess moral knowledge for oneself in such a way that one already has it and then applies it to concrete situations.
Conception: The image that the human has of what he or she is supposed to be, for example his or her concepts of right and wrong, of decency, courage, dignity, solidarity, etc. (all concepts that have their equivalent in the Aristotelian catalogue of virtues), are in a certain sense the models the person is looking at. But there is a fundamental difference between them and the model, which is, for example, the plan of an object to be produced for the craftsman.
Model/Eidos/Aristotle: the "Eidos" of what a
Gadamer I 323
craftsperson wants to make, is [on the other hand] fully determined by the use for which it is intended.
Rightness: (...) what is right also seems to be determined in a bad sense. (...) [It] is formulated in the laws and also contained in the general rules of conduct of the morality (...). Why is what Aristotle calls the judicial form of Phronesis (dikastike ohronesis) not a techne?(1) >Phronesis/Aristotle.
Application/Laws: [The user of laws] will have to let go of the strictness of the law in the concrete situation. But if he does so, it is not because it does not work out better, but because it would not be right otherwise. By slackening the law, he does not make concessions to the law, but on the contrary he or she finds the better law. Aristotle gives the most definite expression to this in his analysis: "Epieikeia"(2) is correction of the law;(3) Aristotle shows that all law is in a necessary tension to the concretion of action, provided that it is general and therefore cannot contain practical reality in its full concretion.
Gadamer I 326
Purpose/means/ends: A fundamental modification of the conceptual relationship between means and ends is shown, by which moral knowledge differs from technical knowledge. It is not only that moral knowledge does not have a merely particular purpose, but that it concerns right living as a whole - whereas, of course, all technical knowledge is particular and serves particular purposes. It is also not only the case that moral knowledge must occur wherever technical knowledge would be desirable but is not available. Moral knowledge cannot, in principle, have the precedence of teachable knowledge. The relationship between means and ends is not such that knowledge of the right means could be made available in advance, and this is because knowledge of the right purpose is not merely the object of knowledge either. There is no prior determination of what the right life as a whole is aimed at. The Aristotelian provisions of the Phronesis therefore show a significant fluctuation, provided that this knowledge soon becomes more the purpose, soon to be assigned more to the means to the end(4)
Gadamer I 328
Moral knowledge is really a knowledge of its own kind. It embraces means and ends in a peculiar way and is thus different from technical knowledge. For this very reason there is no point in distinguishing here between knowledge and experience, as is the case with "techne". For moral knowledge itself contains a kind of experience in itself (...).
Understanding/understand: Understanding is introduced as a modification of the virtue of moral knowledge, except when it concerns myself, who must act. Then "synesis" clearly means the ability of moral judgment.


1. Eth. Nic. Z 8.
2. Eth. Nic. E 14
3. Lex superior preferenda est inferiori (writes Melanchthon explaining the ratio of the Epieikeia. (The oldest version of Melanchthon's Ethics, ed. by H. Heineck (Berlin 1893 p. 29.).
4. Aristotle generally emphasizes that the phronesis is concerned with the means (ta pros to telos) and not with the telos. It is probably the contrast to the Platonic doctrine of the idea of the good that makes him emphasize this in this way. But that the phronesis is not a mere property of the right choice of means, but itself a moral hexis, which sees the telos with which the actor is directed by his or her moral being, is clearly evident from its systematic place within Aristotelian ethics. Cf. Eth. Nic. Z 10, 1142 b33; 1140 b 13; 1141 b 15.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Gadamer I
Hans-Georg Gadamer
Wahrheit und Methode. Grundzüge einer philosophischen Hermeneutik 7. durchgesehene Auflage Tübingen 1960/2010

Gadamer II
H. G. Gadamer
The Relevance of the Beautiful, London 1986
German Edition:
Die Aktualität des Schönen: Kunst als Spiel, Symbol und Fest Stuttgart 1977


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2020-09-21
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