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Wilhelm Dilthey on Historical Consciousness - Dictionary of Arguments

Gadamer I 233
Historical Consciousness/Dilthey/Gadamer: Is there also an absolute spirit for Dilthey? (...) [i.e.] a complete self-transparency, complete erasure of all strangeness (...)? For Dilthey it is not a question that there is and that it is historical consciousness that corresponds to this ideal, and not speculative philosophy. It sees all the phenomena of the human-historical world only as objects by which the mind recognizes itself more deeply. Insofar as it understands them as objectivations of the spirit, it translates them back "into the spiritual vitality from which they emerged"(1). The formations of the objective mind are thus objects of self-knowledge of that spirit for the historical consciousness. Historical consciousness extends itself into the universal, provided that it understands all the circumstances of history as an expression of the life from which they originate; "life grasps life here"(2). In this respect, the entire tradition becomes a self-encounter of the human spirit for the historical consciousness. It thus draws to itself what seemed to be reserved for the special creations of art, religion and philosophy. Not in the speculative knowledge of the concept, but in the historical consciousness; the knowledge of the spirit of itself is completed
Gadamer I 234
by itself. It preserves historical spirit in everyting. Even philosophy is only an expression of life. As long as it is aware of this, it thereby gives up its old claim to be knowledge through concepts. It becomes philosophy of philosophy, a philosophical justification of the fact that there is philosophy in life - besides science. Dilthey has in his latest works drafted such a philosophy of philosophy, in which he attributed the types of worldview to the multi-sidedness of life that is interpreted in them(3). Dilthey himself has pointed out that we only recognize historically because we ourselves are historical. That should be an epistemological relief.
Gadamer I 235
GadamerVsDilthey: But can it be? Is Vico's often mentioned formula correct at all?
Doesn't it transfer an experience of the human artistic spirit to the historical world, in which one cannot speak of "doing", i.e. planning and executing in the face of the course of events? Where is the epistemological relief to come from here? Isn't it in fact a complication? Must not the historical conditionality of consciousness represent an insurmountable barrier for its completion in historical knowledge?
Hegel/Gadamer: Hegel might have thought that by abolishing history in absolute knowledge this barrier had been overcome. But if life is the inexhaustible-creative reality as which Dilthey thinks it is, must not the constant change of the context of meaning of history exclude a knowledge that reaches objectivity? So is historical consciousness in the end a utopian ideal and contains a contradiction in itself? >Understanding/Dilthey, >Consciousness/Dilthey.
Gadamer I 238
What is the distinction of the historical consciousness (...) that its own conditionality cannot
abolish the fundamental claim to objective recognition?
Knowledge/Absolute Knowledge: His distinction cannot be that it is really in the sense of Hegel's "absolute knowledge", that is, that it unites in a present self-consciousness the whole of the becoming of the spirit.
Truth: The claim of the philosophical consciousness to contain in itself the whole truth of the history of the spirit is just denied by the historical world view. That is rather the reason why historical experience requires that human consciousness is not an infinite intellect for whom everything is simultaneously and equally present. Absolute identity of consciousness and object is in principle unattainable to finite-historical consciousness.
Gadamer I 239
Dilthey/Gadamer: [one can summarize his view like this]: Historical consciousness is not so much self-extinction ((s) as in Hegel) as an increased possession of itself, which distinguishes it from all other forms of the spirit. It no longer simply applies the measures of its own understanding of life to the tradition in which it stands and thus further forms in naive appropriation of the tradition ("tradition" as in handing down sth) the tradition ("tradition" as in heritage). It knows itself rather to itself and to the tradition in which it stands, in a reflected relationship. It understands itself from its history. Historical consciousness is a way of self-knowledge. >Life/Dilthey.


1. Ges. Schr. Vll V, 265
2. Ges. Schr. Vll VII, 136
3. Ges. Schriften V, 339ff u. Vlll.


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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. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
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.

Dilth I
W. Dilthey
Gesammelte Schriften, Bd.1, Einleitung in die Geisteswissenschaften Göttingen 1990

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 2021-09-18
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