Charles Taylor on Gadamer’s Hermeneutic Experience of the Other and the Changed Self
“In coming to see the other correctly, we inescapably alter our understanding of ourselves. Really taking in the other will involve an identity shift in us. That is why it is so often resisted and rejected. We have a deep identity investment in the distorted images we cherish of others … If understanding the other is to be construed as fusion of horizons and not as possessing a science of the object, then the slogan might be: no understanding the other without a changed understanding of self. The kind of understanding that ruling groups have of the ruled, that conquerors have of the conquered—most notably in recent centuries in the far-flung European empires—has usually been based on a quiet confidence that the terms they need are already in their vocabulary. Much of the ‘social science’ of the last century is in this sense just another avatar of an ancient human failing. And indeed, the satisfactions of ruling, beyond the booty, the unequal exchange, the exploitation of labor, very much includes the reaffirmation of one’s identity that comes from being able to live this fiction without meeting brutal refutation. Real understanding always has an identity cost—something the ruled have often painfully experienced. It is a feature of tomorrow’s world that this cost will now be less unequally distributed” (“Gadamer on the Human Sciences,” 141).