Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method
org. 1960, as Wahrheit und Methode in German
Openness to the other, then, involves recognizing that I myself must accept some things that are against me, even though no one forces me to do so. This is the parallel to the hermeneutical experience. I must allow tradition’s claim to validity, not in the sense of simply acknowledging the past in its otherness, but in such a way that it has something to say to me. This too calls for a fundamental sort of openness. Someone who is open to tradition in this way sees that historical consciousness is not really open at all, but rather, when it reads its texts “historically,” it has always thoroughly smoothed them out beforehand, so that the criteria of the historian’s own knowledge can never be called into question by tradition. Recall the naïve mode of comparison that the historical approach generally engages in. The 25th “Lyceum Fragment” by Friedrich Schlegel reads: “The two basic principles of so-called historical criticism are the postulate of the commonplace and the axiom of familiarity. The postulate of the commonplace is that everything that is really great, good, and beautiful is improbable, for it is extraordinary or at least suspicious. The axiom of familiarity is that things must always have been just as they are for us, for things are naturally like this.” By contrast, historically effected consciousness rises above such naive comparisons and assimilations by letting itself experience tradition and by keeping itself open to the truth claim encountered in it.