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Hans-Georg Gadamer on Authority - Dictionary of Arguments

I 283
Authority/Gadamer: The contrast between the belief in authority and the use of one's own reason, as claimed by the Enlightenment, is in itself justified. Insofar as the validity of authority takes the place of one's own judgement, authority is indeed a source of prejudice. But that it can also be a source of truth is not excluded, and the Enlightenment misjudged this when it defamed all authority. To be sure of this, one can refer to one of the greatest pioneers of the European Enlightenment: Descartes. Despite all the radicalism of his methodical thinking, Descartes, as we know, exempted the things of morality from the claim of a complete reconstruction of all truths from reason. This was the purpose of his provisional morality.
I 284
In fact, not only is the defamation of all authority a prejudice established by the Enlightenment itself, but it has also led to a deformation of the concept of authority. But this is by no means the nature of authority. Certainly, authority comes first to persons. The authority of persons, however, has its final reason not in an act of submission and the abdication of reason, but in an act of recognition and knowledge - the knowledge, namely, that the other is superior to one in judgment and insight and that therefore his judgment takes precedence, i.e., has priority over one's own judgment. This is related to the fact that authority is not actually conferred, but is acquired and must be acquired if one wants to claim it. It is based on recognition and, in this respect, on an act of reason itself, which, within its limits, trusts others to have better insight. (...) directly, authority is not at all concerned with obedience, but with recognition.(1)

1. (...) The notorious phrase: "The party (or the leader) is always right" is not wrong because it claims the superiority of the leadership, but because it serves to shield the leadership from any criticism that might be true by a decision of power. True authority does not need to be authoritarian. This has been discussed many times, especially in my debate with J. Habermas. Cf. the anthology "Hermeneutik und Ideologiekritik", Frankfurt 1977, edited by J. Habermas, and my Solothurn lecture "Über den Zusammenhang von Autorität und kritischer Freiheit", Schweizer Archiv für Neurologie, Neurochirurgie und Psychiatrie 133 (1983), pp. 11-16 (HabermasVsGadamer; GadamerVsHabermas.

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 [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" 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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