“Incapable of having a conversation” seems to me to be more the accusation one makes against someone who doesn't want to follow his thoughts than a deficiency actually possessed by the other.
GADAMER, “The Incapacity to Converse”
It is perhaps symbolic that Plato initiated his Dialogues with the murder of Socrates. In subsequent works Socrates assumes various guises, yet even as he does so, we are reminded that he has already been killed. Plato obsessively recounts that Socrates dared to commit suicide to prove the immortality of the law…. What Plato (Socrates) proposed was not the idea that reason resides immanently in the world or self but the idea that only those propositions that pass through the dialogue can be acknowledged as rational. Those who reject the dialogue are considered irrational, no matter how profound or how vigorously argued their truth. KARATANI, Architecture as Metaphor
Zuckert's response is particularly successful in conveying to her readers a sense of surprise, indignation even, about a situation that the naive reader of philosophy might well have thought to be a simple donnee: Gadamer (like any philosopher or anyone else) is opposed to certain philosophical and political positions; and proponents of these or other positions are, in turn, opposed to Gadamer. Concomitantly, Zuckert is successful in downplaying any reservations about Gadamer's position that she herself might have (though some might be inferred even in her brief response here, and more extensive ones have been published elsewhere) and in embracing the aforementioned principle, which she basically attributes to Gadamer and which she conclusively calls “one of the two primary political virtues—moderation.” By not explicitly constating what the second primary political virtue might be, she leaves the reader to assume that it has been integrated into her response. In this (what might be called “art of allusion”), Zuckert would appear to follow the time-honored principle that it is generally more effective to perform basic virtues than it is (only) to give them names. Presumably we are to infer that Zuckert's entire response is informed by that unstated virtue in addition to moderation—not the least reason why her response is exemplary. In any event, this is her response's culmination:
Gadamer explicitly seeks to mediate. Neither Orozco nor Waite recognizes any center or middle in politics; they see only either/or's. As a result they not only fail to understand the essential character of Gadamer's hermeneutics; their writings also demonstrably lack one of the two primary political virtues—moderation.
Now, any question of the failure of Orozco's or of Waite's specific understanding of Gadamer aside, their falling short of (a) philosophy, the general
- One could attempt to argue that the post-Platonic Gadamerian “moderation” in question has certain internal inconsistencies and/or that it allows only some kinds of dialogue, on its own terms, but refuses others. This first, possibly double, tack has long existed in the reception history of Gadamer's work, not to mention Plato's, and more about that later. But the more immediate problem, of course, is that Gadamer and his (non) interlocutors have then all ended up engaging in a more or less sophisticated form of tu quoque (thou, too!) argument that always eventually leads to an impasse: not to the aporia (a-poros) that the Greeks saw as the beginning of dialogue and philosophical wisdom (philo-sophia), but to a simple dead end and point of termination —in the colloquial senses of the words. The one side is accused by the other of failing to participate in a dialogue that the other claims is a dialogue in name only—and so on. And thus it is that we all find ourselves singing a skewed version of an old ditty: “You say ‘dialogue,’ I say ‘dialogos' (but read, perhaps, ‘monologue’)—let's call the whole thing off.” But the whole thing is precisely not called off, and the vaudeville act drones on disguised as philosophy. So it appears that this first tack is at best necessary but at worst wholly insufficient. Because (demonstrably) little or nothing has ever been achieved by attempting to point out inherent contradictions (let alone ideological interference) either in Gadamer's (and perhaps Plato's) theory of dialogue or (a rather different thing) in his use of it, and because (demonstrably) there is little or nothing to be achieved in logic by tu quoque arguments, another tack becomes possible, necessary even.
- One can shift exclusive emphasis away from logic, including the dialogic, and attempt to show that the philosophical system here in dispute—philosophical hermeneutics and its obsessive affirmation of “dialogue” (which tends to be chanted as a conclusive mantra at the end of all encounters with both friends and enemies)—can best be understood as part of the long tradition of quasi-logical, quasi-dialogic Western (and not only Western) philosophy. This tradition can be given various names, say, “the art of allusion,” “exo/esotericism,” or some more common cognate (e.g., the “holy” or “noble lie,” the “double rhetoric”). On this second tack, apparent contradiction—both within the theoretical description of dialogue and
― 261 ―between this theory and its applicative practice—is understood as being, in essence, not contradictory at all, but rather as precisely apparent: namely, as “paradox” (para-doxa) and as “paranoia” in the strict philosophical and etymological sense (para-nous). Which is to say that any exoteric contradiction (communism exceptionally) in the system is now understood as an epiphe-nomenal manifestation of an unstated tertium quid (“God” or “Capital,” traditionally), as part of a parallel or supplemental “para-system” that is necessarily (systematically or intentionally) concealed from logical and dialogical purview. To be sure, taking this second basic tack, making this hypothesis, we can still not assume that we can enter into a dialogue with the dominant philosophical and rhetorical system of “mediation” and “moderation.” And, inversely, neither can that bourgeois system enter into dialogue with its new (communist) opponent. Indeed, according to this argumentative tack, both sides can never enter into such dialogue—not only because exo/esotericism would per definitionem refuse to expose itself fully to view but also, more generally, because there is no such thing as a metalanguage, hence no metadi-alogue, that covers all empirical or theoretical cases. What each side still can and must do, instead, is stake out its own philosophical, rhetorical, and political position, and let the chips fall where they may. Yet the problem persists that to say this amounts to ceding to the problem-as ancient as it always appears new—of relativism and to a view of philosophy as an antinomic Kampfplatz (Kant or Carl Schmitt) or differend and “phrase in dispute” (Lyotard) without the possibility of dialogue between the warring parties.
The argument thus far can be summed up in five points and one question, i) The question of whether or not Orozco or Waite have themselves failed or succeeded “to understand the essential character of Gadamer's hermeneutics” may be a related question but in any case is a different question from whether or not “their writings also demonstrably lack one of the two primary political virtues—moderation.” These are distinct questions because the essential characters of both Gadamer's hermeneutics and Zuck-ert's version of it are—arguably—also lacking in precisely this one virtue (if not the second virtue or some other unspecified virtue as well). 2) This tu quoque argument gets none of us anywhere beyond where we all already are, which is in a state of relativism and Mafia-like combat without appeal to a subtending metadiscourse. 3) This perceived lack of at least one primary virtue can be interpreted not as an inherent failing of the philosophical system under dispute but as being due to its concealed exo/esoteric design. 4) Nonetheless, both of Zuckert's questions (i.e., “the essential character of Gadamer's hermeneutics” and the nature and number of the “primary political virtues”) persist independently of the ability of an Orozco or a Waite (or a Zuckert) to identify and understand them—or to construct a set of questions that would provide an alternative to this dead end. 5) Zuckert is to be saluted for having constructed such a triumphant response to Orozco