ON “PEDAGOGICAL RESISTANCE” AND “CHANGE FROM WITHIN”
But it is high time for us look more closely at what Zuckert depicts as Gadamer's attempt “to foster change from within, gradually, by means of persuasion rather than force.” This assumes, of course, that Nazi society could be changed by persuasion, not force—a mechanism that Goebbels anticipated and built into his propaganda machine. To repeat, only massive politico-philosophical Unbescholtenheit or “incompetence” could ever have thought that National Socialism (or fascism and capitalism) were radically alterable in this way. But this point aside, there are only two main examples given by Gadamer himself for how he attempted to “foster change from within,” and with what results. “Presumably” if there were others we would know about them.
What Gadamer “actually wrote” in Philosophical Apprenticeships (which he has chided one reader for even having read, let alone attempting to interpret critically):
Just how in solidarity one was [“one”—German man—appears to refer to oppositional philosophers and their interpellated listeners in seminars] may be shown by the following anecdote, which I forgot and which was related to me later by its originator [Urheber]. I gave a Plato lecture. In the discussion a soldier, who found himself on leave, asked what Plato would have said if a criminal tyrant were to stand as the leader [Fuhrer] of a state. I answered: Obviously [Selbstverstandlich] he would have approved of the murder of the tyrant.—There was no repercussion [or consequence: Es erfolgte heine Weiter-ung]. (PLn6)
When did the soldier relate this story to jog Gadamer's memory: during the Third Reich or after the war (if the soldier survived with Gadamer)? What
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repercussion or consequence, exactly,
did not result? Does this mean that neither Gadamer nor the student was punished? But then why not? Was it because the remark never left the classroom or because it did and the regime didn't care? In any case, Hitler was not murdered (notwithstanding the late failed attempt by a former member of the George circle with which Gadamer had been associated, namely, the true believer, then collaborator, and finally “martyr,” Stauffenberg). Hitler committed suicide. Gadamer's remark here is a Leerstelle,
a structured textual gap or “art of allusion” that can be differently interpreted. But so can the reference to Plato, which is, after all, a merely hypothetical interpretation of what Plato himself would have said and, as paraphrased in indirect discourse by Gadamer long after the war, does not necessarily establish what he himself—given his overall interpretation both of “the relation between philosophy and politics” either in Plato or in Gadamer's own self-proclaimed “incompetence” to know what this relation is—held to be true. If Gadamer's implication is that he was inciting his auditors to attempt to murder Hitler, based on a claim about what Plato would have thought and commanded, then how responsible is this innuendo pedagogically, politically, ethically, philosophically? Might this suggestion, this displacement unto others, not be irresponsible, cowardly, and unethical in the extreme 1?
Such questions are no more or less open to interpretation than is the anecdote itself. The latter does not speak of resistance any more
than it speaks of collaboration. Rather, it simply states,
leaving it up to the auditor (or reader) to decide what its author means, and what to do
about criminal tyrants—if anything at all. And, at the end of the day, in this
case, “there was no
So, with regard to repercussions and consequences, we need to turn to the second of the two main anecdotes illustrating Gadamer's simultaneous “pedagogical resistance” to National Socialism and his collaboration with it.
Once there was a dangerous repercussion [Weiterung]. In a seminar I had used an example in logic: All donkeys are brown. Great laughter—and a female student enthusiastically told a girlfriend. The letter was read by her parents. A denunciation followed. The poor girl had to go into factory work. I was ordered before the clever and well-meaning rector, who allowed himself to be satisfied with the acknowledgment that I had indeed used an example in logic. (PLn6)
“Presumably,” as we say, “brown” could be taken to refer to the “brown shirts” (the Sturmabteilung or SA), whereas, say, “black” would refer to the Schutz-staffel or SS. And “pink,” in the concentration camp semiotic system, would have designated homosexuals, “yellow” the Jews, “green” the Jehovah's Witnesses, “red” the communists, and so forth. This time, however, the repercussions of Gadamer's actions were indeed dangerous to someone (“the poor girl”), though once again not ultimately to him. (Sometimes mere logic does
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have its advantages, hermeneutical and other critiques of logic notwithstanding.) And we do not learn the further fate of this student (according to Zuckert, Gadamer acted to save his students), who was immediately reassigned from university to factory work, or what the kind, conditions, and location of that work were (many died in work camps)—perhaps simply because Gadamer did not or does not know. Once again, we have a Leerstelle
or “art of allusion”: the student and the rector were equally correct to have different (or the same) interpretations of Gadamer's example from logic—philosophically and/or politically. Gadamer's example, and his recounting, allow both possibilities without being required to take a stand in either case, or rather to take a stand in both cases. He can imply that he meant one thing but not the other depending on who the interlocutor is, depending on who wields the power to decide what is (the) truth. This is part of what is meant by such concepts as “collaboration and/or resistance,” “ethico-political responsibility and/or irresponsibility”—in fine,
this is what is meant by it's all “a matter of ‘interpretation’” and by relativism. Furthermore, however, this anecdote also appears to be a splendid example of the practical ethics of philosophical hermeneutics and its politics, its phwnesis
or “art of allusion.” What Gadamer certainly does admit is that this practical reason is potentially dangerous or devastating for someone-but to date it has not been dangerous or devastating to him. Dangerous and devastating it was only to someone else who might listen with his (or, more precisely in this case, her) Gadamerian “inner ear,” purportedly. Gadamer (who in 1946 was to find himself a university rector, having been appointed such by the Allies, including the Soviets—one of the last major nominally communist regimes on the planet) today gives no clear sign that he regrets or takes responsibility for the fate of the young woman student, nor in his system need he do so. Logisch,
as the Germans like to say. It is simply a “category mistake” to insist that Gadamer or philosophical hermeneutics take such responsibility. That's just the Hell of it. While there exist several logical refutations of relativism, it has proven itself to be quite impervious to them, especially when it conceals its esoteric first principle. In a different discourse: La lucha continual