‘Love of Words’ – ‘Love of Wisdom’: Philology and Philosophy from a Hermeneutical Perspective
In Gadamer’s hermeneutics the relationship of philology to philosophy, viz., hermeneutics, often became a focus of his reflection. Thereby he underlined “the inner connection between the words ‘philology’ and ‘philosophy’”: philology is “the love of the logoi” and philosophy means “the love of the ‘sophos’.” Philology seems to precede hermeneutics, but the establishing of a text always involves necessarily interpretive work. It is a positivistic prejudice to believe that philology can do without interpretation, that is, hermeneutics. What Gadamer calls “conceptual history” [Begriffsgeschichte], and what he is pursuing as such, is precisely this inner interconnectedness of philology and philosophy, or philology and hermeneutics. This is in some sense Gadamer’s “method.” The first part of the paper argues that the interconnectedness of philology and philosophy, with each side referring to the other, is central to Gadamer‘s work; it is the “element” in which Gadamer‘s writings move. The second part investigates the relation of philology to history, concentrating on Gadamer’s thesis according to which philology is “Freude am Sinn, der sich aussagt”, while history is “Forschung nach Sinn, der verhüllt ist.” The third part centres around Gadamer’s characterization of the relation of philology to philosophy. Both share a love for the logoi, viz., wisdom expressing itself in words, and that constitutes their neighbourhood. But something such as “text” has a different meaning for philology or philosophy. It is the wording of a text that philology concentrates upon, whereas philosophy aims at “meaning.” Philosophy does not possess a language of its own, and that is why the effort of the philosophical concept does embody in ever newer linguistic forms. Philology tends to be true to (the wording of) the text, while philosophy is interested first and foremost in the sense or meaning of what is being said by the text. Philology is interested in the word, philosophy aims at understanding the matter. Philosophy is thus an unended conversation, where there is no first word any more than there is a last one. The lover of wisdom must be a lover of words, for there is no wisdom without words. Still, wisdom is not exhausted in words. Those who love words or speeches are not necessarily friends of wisdom. Wisdom is, for Plato, beyond the words. Love of words and love of wisdom, therefore, overlap, but do not totally coincide with one another.