Philosophy ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 7-29-2019


This dissertation is a study of the problem of modernity, formulated as the following multivalent question: How should we understand the scope, character, and limitations of our historical age? The study approaches this question from the point of view of Martin Heidegger and Hans-Georg Gadamer. We will, first, clarify how Heidegger and Gadamer think about modernity, thereby shedding light on their widely misunderstood intellectual relationship; and, next, uncover and defend a distinctively Gadamerian response to modernity as a viable argument, and as potentially more coherent and hopeful than Heidegger’s answer to the problem of the modern age.

In the first part, I present my reading of how these figures think about modernity. I outline Heidegger’s deconstruction of the modern age, that is, his main critique of modernity and his account of the movement into a postmodern future. Next, I motivate a contrast between Heidegger’s vision of modernity and Gadamer’s. Contrary to numerous misreadings, Gadamer proceeds along his own path of thinking, one that crucially begins with Heidegger but goes its own direction by advancing past the shortcomings of Heidegger’s thinking of modernity.

The next part outlines my interpretation of Gadamer’s post-Heideggerian response to the modern age, arguing that he accomplishes this task by rediscovering what remains most true and meaningful in the guiding metaphors of the modern age, while criticizing the pernicious elements of modernity’s bequest to the present. First, I reconstruct and defend Gadamer’s rehabilitation of modernity’s guiding epistemic metaphors, namely, transcendental thought, humanism, experience, objectivity, and curiosity, against the backdrop of his critique of other elements of modernity’s epistemic regimes. Next, I make the same type of argument with regard to guiding ocular metaphors of infinity, perspective, and mirroring.

A speculative Conclusion, on the political implications of Gadamer’s differences from Heidegger, suggests that the Gadamerian rehabilitation of modernity successfully engenders a more genuinely hopeful response to modernity than Heidegger provides. This short Conclusion again makes the case for Gadamer’s appreciable advancement beyond Heidegger.

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Iain Thomson

Second Committee Member

Mary Domski

Third Committee Member

Ann Murphy

Fourth Committee Member

Theodore George




Philosophy, Continental Philosophy, Hermeneutics, Modernity, Martin Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer

Document Type


Included in

Philosophy Commons