Dialogue and Community: The Ethical Claim of Tradition

The essay reconstructs an ethical approach towards history. The hermeneutic insight into the requirement for a dialogical access to the meaning of history is shown to entail an ethical dimension. The central thesis is that tradition raises an existential claim towards the interpreter that requires a dialogical recognition of the other’s expressed perspectives. The essay develops this thesis via a concept of tradition as an intersubjective community based on dialogue, which is inspired by Hans-Georg Gadamer’s reflections on the intertwinement of dialogical interpretation, tradition, and the ethical recognition of the other. The Gadamerian concept of tradition will nevertheless be radically revised so as to be suitable for historical interpretation. Dialogical recognition will now reach beyond the textual claims of linguistically raised validity claims to include an existential openness towards the other’s fully situated life-projects and narratives. The argument culminates in the introduction of an existential claim that history entails, and from there establishes a thorough rejection and critique of interpretive objectivism as well as of interpretive presentism.