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Language and Understanding: The Meaning of the Linguistic Ontology of Gadamer’s Hermeneutics

China Social Science Review

No.2, 2020

 

Language and Understanding: The Meaning of the Linguistic Ontology of Gadamer’s Hermeneutics

(Abstract)

 

Zhang Nengwei

 

People are “beings with language” (Gadamer). Language is always intertwined with philosophy. The Greek “logos” has the original meaning of speaking or discussing. Aristotle pointed out that it was through language that people could express their understanding of the world and their reflections on good and evil. However, under the long-term domination and influence of “linguistic instrumentalism” and “linguistic semiotics,” it was only in modern and contemporary philosophy that the philosophical status of language attained profound understanding and reflection that have led to the rise of “the linguistic turn in philosophy.” However, in Gadamer’s view, the essential nature of the meaning of language has yet to be understood. The philosophical hermeneutics he created takes language as man’s experience of being-the-world and provides an in-depth analysis of the objects, process and modes of understanding language. He puts forward and expounds “an understanding of ontology” with language as the main thrust; this takes universal hermeneutics into the practical thinking of the real world, thus establishing the central position of language in philosophical thought. In his words, “Being that can be understood is language.” When the issue of being is united with language, and linguistic understanding is united with practical philosophy, the question of ontology is no longer only one of transcendental substantive thought, but also involves a new understanding and new provisions derived from the language of people’s real experience of being. This may therefore give metaphysics a new direction.