This paper investigates Gadamer's reading and interpretation of Kant's Critique of the Power of Judgment in his Truth and Method , with an emphasis on his strongly worded disappointment towards “the subjectivism and agnosticism based on Kant.” It concerns not only the Wirkungsgeschichte for the Kantian aesthetics today, but serves also as an interesting case study in the contemporary dialogical hermeneutics, which sees text interpretation as living dialogues with text.
The paper begins with Gadamer's predominating position against the philosophy of subjectivity and consciousness, hence his reluctance to the tendency of Subjektivierung in aesthetics which takes aesthetic consciousness as starting point. The second section turns to Truth and Method (1960), where we examine once more Gadamer's first questioning of the problem of truth within the field of art. Gadamer employ series of concepts taken out of the humanistic tradition of the education (Bildung) in the first part of this book, such as taste, sensus communis , judgment, and genie , and we could see how comprehensive and vehement Gadamer's initial challenges to a Kantian aesthetics. Their disagreements are so obvious, even that we should go so far as to use different Chinese terms to translate the two concepts of taste (Geschmack) and sensus communis , although they are just the same German and Latin words used by both philosophers.
In section three, this paper explains how and why Gadamer's theory of art could offer a better understanding of art by the theory of play, that is the taking part passively in a game which centers always around the being of certain great work of art, in such a way as questioning and listening what this human made artwork can speak to us as historical being. And to strengthen his criticism of Kantian subjectivism and agnosticism in the field of art, Gadamer coined a new expression “aesthetic non-differentiation” as to challenge the Kantian distinction between natural beauty and artistic beauty, hence the Kantian thesis that natural beauty as free and independent, should take priority over the artistic beauty as adherent and dependent. This notion, which is a major thesis in this paper, could be conceived as an indication in advance to a later theory of the fusion of horizon in Gadamer's Truth and Method .
With rather limited space in a paper, I could not delve into a discussion of Gadamer's change in his evaluation of Kant's thought. However, this paper turns in section four to the text of Critique of the Power of Judgment to see what Kant had said so as to do justice to Kant according to the hermeneutic motto “back to the text and let it speak in itself for us again.” A few but very relevant points are therefore highlighted one by one, which taken together makes a quite positive hermeneutic reading of this philosophical classic showing how much is still plausible in our days, as Gadamer himself would partly also agree late r in the 70 th 's and 80 th 's.