German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer dies. Gadamer's primary interest was hermeneutics - the study of the meaning of a text - and will argue that the meaning of a text depends upon two things: the historical situations of the author and that of the interpreter or reader.
Gadamer called this an "existential encounter" between two perspectives and two sets of expectations. He argued that it is necessary for any sort of interpretation to be possible in the first place. Reading and interpreting any text requires self-reflection as well as a growing awareness of one's own mind and situation. Therefore, every reading is grounded in a unique context. No single reading can be claimed as a definitive or final interpretation of a text.
Hans-Georg Gadamer was sharply criticized for his choices and behavior during both the Nazi and Communist eras of Germany. Gadamer never joined the Nazi party, but he benefited from their policies: after Jews are removed and banned form universities, he moved up quickly through the vacant positions. Gadamer even attended a Nazi indoctrination camp and the Nazis had him teach about German philosopher Johann Gottfried von Herder's interpretation of the Volk, an important Nazi concept.
A similar pattern occured under the Soviet occupation of East Germany when Gadamer's lectures praised the dictatorship of the proletariat. What Gadamer claimed to be apolitical academic research seems to have been crass opportunism. Supporters though claim that Gadamer was just pragmatic, doing what was necessary to survive.
Regardless of who is right, the situation raises serious questions about the role teachers have in society, especially those who specialize in ideas and philosophy. Should teachers stick to the realm of ideas and not get involved in politics? Or is philosophy divorced from daily life meaningless, such that philosophers have to be politically engaged.
Hans-Georg Gadamer's "pragmatic" acquiescence to Nazi and Communist governments was arguably be both a moral failing and a philosophical failing.