Friday, October 30, 2009

"Method" in Gadamer, Wittgensetin and Cesar Milan

To expand upon this matter ofmethod and perhaps think aloud about it, I once got into an argument with a graduate student about whether Hans Georg Gadamer had amethod. I asserted that he did. The graduate student asserted that he didnt because of his book Truth and Method. In it, she pointed out, Gadamer rails againstmethod, therefore he could not have one.

She abandoned me before we pursued the matter as far as I would have liked, but what Gadamer was doing was opposing a certain sort ofmethod, any set of principles that were intended to be all-encompassing or utterly prescriptive. Gadamer didnt believe any set of philosophical principles were, ultimately, valid. He was very like Wittgenstein in that. And, I might add, like Cesar Milan as well. But that didnt mean that Gadamer, Wittgenstein and Cesar Milan didnt have a philosophy or method. We can examine what they said and did and discover what they believed in, what they taught, and how they proposed to proceed in regard to any matter they took up.

In Gadamers case, he believed that the approach to truth and understanding had been oversimplified by past philosophies. No one can write something and have it mean precisely what they think it means, because anytext involves both the writer and the reader. When we come to a text as a reader, we come with preconceived ideas and prejudices; so ourunderstanding of what the writer has written might be completely at odds with what the writer intended. That is just an example. He didnt have a method to determine meanings, but he did have amethod (I assert) to show that understanding is far more complicated that had hitherto been believed.

As to Wittgenstein, he simply denied thatphilosophy was a coherent body of writings and insisted that philosophy meantdoing philosophy, that is, thinking and analyzing and drawing or not drawing conclusions depending upon what one found.

And I see Cesar Milan doing something like that. I think Gadamer and Wittgenstein would have approved of Cesar Milan. He explores the problem as he finds it and then proposes a solution. The solution may, in some cases, not work, so he proposes something else. Some dogs, he decides, must be taken back to his pack in order to learn to be dogs in what Cesar believes approximates their natural environment.

Cesar is pragmatic rather than programmatic. He doesnt have a program like Bill and Dick Koehler had. He works toward solving problems. But he does have certain things, part of hismethod, that he seems to almost always do. He takes a dog out on a walk to establish his relationship with the dog. And if a dog wont submit to Cesars solution (red zone dogs), he takes the dog to his pack and lets the pack solve the dogs problems. He emphasizes being apack leader to everyone.

Consider Cesars book,How to Raise the Perfect Dog: Through Puppyhood and Beyond. Surely any book that proposes to do that provides amethod for its accomplishment.

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