"Was ist der Mensch?" / "What is man?" (1944). Edited and translated by Facundo Bey

Phainomena 116 (30):255-280. Translated by Facundo Bey (2021)
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The essay “Was ist der Mensch?” appeared for the first time in December 1944 in the German magazine with a hundred years of tradition edited by the publisher J. J. Weber Illustrierte Zeitung Leipzig [Illustrated Magazine Leipzig]. This special cultural edition, entitled Der europäische Mensch [The European Man], which was distributed exclusively abroad, was to be the last volume of the magazine after its final regular issue in September 1994 (No. 5041). Only in 1947, the text was republished, with the same pagination, in a compilation made by J. J. Weber, Vom Wahren, Schönen, Guten. Aus dem Schatz europäischer Kunst und Kultur [On the True, the Beautiful, the Good. From the Treasury of European Art and Culture]. The publisher was expropriated in 1948, and three years later the company was finally removed from the German commercial registry. “Was ist der Mensch?” has never been released in any of Gadamer’s books or separately published in a journal; it also does not appear within the 10 volumes of his Gesammelte Werke [Collected Works]—the only exception is an Italian translation included in a volume devoted to Gadamer’s views on education and the notion of Bildung (cf. Gadamer 2012). The aim of this translation is to make accessible this Gadamer’s quest for the occidental interpretations of human self-consciousness, which has until now been almost unknown and in which, for the first time, Gadamer shows, from a theoretical standpoint, not only his early—although implicit—keen interest in Max Scheler’s anthropology (particularly Scheler’s considerations on the basic historical types of the occidental man’s self-perception in accordance with the basic and underlying concept of human history that still have powerful effectiveness in modern times), but also—at the historical threshold of the imminent ending of World War II—his own concern regarding possible philosophical answers to the question: “What is man?” Cf. especially Scheler 1926 (GW 9, 120–144); 1928 (GW 9, 7–71); 1929 (GW 9, 145–170). All commenting annotations to Gadamer’s text are authored by the editor and translator.


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