When the Question is More Important than the Answer

Recently for me it seems that the boundary between art and science is slowly dissolving. Both art and science both attempt to explain the world, and represent it, and for me we need both, as elements of our enquiries, whatever they may be.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

There is a concept called The Hermeneutic Circle, and one formulation of the concept goes along the lines of ‘to know an author you need to know their works, but to know their works you need to know the author’.

I was first introduced to Gadamer by Henri Bortoft, firstly in my classes with Henri, and then via his book Taking Appearance Seriously: The Dynamic Way of Seeing in Goethe and European Thought. I then launched into my first reading of truth and Method, which is such a vast and dense work, that during my first reading the truth and the method only partly revealed themselves to me.

This Christmas I had the opportunity to read Bruce Wachterghauser’s Beyond being: Gadamer’s Post-Platonic Hermeneutical Ontology which although has a seemingly pompous title, is a quite awesome commentary on Gadamer’s lifetime studies of Plato. Gadamer lived to the age of 72, and his published works on Plato span, I believe, 72 years.

I think for me one of the greatest lessons Wachterhauser teaches us about Gadamer’s reading of Plato is the way in which Gadamer is not trying to interpret Plato using strictly logical arguments. Many philosophers have nit picked their way through Plato, pointing our logical inconsistencies in his dialogues and texts, but this is not the way of Gadamer’s method.

For Gadamer, Plato’s dialogues have to be understood through play, and by this he means that the dialogues are to be taken as spoken texts, where there are inconsistencies, contradictions, sudden shifts and changes of topic. Gadamer not only interprets Plato, but enters into a dialogue with Plato, in order to discover the meaning of the texts, and his essays, such as in Dialogue and Dialectic which I am currently reading, are a revelation.

Lest all this sound a little too philosophical, these meanderings are of huge practical value. As one example, I was interested to read Gunther’s latest article on Archetype Evolutions, especially the work he has been doing with Paperlet, a new platform to allow people to write, edit, organise and publish their stories (see Archetype Evolutions – Understanding universal patterns & changing how we tell stories in a world of great transition).

What was especially interesting was to hear about the trials of using Paperlet in schools, and the way it is helping to transform learning and the dynamics of teacher-student relationships, due to the participatory nature of the creative process Paperlet facilitates.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

For Gadamer, the question is more important than the answer, and for me this is a huge insight. The reason is that in our lives, be they at work or not, we miss daily opportunities to ask questions, as we stay firmly rooted in our existing world views. Philosophy can be seen not as an opportunity to rediscover play, rediscover the intense questioning we had as children, and to discover wholeness in a seemingly fragmented world.

This wholeness is discovered in lived experience of which we write about in Holonomics. This again may seem like an obscure concept but when applied in a business context, we find that it is fundamental to concepts such as the customer experience, the creation of value, the development of teams, and the implementation of strategy. In a complex world, sometimes it seems to me that we have forgotten to ask questions. Through creative and participatory story telling, and through introducing this wonderful notion of play into our conversations, we move away from conflict and towards co-operation.



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