Fusion of horizons
"Fusion of horizons" (German: Horizontverschmelzung) is a dialectical concept which results from the rejection of two alternatives: objectivism, whereby the objectification of the other is premised on the forgetting of oneself; and absolute knowledge, according to which universal history can be articulated within a single horizon. Therefore, it argues that we exist neither in closed horizons, nor within a horizon that is unique.
People come from different backgrounds and it is not possible to totally remove oneself from one's background, history, culture, gender, language, education, etc. to an entirely different system of attitudes, beliefs and ways of thinking. People may be looking for a way to be engaged in understanding a conversation or dialogue about different cultures and the speaker interprets texts or stories based on his or her past experience and prejudice. Therefore, “hermeneutic reflection and determination of one’s own present life interpretation calls for the unfolding of one’s ‘effective-historical’ consciousness.” During the discourse, a fusion of “horizons” takes place between the speaker and listeners.
Horizons to be fused
Every finite present has its limitations. We define the concept of “situation” by saying that it represents a standpoint that limits the possibility of vision. Hence essential part of the concept of situation is the concept of “horizon.” The horizon is the range of vision that includes everything that can be seen from a particular vantage point... A person who has no horizon is a man who does not see far enough and hence overvalues what is nearest to him. On the other hand, "to have an horizon" means not being limited to what is nearby, but to being able to see beyond it...[W]orking out of the hermeneutical situation means the achievement of the right horizon of inquiry for the questions evoked by the encounter with tradition.
Person A and person B exchange their ideas and opinions within a conversation. People come from different places have different opinions and this difference in background creates a set of prejudice and bias which provides various intrinsic values and meanings while the conversation is carrying on. By receiving the information from person A, a fusion of person B’s vision limitation are taking place and consequently, it broadens person B’s range of horizon. In other words, the totality of all that can be realized or thought about by a person at a given time in history and in a particular culture widens and enriches. Gadamer argues that people have a "historically effected consciousness" (wirkungsgeschichtliches Bewußtsein) and that they are embedded in the particular history and culture that shaped them. Thus, interpreting a text involves a 'fusion of horizons' where the scholar finds the way to articulate the text's history with their own background.
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- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Hans-George Gadamer, Sect. 3.2: The Happening of Tradition
- Herda (1999:63)
- Gadamer, Hans-Georg. Truth and Method. New York: Continuum, 1997, p.302