The Miracle of Reading

Book Tunnel at the Prague Municipal Library by Petr Kratochvil CC0

Nothing is so purely the trace of the mind as writing, but also nothing is so dependent on the understanding mind. In deciphering and interpreting a miracle takes place: the transformation of something strange and dead into a total simultaneity and familiarity. This is like nothing else that has come down to us from the past. The remnants of the life of the past, what is left of buildings, tools, the contents of graves, are weather-beaten but the storms of time that have swept over them, whereas a written tradition, when deciphered and read, is to such an extent pure mind that it speaks to us as if in the present. That is why the capacity to read, to understand what is written, is like a secret art, even a magic that looses and binds us. In it time and space seem suspended. The man who is able to read what has been handed down in writing testifies to and achieves the sheer presence of the past.

– Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method

You can find a copy of Gadamer’s groundbreaking work on philosophical hermeneutics at the partner link below:

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