I wanted to share an interesting concept of dialogue and listening I learned of recently at school. In my Communications course on everyday life, my professor talked about Hans Georg Gadamer, a German philosopher (1990-2002). He came up with a concept called the “Fusion of Horizons”.
Gadamer explains that a “horizon” is not just the line between the sky and the earth. A horizon is everything that can be seen from an individual’s standpoint. It encompasses all of the ideas, values, perceptions, and biases an individual has.
When two people listen to one another deeply, they create a fusion of horizons. It is important to note that this listening is active and not passive in the sense that one party does not have power over the other. Often times in discourse, people participate in passive listening where we are only listening to be polite; we listen so we can speak after and make our point, thus never really deeply listening to the other person.
A fusion of horizons means two different horizons merge together. Both of the separate individual horizons with its different ideas, values, perceptions, and biases come together in a new shared experience when both parties participate in active listening. The attention becomes focused on the other instead of the self, and this is when true understanding and dialogue can occur.
Experience the Thou as truly as a Thou – i.e. not to overlook his claim but to let him really say something to us… Openness does not exist only for the person who speaks; rather, anyone who listens is fundamentally open.
– Truth & Method, p. 361