In The Point, Robert L. Kehoe III on the Gadamers
In 1922, Johannes Gadamer became the rector of the University of Marburg, where his son would pursue his education. Ironically, Marburg was an institution steeped in the classics of the Western tradition, and it was also the home of the celebrated young professor Martin Heidegger. Captivated by Heidegger’s charisma and genius, the younger Gadamer was persuaded to take up philosophy against his father’s wishes. In 1927, Johannes fell ill, and was mostly resigned to his sickbed for the last year of his life. Near the very end, he made a heartfelt attempt to look out for Hans-Georg’s future, calling on Heidegger to come to his bedside.
As Gadamer’s biographer Jean Grondin recounts, upon request Heidegger immediately made his way to the hospital. When he arrived he asked what he could do for the dying man. “I’m worried about my son,” he said. “Why so?” Heidegger asked. “He is doing very well. Of that I am fully confident … one year away from his Habilitation.” Johannes acknowledged as much. But with a sigh he asked, “Do you really believe that philosophy is enough of a vocation to occupy one’s life?”