Introduction to Philosophical Hermeneutics

Introduction to Philosophical Hermeneutics

Copyright Date: 1994
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 252
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    Introduction to Philosophical Hermeneutics
    Book Description:

    In this wide-ranging historical introduction to philosophical hermeneutics, Jean Grondin discusses the major figures from Philo to Habermas, analyzes conflicts between various interpretive schools, and provides a persuasive critique of Gadamer's view of hermeneutic history, though in other ways Gadamer'sTruth and Methodserves as a model for Grondin's approach.Grondin begins with brief overviews of the pre-nineteenth-century thinkers Philo, Origen, Augustine, Luther, Flacius, Dannhauer, Chladenius, Meier, Rambach, Ast, and Schlegel. Next he provides more extensive treatments of such major nineteenth-century figures as Schleiermacher, Böckh, Droysen, and Dilthey. There are full chapters devoted to Heidegger and Gadamer as well as shorter discussions of Betti, Habermas, and Derrida. Because he is the first to pay close attention to pre-Romantic figures, Grondin is able to show that the history of hermeneutics cannot be viewed as a gradual, steady progression in the direction of complete universalization. His book makes it clear that even in the early period, hermeneutic thinkers acknowledged a universal aspect in interpretation-that long before Schleiermacher, hermeneutics was philosophical and not merely practical. In revising and correcting the standard account, Grondin's book is not merely introductory but revisionary, suitable for beginners as well as advanced students in the field.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15690-4
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Hans-Georg Gadamer

    The “universality of hermeneutics” is less the name of a certain position than a demand for a certain kind of distinction. The termhermeneuticsgoes far back and traverses a long history from which there is still much to learn today. However, the termuniversalitypresents a challenge, as it were—one that indicates not so much a philosophical position as a philosophical task. Thus I am very happy to be able to introduce Jean Grondin’s book, already known to me in German, to the English reader. At the outset of the long history of the concept of hermeneutics stands...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    Since its emergence in the seventeenth century, the wordhermeneuticshas referred to the science or art of interpretation. Until the end of the nineteenth century, it usually took the form of a theory that promised to lay out the rules governing the discipline of interpretation. Its purpose was predominantly normative, even technical. Hermeneutics limited itself to giving methodological directions to the specifically interpretive sciences, with the end of avoiding arbitrariness in interpretation as far as possible. Virtually unknown to outsiders, it long maintained the status of an “auxiliary discipline” within the established disciplines that concerned themselves with interpreting texts...

  6. I On the Prehistory of Hermeneutics
    (pp. 17-44)

    The development of explicit hermeneutical reflection bears the signature of modernity. As shown above with reference to Nietzsche and Habermas, what distinguishes the modern world-picture is its consciousness of being perspectival. As soon as it becomes evident that worldviews do not merely duplicate reality as it is in itself, but are instead pragmatic interpretations embraced by our language-world, then hermeneutics comes into its own. Only with the advent of modernity has this occurred. For this reason, it is hardly accidental that the Latin wordhermeneuticafirst emerges in the seventeenth century. Yet modern insights can be traced back to antiquity,...

  7. II Hermeneutics between Grammar and Critique
    (pp. 45-62)

    In the introduction I noted that there is good reason not to chart hermeneutic history in a ideological manner. We might better maintain a healthy skepticism toward the widespread idea that hermeneutics came into its own by advancing from a loose collection of interpretive rules to the status of a universal problematic. In reviewing the course of its “prehistory”—called this only because the wordhermeneuticswas not yet in use—we have seen that such a teleological view is not borne out. At the same time, the various stages of what came to be called hermeneutics (that is, theory...

  8. III Romantic Hermeneutics and Schleiermacher
    (pp. 63-75)

    If Romanticism means simply an unsatisfiable longing for completeness, nineteenth-century hermeneutic theory was certainly Romantic. It was distinguished in fact by an unprecedented reticence about finally bringing work to publication. Hardly any authors of the great hermeneutic classics, from Schlegel to Schleiermacher, Böckh, Droysen, and Dilthey, risked allowing their hermeneutic works even to go into print. It is only thanks to their students that their inquiries were transmitted to posterity.

    The transition from the Enlightenment to Romanticism is characterized, above all, by a great discontinuity. Even at first glance this is already manifested by the fact that Schleiermacher seems oblivious...

  9. IV The Problems of Historicism
    (pp. 76-90)

    Schleiermacher wanted to limit the theory of the hermeneutic circle to written texts and to the author’s individuality. His purpose was to keep in check the arbitrariness of circle, the power of which, Ast suggested, could no longer be circumscribed. Although the idea of a circle summons up the idea of a fallacy to be avoided, at bottom it rests upon a logical basis: the demand for coherence, that is, for understanding the particular only in the context [Zusammenhang] of the whole to which it belongs. For the nineteenth century, this coherent whole was concretized in the historical context of...

  10. V Heidegger: Hermeneutics as the Interpretation of Existence
    (pp. 91-105)

    In the nineteenth century, hermeneutic reflection remained peripheral in certain respects (especially to philosophy). Though their founding intuitions were broadly based, the classic figures in hermeneutics who were representative of the century—Böckh, Schleiermacher, Droysen, and Dilthey—did not manage to develop a unified conception of hermeneutics or publish it in systematic form. Indicative of this state of affairs is that their hermeneutic inquiries had to be compiled from posthumous writings edited by their students and published mostly in the form of overviews and fragments. This situation slowly begins to change with Heidegger (1889–1976), who was demonstrably influenced early...

  11. VI Gadamer and the Universe of Hermeneutics
    (pp. 106-123)

    In making language the essence of hermeneutics Gadamer clearly follows the later Heidegger’s radicalization of historical thrownness. His aim, however, is to reconcile this radicalization with the young Heidegger’s hermeneutical starting point, namely, understanding. Specifically, given that we are situated in a history articulated in linguistic tradition, what are the consequences for human understanding and self-knowledge? These consequences are elaborated in “The Ontological Shift of Hermeneutics Guided by Language,” the title of the last third of Gadamer’s magnum opus,Truth and Method. To understand what this ontological or universal shift in hermeneutics implies, we need to return to the underlying...

  12. VII Hermeneutics in Dialogue
    (pp. 124-139)

    If anything is universal in philosophical hermeneutics, it is probably the recognition of one’s own finitude, the consciousness that actual speech does not suffice to exhaust the inner conversation that impels us toward understanding. Gadamer ties the universality of the hermeneutic process to the fact that understanding depends on this ongoing conversation: “That a conversation occurs, no matter when or where or with whom, wherever something comes to language, whether this is another person, a thing, a word, a flame (Gottfried Benn)—this is what constitutes the universality of hermeneutic experience.”¹ Only in conversation, only in confrontation with another’s thought...

  13. Afterword
    (pp. 140-144)

    The argument between Derrida and Gadamer has made at least one thing clear: the charge brought against the universal search for truth and understanding is universal perspectivism, as Nietzsche inscribed it in philosophical consciousness. What is the point of striving for understanding, when everything is perspectival and historically conditioned? Often Gadamer has himself been viewed as the spokesman for historical relativism, since he had written that we do not understand better, but only differently. What would it mean to talk about the universality of understanding differently? Ultimately, does it not destroy the whole notion of truth?

    All appearances to the...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 145-168)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 169-228)
  16. Index
    (pp. 229-232)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 233-233)