From Philosophy to Practice
Chapter 2. A History of Hermeneutics
Schleiermacher: Hermeneutics and Understanding
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A HISTORY OF HERMENEUTICS
For researchers who come from practice disciplines, excursions into German philosophy can seem arcane and remote. Practice, after all, implies practicality, and at times impatience with anything perceived as too abstract. Gadamer (2007), however, saw hermeneutics as a practical philosophy since human life is inseparable from understanding, so that a philosophy of understanding itself has direct relevance to how people negotiate all aspects of their existence. Reaching back into the historical development of hermeneutics prior to Gadamer’s work helps to understand his thought by identifying important currents of hermeneutic philosophy. Three such currents over the past two hundred years are language, history, and being. How do human beings achieve an understanding of themselves and other beings through language? How do they make sense of what they encounter in a world that is in constant flux, a world, and hence a self, that is historically constituted? These two questions are also central to hermeneutics-as-research, asking questions about complex human situations that emerge through practical involvement in language and in historical spaces. Hence, it is worth taking a step back to see how language, history, and being have been taken up in different ways by hermeneutic thinkers and to see how contemporary developments are still part of a living tradition of ideas. ← 9 | 10 →
Hermeneutics evolved during the 19th and 20th centuries from a discipline concerned primarily with theological texts, then texts more generally, then to the...
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