Essays on Methods and Understanding
Peter Frick: Understanding Bonhoeffer: from Default to Hermeneutic Reading
Peter Frick Understanding Bonhoeffer: from Default to Hermeneutic Reading Die Seele der Hermeneutik besteht darin, daß der andere recht haben kann. Jean Grondin on Gadamer1 Introduction The ability to read is one of the marks of the educated person and the be- ginning of civility. Those who are able to read usually do so without giving any thought to their underlying “perspective,” “approach” or “interpretive method.” Reading happens nearly automatically. The reader’s eyes glance at the words and lines of a speciﬁc text, and with little effort, the meaning of the text forms in our minds. We have found the information we were looking for, or we have gained a certain understanding or answer regarding a speciﬁc question. There are, of course, various levels of reading which involve distinct degrees of interest and intellectual alertness. It is one thing to leaf superﬁcially through a newspaper or glance at a ﬂyer advertising groceries but quite another thing to read a philosophical discourse, such as Anselm’s Prologion, Aquinas’ Summa or Heidegger’s Being and Time. There is also a marked difference in reading an author in his or her original language of composition or in translation. In other words, reading – and correspondingly understanding – are deci- sively hermeneutical tasks. But as even a glance at the vast corpus of second- ary literature on Bonhoeffer makes apparent, when it comes to reading and understanding his writings hermeneutically – and correctly – there seems to be much inconsistency and confusion. Is it even reasonable, permissible...
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