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Introduction to Philosophical Hermeneutics


Ladislav Tkáčik

To be confronted with a text can lead us to open our own living world, to its expansion and saturation with something new or even with something else, something unpredictable. What then makes a human a human? Can philosophical hermeneutics say anything about that? It can! «Language is the real centre of a human being… The human is a real, as Aristotle used to say, being who has language» (Hans-Georg Gadamer). What makes a human a human is the fact that internal reflection is performed behind his voice. This is the most original topic of philosophical hermeneutics.
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5. Hermeneutics and Protestantism


Approaching the end of the Middle Ages, we have to mention the real hermeneutic revolution which was caused by Protestantism. A radical diversion from a tradition and an exclusive tendency to Scripture in how Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) realised it brought fundamental hermeneutic consequences. A principle “sola scripture” (only Scripture) and a conviction that Scripture is “sui ipsius interpres” (its own interpretative key) became the inverse hermeneutic principles of early Protestantism. Postulating of these convictions presupposed a certain renewal of the patristic thinking, for which Scripture was in the first place, and of the conviction concerning its fundamental intelligibility. Luther, as a professor of Biblical exegesis, refused allegoric interpretation and claims that if a reader understands a text correctly it uncovers its own meaning to a reader. The reader’s ← 27 | 28 → understanding is the realisation of Scripture itself. Interpretation of Scripture is its application in practice. Here comes the renewal of understanding of sensus literalis (literary meaning).

After a short time, an effort to clarify the more unintelligible passages by clearer parallel or exclusive urging on the language competence of a reader was not enough for Protestantism. It can be said that a principal weakness of Protestant hermeneutics was its absence. So the non-contradictoriness of the tradition and Scripture and their mutual support without detriment to its primacy was naturally confirmed at the Council of Trent in 1546.

Shortly after that Matthias Flacius Illyricus (1520 – 1575) writes, within the scope of Protestantism, an influential...

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