Hermeneutics introduces English-speaking readers to a field of increasing importance in contemporary philosophy and theology—hermeneutics, the theory of understanding, or interpretation. Hermeneutics is concerned with the character of understanding, especially as it is related to interpreting linguistic texts. It goes beyond mere philological methodology, however, to questions of the philosophy of language, the nature of historical understanding, and ultimately the roots of interpretation in existential understanding.
Palmer principally treats the conception of hermeneutics enunciated by Heidegger and developed into a “philosophical hermeneutics” by Hans-Georg Gadamer. He provides a brief overview of the field of hermeneutics by surveying some half-dozen alternate definitions of the term and by examining in detail the contributions of Friedrich Schleiermacher and Wilhelm Dilthey. In the “Manifesto” which concludes the book, Palmer suggests the potential significance of hermeneutics for literary interpretation.
When the context of interpretation is pressed to its limits, hermeneutics becomes the philosophical analysis of what is involved in every act of understanding. In this context, hermeneutics becomes relevant not simply to the humanistic disciplines, in which linguistic and historical understanding are crucial, but to scientific forms of interpretation as well, for it asserts the principles involved in any and every act of interpretation.
Preface List of Abbreviations
Part I. On the Definition, Scope, and Significance of Hermeneutics 1. Introduction 2. Hermēneuein and Hermēneia: The Modern Significance of Their Ancient Usage 3. Six Modern Defintions of Hermeneutics 4. The Contemporary Battle over Hermeneutics Betti versus Gadamer 5. The Meaning and Scope of Hermeneutics
Part II. Four Major Theorists 6. Two Forerunners of Schleiermacher 7. Schleiermacher's Project of a General Hermeneutics 8. Dilthey: Hermeneutics as Foundation of the Geisteswissenschaften 9. Heidegger's Contribution to Hermeneutics in Being and Time 10. Heidegger's Later Contribution to Hermeneutical Theory 11. Gadamer's Critique of Modern Aesthetic and Historical Consciousness 12. Gadamer's Dialectical Hermeneutics
Part III. A Hermeneutical Manifesto to American Literary Interpretation 13. Toward Reopening the Question: What Is Interpretation 14. Thirty Theses on Interpretation
RICHARD E. PALMER is a professor emeritus of philosophy and religion at MacMurray College.
". . . insofar as this study has far reaching ramifications for all disciplines concerned with the nature and art of interpretation, it is relevant to the concerns of the philosopher and the literary critic." —The Review of Metaphysics
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