Gadamer on Schleiermacher: Historical Preparation

April 1, 2012 — Leave a comment

The origins of realising the relationship between the parts and the whole are found in the interpretation of the scriptures, a concern that arises with Luther and Reformation:

“The literal meaning of scripture, however, is not clearly available in every place and at every moment. For it is the whole of scripture that guides the understanding of the individual passage: and again this whole can be reached only through the cumulative understanding of individual passages.” (p154)

The role of Hermeneutics:

“Our starting point is the proposition that to understand means primarily for two people to understand one another. Understanding is primarily agreement or harmony with another person. Men generally understand each other directly, i.e they are in dialogue until they reach agreement. Understanding, then, is always understanding about something. Understanding each other means understanding each other on a topic or the like.” (p158)

“But Schleiermacher’s particular contribution is psychological interpretation. It is ultimately a divinatory process, a placing of oneself within the mind of the author, an apprehension of the ‘inner origin’ of the composition of a work, a recreation of the creative act. Thus understanding is a reproduction related to an original production, a knowing of what has been known (Boeckh), a reconstruction that starts from the vital moment of conception, the ‘germinal decision’ as the composition’s point of organisation.” (p 164)

“Insofar as utterance is not merely an inner product of thought, but is also communication and has, as such, an external form, it is not simply the immediate manifestation of the thought, but presupposes reflection. This is true, of course, of what is written down, and hence of all texts.” (p165)

“Thus all utterances and all texts are basically related to the art of understanding, hermeneutics, and this explains the connection between rhetoric (which is a part of aesthetics) and hermeneutics; every act of understanding is for Schleiermacher the inverse act of speech, the reconstruction of a construction. Thus hermeneutics is a kind of inversion of rhetoric and poetics.” (p166)

Schleiermacher and individuality:

“…all individuality is a manifestation of universal life and hence ‘everyone carries a tiny bit of everyone else within himself, so that divination is stimulated by comparison with oneself.’ Thus he is able to say that the individuality of the author can be directly grasped ‘by, as it were, transforming oneself into the other’. Since Schleiermacher represents understanding as related in this way to the problem of individuality, the task of hermeneutics presents itself to him as a universal one.” (p166/167)


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