A Hermeneutics of Practice: Philosophical Hermeneutics and the Epistemology of Participation
Keywords:Gadamer, philosophical hermeneutics, participation
Gadamerâ€™s â€œPhilosophical Hermeneuticsâ€ leaves several unresolved questions inviting further development. (1) If scientific methodology is no longer the counter-balance to questions of procedure in the humanities, what can hermeneutics offer the sciences in grappling with the absence of certainty? (2) Why does Gadamer not develop the notion that understanding is a type of movement? What is understandingâ€™s seemingly perpetual disquiet? (3) Gadamerâ€™s case that understanding is an event is part of his rejection of the Kantian thesis that â€œknowingâ€ is grounded in subjective consciousness. The question of how such events are generated is unresolved. Placing the event of understanding in a linguistic horizon establishes its ontological pre-requisite but offers no insight into the mechanisms that have to be in place to facilitate its emergence.
This paper will suggest that the notion of practice (itself a philosophical theme not extensively discussed in Gadamer) offers three possible answers to these questions. (1) Practice evolves notions of certitude other than those that are strictly epistemological. (2) Practice is often driven by a quest for completion (Vollzug) which proves instrumentally disruptive and a means to new insight. The drive for completion is a candidate for generating understandingâ€™s disquiet. (3) Practice facilitates not so much a fusion but a collision of horizons capable of generating unexpected transformations of understanding. All three answers suggest the development of philosophical hermeneutics into what will be termed a participatory hermeneutics.
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