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Existentialism and Hermeneutics


Hermeneutics asks such questions as, Where does the meaning of a text reside (if it has meaning at all)? How does one interpret a text? Does a text have a singular (or primary) meaning? What criteria are reasonable (if any) to determine whether or not a meaning is incorrect? Answers to such questions are directly related to one’s views about reality and about our experience of reality.

In a seminar on hermeneutics, I just finished up some reading and discussion of Hans-Georg Gadamer and Paul Ricoeur, especially as their work in the 20th century affected hermeneutics. Both were influenced by Heidegger’s existentialism, a philosophy which asserts that “existence comes before essence” (a popular definition, but a phrase I find difficult to trace to any one individual).¬†Of course, there is more to Heidegger than this, and I doubt I fully understand him. Even so, what I am interested in doing here (in perhaps two or three posts) is briefly demonstrating how one’s view of reality affects hermeneutics…in this case, how existentialism affects hermeneutics.

More of this in part 2.

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