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An Introduction to Philosophical Hermeneutics

Lecturer: Mammad Aidani

Originally Taught: Winter School 2013

Lecturer:  Dr Mammad Aidani
Thursdays 6-8pm, June 20 - July 18
Room 0104

Philosophical Hermeneutics is considered as the art of understanding. Hermeneutics is universality recognized as the art and science of textual interpretation. In a tradition sense hermeneutics is the study of interpretation of written texts, especially texts in the field of religion, literature and law. Modern hermeneutics embraces everything in the interpretative process which includes verbal and nonverbal forms of communication as well as other aspects that affect the communication, such as presuppositions, pre understandings,   perceived meanings and the philosophy of language, culture and signs.

In the past the term exegesis and hermeneutics were used interchangeably. However, now hermeneutics is a more widely defined discipline of interpretation theory, because it includes the entire framework of interpretive process, including written, verbal, and nonverbal communication. Exegesis, on the other hand, focuses only on the written text.

The Aim

The aim of this short course is to primarily focus on this modern theory of knowledge which was initiated by Martin Heidegger and further developed by Hans-Georg Gadamer in his seminal book Truth and Method as well as the theories of Paul Ricoeur. The course will also intend to provide an overall description of the essential ideas of the key thinkers of the earlier hermeneutics such as Fredrik Schleiermacher and Wilhelm Dilthey in order to set the ground for close analysis of other key thinkers in the field of this philosophy.

Overall, the course will concentrate on the key concepts of these philosophers in order to introduce the participants to this very significant brand of continental philosophy.

Course Schedule

  • Lecture 1: What is Hermeneutics?
  • Lecture 2: Friedrich Schleiermacher
  • Lecture 3: Wilhelm Dilthey
  • Lecture 4: Martin Heidegger
  • Lecture 5: Hans–Georg Gadamer

Recommended Reading
Richard E. Palmer (1969) Hermeneutics:  Interpretation Theory in Schleiermacher, Dilthey, Heidegger, and Gadamer.  Evanston, IL: North-western University Press.
This is a useful initial English Language introduction, particularly with reference to literary interpretation.

Rudolf A. Makkreel (1975) Dilthey Philosopher of the Human Studies. Princeton, N: Princeton University Press.
This is an advanced book that emphasizes the importance Dilthey’s psychology and aesthetic on his theory of understanding, with brief comparisons to Husserl and Heidegger.

Richard Polt (1999) Heidegger: An introduction. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
It is a clearly written introduction to Heidegger’s thoughts.

Kathryn Plant (2003) The Philosophy of Gadamar (trans.) Chesham: Acumen.
This book is a significant and readable introduction to Gadamer's thoughts and analysis of Truth and Method.

Level of Difficulty: Intermediate