[Buddha-l] Re: [exegesis vs hermeneutics [was: Karma and ethics [was: angels]

Erik Hoogcarspel jehms at xs4all.nl
Sun May 29 09:58:03 MDT 2005

Christian Coseru schreef:

> On 29 May 2005, at 2:58 AM, Richard P. Hayes wrote:
>> The fact that Buddhist thinking continues has no bearing at all on the
>> question of what it meant historically. Here it might be useful to be
>> reminded of the distinction between exegesis and hermeneutics. The
>> former is the study of what documents meant at the time they were
>> written, the later is the discussion of what those documents can mean
>> now. If one is striving to be historically accurate--if one is doing
>> exegesis--then it is misleading to read into old texts what we would now
>> like them to mean.
> I thought the strong distinction between exegesis and hermeneutics has 
> been criticized long time ago by Gadamer.  If I understand him right, 
> Gadamer argued that we cannot simply determine what a text meant when 
> it was written because understanding a text and inferring the 
> intention of its author is inextricably linked to the interpreter's 
> own intentionality and self-understanding.
Right, Dilthey thought one could and should identify with the public for whom the text originally was written. Husserl first and Gadamer later, argued that this was impossible, because you had to forget who you really were and even if you would succeed, it would be senseless, because you would also have forgotten why you wanted to read it in the first place. So what else can you do? The way you understand a text depends on your own prejudice and the text itself. So you can try to figure out what you want with the text and use it to understand it better. If I want to find out the original meaning of a fifth century buddhist text, I should try to make myself clear what I mean with original meaning and how this fits in with my ideas of buddhism and texts. I'll never be able to turn the clokc back, but I can learn more about what the original meaning of the text is from my point  of view. Remember that we're not totally separated from fifth century buddhist writers, we share a certain horizon (to become aware of this is again part of the hermeneutical process).


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