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Schleiermacher’s Hermeneutics and the Myth of the Given

West, Cornel

Friedrich Schleiermacher is the father of modern philosophical hermeneutics. His Copernican Revolution in hermeneutics shifted the focus from understanding texts to the process of understanding itself. In this essay, I shall argue that Schleiermacher's valiant attempt to provide an acceptable hermeneutical theory to overcome the distance between speakers and listeners, readers and authors is unsuccessful owing to his acceptance of The Myth of the Given. The Myth of the Given is a philosophical doctrine held most notably by Cartesian and Kantian thinkers. Its rests upon a particular view of langauge and the relation of language to consciousness and awareness. I will try to show that The Myth of the Given is untenable by sketching three contemporary attacks on it-those of Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Lastly, I will suggest implications these attacks have for the future of philosophy and theology.


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Union Seminary Quarterly Review
Union Theological Seminary

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Union Theological Seminary
Union Theological Seminary
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January 9, 2013