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394Philosophy and Literature Although Norris protests about it, deconstruction is now most "interesting" in its appropriated forms, for instance as Richard Rorty uses it, to point up the metaphysical pretensions of "Philosophy"; or as BarbaraJohnson uses it, when she teaches her students to ask ofany cultural text: "What does the construction of the bottom line leave out? . . . What does it consider unimportant?" (cited p. 45); or as Spivak uses it, to read the unconscious ideological elements in The Prelude. As is clear in these examples, the most interesting question now seems to be: What is the use, the value, the political, educational, or ethical pay-off, for such a technique of reading in our cultural situation? Significandy, this new pragmatist emphasis is one that crosses the disciplinary divide proposed by this collection. We see it also in the humanist work of Freadman and Miller when they concede the disciplinary "gains" of Spivak's feminist reading but find themselves disturbed by the countervailing critical and ethical "losses" involved (p. 24). The pragmatic reckoning here involves a spirit of openness to the claims of other discourses characteristic of both the best humanist and the best postdeconstructive criticism at the moment: as the one becomes more self-reflexive and philosophical, the other is drawn to questions of human and literary value. Perhaps these are the most telling signs of a new movement towards "convergence." Australian National UniversityDavid Parker Philosophical Hermeneutics and Literary Theory, by Joel Weinsheimer; 173 pp. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991, $19.50. The purpose of this book, Weinsheimer writes, is to broaden Gadamer's "influence by demonstrating the fruitfulness of his thought." The aim of the book is not critical: it is, rather, to integrate Gadamer's ideas into literary theory in a way that allows us to benefit from some of the insights of contemporary hermeneutics (pp. ix-x). Hermeneutics is not a single unified tradition and "names no particular method of interpretation" (p. 1). It is, rather, a continuing, historically constituted , discipline. In chapter one, the author recounts this tradition by offering a very useful account of its historical development. His brief survey begins in the sixth century b.c. and progresses swiftly and informatively to Schleiermacher , Dilthey, Betti, Heidegger, Gadamer, and Ricoeur. It has often been suggested that the primary aim of hermeneutic theory is Reviews395 practical: that it is an attempt to guide the critic's endeavor, and to furnish criteria ofinterpretative validity. In chapter two we are reminded that Gadamer's hermeneutics is explicidy philosophical, and offers no such criteria. His concern, rather, is with the possibility of human understanding in general, and not with the development of a rule-governed method for correcdy understanding literary texts. On Gadamer's view, understanding is both deeply historical and essentially human, so that his account offers us insights into what it is to be a human being. Tragedy, Weinsheimer suggests, functions in a similar manner: it too allows its audience to glimpse what is common to us all, and leads us on, through an emotional participation in the work, to insight and understanding. The understanding that results from sharing is, Weinsheimer writes, of particular importance to Gadamer, and for the rest of the second chapter Weinsheimer continues to shed light on Gadamer's philosophical account of understanding by drawing instructive parallels with tragedy. Gadamer regards history as a condition of all understanding. But history itself needs to be understood. In the third chapter, Weinsheimer shows how Gadamer uses Kant's third critique to develop what the author, perhaps misleadingly , calls an "aesthetics ofhistory." Weinsheimer does not, ofcourse, mean that Gadamer is concerned with the pleasure derived from historicaljudgments. Quite the contrary, he contends that Gadamer's aim is to show that historical understanding need not be rule-governed, that it need not involve the subsumption of the particular historical event under general laws; and in this way he proceeds to offer a helpful explanation of Gadamer's critique of Kant's subjectivization of aesthetics. The fourth chapter further explores Gadamer's account of historical understanding —this time by explaining the fusion of horizons in terms of the interaction theory of metaphor. The problem with the image...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 394-395
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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