The Life of Understanding
A Contemporary Hermeneutics
Publication Year: 2012
In Gadamer's hermeneutics, interpretation is inseparable from the broader concern of making one's way in life. In this book, James Risser builds on this insight about the juxtaposition of human living and the act of understanding by tracing hermeneutics back to the basic experience of philosophy as defined by Plato. For Risser, Plato provides resources for new directions in hermeneutics and new possibilities for "the life of understanding" and "the understanding of life." Risser places Gadamer in dialogue with Plato, with the issue of memory as a conceptual focus. He develops themes pertaining to hermeneutics such as retrieval as a matter of convalescence, exile as a venture into the foreign, formation with respect to oneself and to life with others, the experience of language in hermeneutics, and the relationship between speaking and writing.
Published by: Indiana University Press
Series: Studies in Continental Thought
Title Page, Copyright Page
This book first took shape when I gave the André Schuwer Lecture at the annual meeting of the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (spep) in 2003. That lecture eventually became the first chapter of this book. With that and with other occasions in subsequent years at various places to present many...
Introduction: Platonic Gestures
My aim in this book is to develop and enlarge the hermeneutic insight that understanding is inseparably tied to the life situation. This is the insight that characterizes the scope of hermeneutics drawn from the principal sources for this book, namely, the hermeneutics of Martin Heidegger and, more...
One: Memory and Life: Hermeneutics as Convalescence
Let me begin by reminding the reader of one among many possible stories about philosophy. It is the story ( πόλογον) of Er told by Socrates at the end of Plato’s Republic.1 This is actually a story within a story, for what Socrates recounts to Glaucon...
Two: Distressed Memory: Hermeneutics and the Venture of the Foreign
Let us recall that in Plato’s Myth of Er, Er the messenger makes a crossing. To be sure, it is no mere crossing from one place to another, but a crossing of borders from this world to the underworld and back. And while in the underworld, he travels from one strange...
Three: Beyond Distress: Toward a Community of Memory
What if one were to look for a “solution” to the plight of journeying, the distress in the constant venture of the foreign, in the life of understanding? To do so would not be to remove the venture of the foreign from the operation of hermeneutics, but only to bring...
Four: The Fabric of Life: Dialectics, Discourse, and the Art of Weaving
In the previous chapters I have tried to show how contemporary hermeneutics can best be understood through the character of recovery which is at issue in it as a philosophy of recollection. This ongoing recovery amounts to the life of understanding...
Five: Severed Threads: The Incapacity of Language
In this chapter I want to continue the analysis of language begun in chapter 4 by attending to the ontological condition of possibility that is set within philosophical hermeneutics’ account of language. This is the condition not of contingencies, which can occur in...
Six: Reading beyond the Letter: On Memory and Writing
To read a text for the sense intended by language, especially in the case of a literary text, is to read beyond the literal; it is to read beyond the letter of the text. Following Gadamer, this experience of reading, as an effort of understanding, is, in effect, an...
Seven: The Flash of Beauty
In this chapter I want to pursue the connection between the beautiful and the vitality of discourse. As we have seen from the previous chapter, what is at issue in beautiful discourse has little to do with what rhetoric would call flowery speech, i.e., with ornamentation...