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The Inner Word in Gadamer's Hermeneutics

John Arthos

Publication Year: 2009

This intellectual history and textual analysis of Hans-Georg Gadamer’s famous and obscure theme of the verbum interius, or “inner word,” serves as an indispensable guide to and reference for hermeneutic theory. John Arthos here gives a full exposition and interpretation of the medieval doctrine of the inner word, long one of the most challenging ideas in Gadamer’s Truth and Method. The scholastic idea of a word that is thought but not yet spoken served Augustine as an analogy for the procession of the Trinity, served Aquinas as the medium between divine ideas and human expression, and serves Gadamer as an expression of the embodied nature of human language. Arthos offers a history of the idea of the inner word in ancient and medieval thought, its place in German philosophy, and its significance for probing the deepest implications of hermeneutic understanding. Arthos also provides a close reading of Gadamer’s exegesis of the source texts of the doctrine of the inner word. He cross-references Gadamer’s analyses with the original texts and draws out their Heideggerian and Hegelian overtones. Through this close reading, Arthos deepens our understanding of the radical nature of Gadamer’s thought, which not only calls upon the authority of tradition but also develops some of the profoundest insights of classical and Judaeo-Christian teaching about language.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xv

It is still a commonplace, at least in the popular culture of the West, that language and thought, expression and meaning, are separate. The instrumentalism of a scientific culture has encouraged us to think that language is the container of meaning, a tool for communication. ...

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pp. xvii

I am especially appreciative to Jeffrey Hause for his careful review and correction of my Aquinas translations, including the opusculum De natura verbi intellectus, located in the appendix of this book.He applied himself with the devotion of a true medievalist to a Thomist tract that Gadamer himself described ...


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pp. xix-xx

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Introduction: From Logos to Verbum to Sprache

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pp. 1-28

This reference to the theological idea that Gadamer used to understand the mystery of language has been cited often of late but is still not well understood, even though a great deal hangs on the extent of Gadamer’s allegiance to the Augustinian idea.2 What might otherwise be a comparatively uncomplicated assertion ...

The Verbum in the History of Ideas

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The Graeco-Roman and Judaeo-Christian Word

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pp. 31-69

A profusion of meanings attached to the idea of the Word in ancient Western history. To the Hebrews it meant the breath of God, the commandments, or the scripture.To the early Christians it meant the person of Christ and the profession of the faithful, the Gospels and the sacrament of the Eucharist. ...

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Immanence and Transcendence in the Trinity

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pp. 70-97

As we have just seen, the idea of the inner word was being anticipated and prepared for in the career of logos from a number of directions, so that when it arrives it is rich with the resonance of culture.What is original about the Augustinian conception stems from its origin in philosophical speculation about the nature of the Trinity. ...

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"The Word Is Not Reflexive": Mind and World in Aquinas and Gadamer

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pp. 135-161

Thomas Aquinas and Hans-Georg Gadamer are allies in the effort to distance understanding from subjective idealism, and this effort is central to their interest in the inner word, which always has some reference to the world of sense. But there is an important difference between Gadamer and Aquinas on this matter ...

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The Pattern of Hegel's Trinity: The Legacy of Christian Immanence in German Thought

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pp. 162-193

Dispersed throughout Gadamer’s writings are testimonies to the importance of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity for hermeneutics. Trinity is linked in Gadamer’s mind with Plato’s effort to solve “the great dialectical puzzle of the one and the many.”1 In his 1977 essay “The Relevance of the Beautiful,” ...

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Heidegger: On the Way to the Verbum

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pp. 194-216

Scientists theorize that an evolutionary leap took place at a certain point in certain mammals who developed a rudimentary reflective capacity. Experiments have worked out the dimensions of this evolutionary achievement by looking at the ability of the orangutan, the Asian elephant, and the bottlenose dolphin ...

Exegesis, Truth and Method, Part III, 2, B

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The Verbum and Augustine's Inner Word

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pp. 219-259

Truth and Method is famously divided into three major sections which treat, respectively, the themes of art, history, and language. The unity of the book and the relation of these parts have been the subject of much discussion, but the basic theme, providing an alternative vision to the modern, ...

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The Aquinas Section

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pp. 260-284

That “the theological question as such can help us no further here” is a puzzling statement, not the least because Gadamer continues to return to the theology as an aid to comprehension in the remainder of the section, he has not been constrained up to this point from focusing on the question of language, and finally, he has already begun close consideration of the meaning of the inner word itself. ...

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The Neoplatonist Section

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pp. 285-310

Gadamer’s assertion that human discursivity is not essentially temporal seems illogical, but becomes clear if we see it through Augustine’s reflection on time and understanding. In a way different from and less perfect than the eternal nature of divine understanding, human thought gathers past and future ...

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The Three Differences

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pp. 311-334

Paragraph 17 begins the third and last major section of III, 2, B. In its recourse to the analogy of the inner word with incarnation, Thomism taught the corresponding differences between the human and divine word, and here Gadamer finds ample commonality with the hermeneutic theme of human finitude. ...

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Gadamer's Summation and Prospectus (pars. 21-22)

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pp. 335-348

There is first a slight but important emendation of the second revised edition’s translation of the paragraph’s opening sentence. The summary point Gadamer wishes to make about the inner word is something that was scarcely expressed in medieval scholasticism, but it is there nevertheless. ...


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Gadamer and the Verbum Interius

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pp. 351-361

Twice explicitly Gadamer spells out the limitations of the doctrine of the word for hermeneutics in the later sections of Truth and Method.1 Hermeneutics itself as an idea and practice emerging in the wake of Reformation and Enlightenment grew out of innovative studies in philology, jurisprudence, theology, ...

Appendix: Source Texts De natura verbi intellectus and De differentia verbi divini et humani

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pp. 362-389


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pp. 390-440


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pp. 441-457


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pp. 458-460

E-ISBN-13: 9780268074647
E-ISBN-10: 026807464X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268020347
Print-ISBN-10: 0268020345

Page Count: 520
Publication Year: 2009