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O n t h e r . .

e t h o d c i f T h e o l o g y
B e r n a r d J . F . L o n e r g a n
H e r m e n e u t i a o
_ . _ . _ _ . . . _ ^
1. H e r m e n e u t i cs a n d e xe ge si s a r e co n ce r n e d wi t h t he neaninG o f
t e xt s. H e 2hQllO1'D i s co n ce r n e d wi t h ge n e r a l pr i n ci p1e a , e x-
e ge si s i s co n ce r n e d wi t h t he i r a ppli ca t i o n t o pa r t i cu la r ca se s. .
2. H e r m e n e u t i cs i s n o t a pr i m a r y f i e ld o f i n q u i r y ..
P e r se ( e sse n t i a lly ) t he m o a n i n g ,o f t e a t s i s pla i n e n d st a n ds
i n n o e c o f a n y e xe ge si s. P e r e co lde n s ( i n a se co n da r y t r a y ) a s
a r e su lt o f a n y o f a n u n b e 5 7 o b lo ck s t ha t n a y a r i se , t he f o r k o f
t he i n t e r pr e t e r b e co m e s n e ce ssa r y .
T he po i n t ca n b e de r o n st r a t e ct . If e v e r y t e xt n e e de d a n e x-
e ge si s, t he n t he e xe ge si s wo u ld n e e d a n c 1e gb si s, a n d e a o n i n t o
i n f i n i t y . Si m i la r ly , - t he ge n e r a l t he o r y , he r m e n e u t i cs, : co u ld i t -
se lf n e e d a n e xe ge si s, a n d t he n e e d M o u ld b e r e cu r r e n t .
3. T he pr i m a r y f i e ld o f i n q u i r y i s co gn i t i o n a l t he o r y . It de a ls
wi t h k n o wi n g i n a ll ca se s. On e o f t ho se ca se s i s M e o wi n g wha t a n
a u t ho r m e a n t i n wr i t i n g a gi v e n se n t e n ce , pa r a gr a ph, cha pt e r ,
b o o k .O
Ee n ce , wi t hi n t he f r a y : wt v : e k o f t sa t i sf a ct o r y t he o r y o f
k n o wle dge , he r n e n e u t i c 7 i s n o t a .? pa t t e r o f spe ci a l di f f i cu lt y o r
i n t e r e st . Su ch ha s b e e n e l,e si ce 1 ho ,a o n e u t i cs e xpo u n de d b y A r -
i st o t le a n d r e f i .n e d do wn 'h e ce n t u r i e s.
C o n t e m po r a r y he r m e n e u t i cs, o n t he o t he r ha n d, i s a m a t t e r
o f co n si de r a b le di f f i cu lt y e n d i n t o : o st , m i n ly f o r f o u r r e a so n s.
Fi r st , t he i ssu e s ha v e b e e n pla ce d wi t hi n t he co n t e xt o f
hi st o r i ca l C C f , C o u o ln e e s. T he cle ssi ci st v i e w t ha t " e lu e ca
cha n ge , plu s c' e st la e m e " ( : t ho _ o r e so . e t hi n g e n a n ge e , t he
M a i o i t 1.-6 ,12 . 17 3.7 i 1C : T C o 7 : 6 1A ! , ha s 'gi v e n sla y t o a n a t t e n t i o n t o de -
t a i l, t o di f f e r e n ce s i n de t a i l, t o a n u n de r st a n di n g o f m a n a n d
m e a n i n g t ha t r i se s f r o a t he de t a i le d di f f e r e n ce s t o b e n o t e d i n
t he co u r se o f hu m a n de v e lo pm e n t .
Se co n dly , i n t he .o i st o .sle ln e e r .^ cb e t e n ( 'sci e n ce s o f t he
spi r i t ') -- a s di st m n c't ; 'l's O; T i " 1.? C : T f : M e m o -- t he b a si c
ca t e go r y i s n e a n i n g, a n d so he r m e n e u t i cs, whi ch de a ls wi t h m a p-
ing , ha s a k e y r o le .
T hi r dly , t he la ck o f a o o m e e n i y a cce pt e d co gn i t i o n a l t he o r y
ha s r e su lt e d:
( a )
i n o a ,Dli ca t i .o a o f m i st a k e n co gn i t i o n a l
t he o r i e s t o t he pr o b le m o f he r m e n e u t i cs;
( b )
i n e f f o r t s t o e n ro l o y hsr e n e u t t o a l pr o b le m a s t he
spr i n gb o a r d t o wa r ds t he so lu t i o a o f t he phi lo so phi c i ssu e s;
c) i n t he a t t i t u de o f t he " P la i n " a n 'i ho b r u she s a si de
su ch t he o r e t i ca l co n e lde r a i ,i o n s, pr o ce e ds b y wha t he n a m e s si m ple
a n d ho n e st co m m o n se n se , a n d i s u su a lly gu i de d b y t he m o r e su pe r -
f i ci a l a n d a b su r d ca t ch-phr a se s de v e lo pe d, b y a pply i n g m i o t a e n
co gn i t i o n a l t he o r y t o he r e . n e u t i c a l P r o b le m s.
2
Fo u r t hly , m o de r n m a n ha s b e e n b u sy cr e a t i n g a m o de r n wo r ld,
i n f r e e i n g hi m se lf f r o m r e li a n ce o n t r a di t i o n a n d a u t ho r i t y , i n
wo r k i n g o u t hi s o wn wo r ld-v i e w co m pa r a b le i n co m ple t e n e ss t o t he
C hr i st i a n v i e w t ha t r u le d i n a n e a r li e r a go . T hi s ha s b r o u ght
a b o u t a cli m a t e a n d a n e xi ge n ce f o r r e i n t e r pr e t a t i o n :
---o f Gr e e k a n d La t i n cla ssi ca l a u t ho r s, r e n o v e d f r o m t he
co n t e xt o f C hr i st i a n hu m a n i sm , a n d r e v e a le d a s pa ga n s;
---o f t he Scr i pt u r e s, r e m o v e d f r o m t he co n t e xt o f C hr i st i a n
do ct r i n a l de v e lo pm e n t , a n d r e st o r e d t o t he pr e -do gm a t i c
co n t e xt o f t he hi st o r y o f r e li gi o n s;
---o f t he La w, r e m o v e d f r o m t he co n t e xt o f C hr i st i a n phi l-
o so phy a n d m o r a li t y , a n d pla ce d ,wi t hi n t he co n t e xt o f
so m e co n t e m po r a r y phi lo so phy o r a t t i t u de t o wa r d li f e .
4. A cco r di n gly , t he pr o b le m s o f co n t e m po r a r y he r m e n e u t i cs a r e
t o a gr e a t e xt e n t co i n ci de n t wi t h t he pr o b le m s o f m e t ho d i n co n -
t e m po r a r y C a t ho li c t he o lo gy .
We do n o t pr o po se t o r e je ct hi st o r i ca l co n sci o u sn e ss a n d
hu m a n sci e n ce b e ca u se t a e r e je ct . " m o de r n i t y " . A t t he sa m e t i n e ,
we do n o t pr o po se t o sli p i n t o . " m o de r n i t y " b e ca u se we wi sh t o
a cce pt hi st o r i ca l co n sci o u sn e ss a n d hu m a n sci e n ce .
1'; e wi sh, t he n , a n i n t e gr a t i o n o f do gm a t i c t he o lo gy wi t h
hi st o r i ca l co n sci o u sn e ss a n d hu m a n sci e n ce , b u t : wi t ho u t t he
a b e r r a t i o n s o f t he En li ght e n m e n t , t he Ro m a n t i c m o v e m e n t , Ide a l-
4"1,
r ; i e a r n N i l ' l t h e y s e c a t ; v s t T e ^ 1 o n e e v ^ i l e o h
( P hi l- ..,..
H i st o
^+^ .....^ .^ ... ^. v + a v y u :.v i.0 v ... ^ . i .u v u .,v ^ .a a u N : l.t ^.v .^ v a ^ i d. \ .a 11i .L-
o so phy o f Li f e ) , a n d e xi st e n t i a li 3t " T e a n ze n de n z i .n n e r hn lb de r
In n n a n e n z" ( " In n e r t r a n sce n de n ce o f . n e n ce ' ,.o r t he n a 'cu r a 7
T R-Ir a lhci ple o f t he Em pt y H e a d," " P o st u la t e o f t he C o m m o n -
pla ce ," a n d " A xi o m o f Fa m i li a r i t y ."
P la i n ly , su ch a n i n t e gr a t i o n ca n n o t b e co n ce i v e d, m u ch le ss
a chi e v e d, wi t ho u t f a ci n g sq u a r e ly t he i ssu e s i n v o lv e d i n t he -
sci e n ce o f co gn i t i o n a l t he o r y t ha t u n de r li e s he r m e n e u t i cs.
5 . T he r e a r e t hr e e b a si c e xe ge t i ca l o pe r a t i o n s: ( 1) u n de r st a n d-
i n g t he t e xt , ( 2) ju dgi n g ho r s co r r e ct o n e 's u n de r st a n di n g o f t he
t e xt i s, a n d ( 3) st a t i n g wha t o n e ju dge s t o b e t he co r r e ct u n -
de r st a n di n g o f t he t e xt ,
Un de r st a n di n g t he t e xt ha s f o u r n a i n a spe ct s:
( a )
o n e u n de r st a n ds t he t hi n g o r o b je ct t ha t t he t e xt r e f e r s
t o t
( b )
o n e u n de r st a n ds t he wo r ds e m plo y e d i n t he t e xt ;
( c) o n e u n de r st a n ds t he a u t ho r v ho e m plo y e d t he wo r ds;
( d) i t i s n o t " o n o " , " l' o n " , " da s La n " t ha t u n de r st a n ds, b u t
I do , a s a r e su lt o f a pr o ce ss o f le a r n i n g a n d a t t i n e s a s a
r e su lt o f a .co n v e r si o n .
Ju dgi n g ho w co r r e ct o n e 's u n de r st a n di n g o f t he t e xt i s
r a i se s t he pr o b le m o f co n t e xt , o f t he hcr n e n e u t i ca l ci r cle , o f
t he r e la t i v i t y o f t he who le , o f li m i t i n g co n si de r a t i o n s o n t he
po ssi b le r e le v a n ce o f m o r e r e m o t e i n q u i r i e s, a n d o f li m i t a t i o n s
pla ce d u po n t he sco pe o f o n e 's i n t e r pr e t a t i o n .
3
Stating vihat one judges to be the correct understanding of
the text raises the issue of absolute context, of "Existential"
categories, of the use of human sciences in exegesis, sad of the.
problems of concrete communication in their relativity to a
Given group of readers.
6. Understanding the thing or object.
The RI:phenomenon (Primaryphenomenon) is not intelli ere
verbs (understanding the words) but Intel li ere remper ver a
un erstanding the thing through the cior s .
Exegesis, as a first level, presupposes knowledge of things,
objects, and of the language that names then.
Because rye already have the universal potential knowledge of
the knowledge of the thing dealt wi t h in t h e t e xt , vi e find 221 se
that the meaning of the text is plain, that it sinply applies to
a particular the universal and potential knowledge wo already
have of the particular.
It is true, of course., that f l y understanding of the thing or
the trimunderstan ing of the thing may not be the author's.
But the po i n t to "understanding the thing" is not that it settles
what the author means, but that without it there is no possibility
of understanding the author.
A blind
ma n i s not
going
to undcretc A a
description
o f
... . r V not toV a . N bl i a M a of col-
ors; a person that hes never attended to his vion acts of Intell-
igence is not going to understand a description of intelligence;
etc.
By understanding; the thing or object is not meant under-
standing only the things or objects of the visible universe.
The thing or object in question may be (a) in the visible uni-
verse, (b) in the world of theory, (c) in the world of interior-
ity, or (d) in the world of the sacred, or religion.
The contention that the interpreter should have his own un-
derstanding o f t he o b je ct , k n o w wha t t ha t understanding is, and
distinguish it fron the author's undorstandin of the object,
amounts to a rejection of what may be called the "Principle of
t h e Eripty Head."
The "Principle of the , gty Head" (111310 contends that if
o n e i s t o b e o b je ct i v e , i f o n o i s n o t t o dr a g i n o n e 's o wn n o -
tions, if one is not to settle in an a priorifashion what the
text pus t mean no matter what it says, if one is not to "read
into" the text what is not there, then one 'lust drop all nrecon-
ceptibns of every icing, see just what is in the text and nothing
more, let the author speak for himself, Let the author inter-
pret himself.
What I have named PEU, clearly enough, is a widespread view
of correct interpreation.
PEH is a confusion of three distinct issues based upon an
utterly in adequate account of presumption regarding the nature
of human knowledge.
o
J
:. riw ^ Krs
4
So f o r f r o n t a c kl i n g i n se r i e s t h e t h r e e t a sks o f (a ) un d e r -
st a n d i n g t h e t h i n g , (b) un d e r st a n d i n g t h e a ut h o r 's me a n i n g . e o n -
c o r n i n g t h e t h i n g , a n d (c ) jud g i n g wh e t h e r o n e 's un d e r st a n d i n g
i s c o r r e c t , PEH r e st s upo n a n a i ve i n t ui t i o n i sm t h a t , so f a r
f r o m jud g i n g t h e c o r r e c t n e ss o f i t s un d e r st a n d i n g , h a s n o n e e d
t o jud g e be c a use i t se e s wh a t 's t h e r e , a n d so f a r f r o n bo t h e r i n g
a bo ut un d e r st a n d i n g t h e t h i n g , h a s n o n e e d o f un d e r st a n d i n g a n y -
t h i n g but just l o o ks a t c h a t 's t h e r e .
In f a c t , wh a t i s t h e r e ? T h e r e a r e pr i n t e d si g n s i n a g i ve n
o r d e r . T h a t i s a l l t h a t i s t h e r e . An y t h i n g o ve r a n d a bo ve a r e -
i ssue o f t h e sa n e si g n s i n t h e sa n e o r d e r wi l l be n e d i a t e d by t h e
e xpe r i e n c e , i n t e l l i g e n c e , a n d jud g me n t o f t h e i n t e r pr e t e r .
T o r e je c t t h e PZIt i s t o i n si st t h a t t h e wi d e r t h e i n t e r pr e t -
e r 's e xpe r i e n c e , t h e d e e pe r a n d 'f ul l e r h i s un d e r st a n d i n g , t h e pr o -
f o un d e r h i s jud g me n t , t h e n t h e be t t e r e c !ui ppe d h o wi l l be t o a p-
pr o a c h t h e t a sk o f st a t i n g wh a t t h e a ut h o r me a n s.
T h e ba si s f o r t h i s c o n t e n t i o n i s si mpl e .
In t e r pr e t a t i o n i s a ma t t e r o f pr o c e e d i n g f r o m h a bi t ua l , po -
t e n t i a l , un i ve r sa l kn o wl e d g e . t o a se c o n d a c t t h a t r e g a r d s t h e
c o n c r e t e a n d pa r t i c ul a r : wh a t wa s me a n t by t h e a ut h o r i n t h i s
t e xt .
T h e l e ss t h a t h a bi t ua l kn o wl e d g e , t h e l e ss t h e l i ke l i h o o d
t h a t t h e i n t e r pr e t e r wi l l be a bl e t o t h i n k o f wh a t t h e a ut h o r
me a n s. T h e g r e a t e r t h a t h a bi t ua l kn o wl e d g e , t h e g r e a t e r t h e
l i ke l i h o o d t h a t t h e i n t e r pr e t e r wi l l be a bl e t o t h i n k o f wh a t
t h e a ut h o r me a n s.
Wh e n a c r i t i c o f a n i n t e r pr e t a t i o n st a t e s: "I d o n o t se e h o w
Ar i st o t l e , St . Pa ul , Aqui n a s, Ka n t , c o ul d h a ve me a n t wh a t t h e i n -
t e r pr e t e r sa y s h e me a n t ," t h e n t h e l i t e r a l me a n i n g o f t h e c r i t i c 's
wo r d s i s t h a t h e d o e s n o t po sse ss t h e h a bi t ua l kn o wl e d g e t h a t
wo ul d e n a bl e h i m t o se e h o w t h e a ut h o r c o ul d h a ve me a n t vr h a t t h e
i n t e r pr e t e r sa y s h e me a n t .
V i i PEH i s wi d e spr e a d i n po si t i vi st a n d i n Ca t h o l i c c i r -
n
h l e
t r i e s, i t i s vi g o r o usl y r ^^je c t e d e i se wh e r e .
(H, G. Ga d a n e r , J a r h e i . , a n d Ee t h o d . e p. 254 f f . R. B a i t
Ha n n , "Da s Pr o bl e m d e r l i e , me n o ut i c , `' 2T 1^ 47 , P. 64. )
0
0
7. Un d e r st a n d i n g t h e wo r d s
Un d e r st a n d i n g t h e t h i n g a c c o un t s f o r t h e pe r se pl a i n n e a n i n g
o f t h e t e xt . T h i s pl a i n me a n i n g i s o bvi o us a n d ul t i r a t e wh e n t h e
a ut h o r a n d t h e i n t e r pr e t e r un d e r st a n d t h e sa n e t h i n g i n t h e sa n e
wa y .
a s
J Io we ve r , i n c o n ve r sa t i o n , so i n r e a d i n g , t h e a ut h o r s a y be
spe a ki n g o f X' a n d t h e i n t e r pr e t e r n a y be t h i n ki n g o f :" . In
t h a t c a se , so o n e r o r l a t e r , t h e r e a r i se s a d i f f i c ul t y . sl o t e ve r y -
t h i n g t r ue o f I' wi l l be t r ue o f Y" , so t h a t t h e a ut h o r wi l l a p-
pe a r t o t h e i n t e r pr e t e r t o be sa y i n g wh a t i s n o t t r ue o r e ve n wh a t
i s a bsur d .
At this point the controversialist has all he wants: on the
basis
of his mistaken assumption that the author is speaking of X", he
sets about demonstrating the author's errors and absurdities.
-
The interpreter, however, considers the possibility that he him-
self is at fault. He rereads. He roads further. Eventually he
makes the discovery that the text makes sone sense when X' is sub-
stituted for X".
The process can occur any number of tines with respect to any
number of instances of X' and X" . It is the process of learning,
the self-correcting process of learning. It is the nanner in which
we acquire and develop common sense. It heads towards a limit in
which we possess a habitual core of insights that enables us to deal
with any situation, any text of any group, by adding one or two more
insights relevant to the situation or text in hand.
Such understanding of the text' mi st not be confused either with
judgMent on the truth of that understanding or with statement on the
meaning of the text in virtue of that understanding. One has to un-
derstand before one can pass judgment on that understanding; one has
to have understanding before one con express it. Understanding the -
text is such a prior understanding.
Such understanding retches the hermeneutical circle.
The meaning of the text is an intentional entity; it is a single
paragraph t;', t unfolds itself through parts, sections, chapters, par-
agraphs, sentences, words.We can Grasp t he unity, the whale, only
through the parts.Yet at the sane time the parts are determined in
their rleaning by the whole which each partially reveals.It is by
the self-correcting process of learning that we sprial into the mean-
ing of the text, understanding the whole through the parts, and un-
derstanding parts in light of the whole.
Rules of hermeneutics or of exegesis list the points worth con-
sidering in one's efforts to arrive at an understanding of the text.
Such are the analysis of the composition of the text, the determin-
ation of the author's purpose, of the people for whom he wrote, the
characterization of the moans he employed, linguistic, grammatical,
stylistic; etc.
The point to be made hero is that one does not understand the
text because one has observed the rules, but that one observes the
rules in order to arrive at an understanding of the text.Observ-
ing the rules can be more pedantry that leads to an understanding
of nothing of any r.ion:ent , to missing the point entirely.The es-
sential observance is edvertence to what I do not understand and
the sustained rereadinv, search, inventiveness, that eliminates
mx lack of understanding.
8. Understanding the Author.
When the
meaning of a text is plain, then t, ith the author and
be r his words we understand the thing.
When e
simple misunderstanding arises (e.g., the author is
thinking of X' and the reader of X"), then its correction is a
, r e l a t i ve l y si mpl e pr o c e ss o f r e r e a d i n g a n d i n ve n t i ve n e ss.
B ut wh e n t h e r e i s n e e d o f t h e l o n g a n d a r d uo us use o f t h e se l f -
c o r r e c t i n g pr o c e ss o f l e a r n i n g , wh e n a f i r st r e a d i n g ; y i e l d s a l i t -
t l e un d e r st a n d i n g a n d a h o st o f puzzl e s, t h e n t h e pr o bl e m i s n o t so
muc h un d e r st a n d i n g t h e t h i n g o r t h e wo r d s a s un d e r st a n d i n g t h e a u-
t h o r h i mse l f , h i s n a t i o n , l a n g ua g e , t i n e , c ul t ur e , ma y o f l i f e ,
a n d c a st o f mi n d .
T h e se l f -c o r r e c t i n g pr o c e ss o f l e a r n i n g i s n o t o n l y t h e wa y we
a c qui r e c o mmo n se n se i n t h e f i r st i n st a n c e , but a l so t h e wa y i n
wh i c h we a c qui r e a n un d e r st a n d i n g o f o t h e r pe o pl e 's c o mmo n se n se .
Eve n wi t h o ur c o n t e mpo r a r i e s o f t h e sa n e c ul t ur e , l a n g ua g e , a n d
st a t i o n i n l i f e , we n o t o n l y un d e r st a n d t h i n g s wi t h t h e m, but a l so
un d e r st a n d t h i n g s i n o ur o wn ma y a n d , a s we l l , t h e i r d i f f e r e n t wa y
o f un d e r st a n d i n g .
t h e sa l e t h i n g s. We c a n r e ma r k t h a t a ph r a se o r a n
'a c t i o n i s "just l i ke y o u": wo me a n t h a t i t f i t s i n t o o ur un d e r st a n d -
i n g o f t h e wa y y o u un d e r st a n d a n d so g o a bo ut t h i n g s. B ut just a s
we c a n c o me t o a n un d e r st a n d i n g o f o ur f e l l o ws' un d e r st a n d i n g , a
c o mmo n se n se g r a sp o f t h e wa y s i n wh i c h we Un d e r st a n d n o t wi t h t h e n
but t h e n , so t h i s pr o c e ss c a n be push e d t o a f ul l d e ve l o pme n t wh e n
t h e se l f -c o r r e c t i n g pr o c e ss o f l e a r n i n g br i n g s us t o a n un d e r st a n d -
i n g o f t h e c o mmo n se n se o f a n o t h e r pl a c e , t i me , c ul t ur e , c a st o f
mi n d .
T h e ph r a se "un d e r st a n d i n g o n e a n o t h e r 's c o mmo n se n se " must n o t
be
be mC s un e r st o o r 1
Pr o pe r l y ,
i t i s n o t un e r c t c v+ ``. i n n wh a t c o mma
.^ +u . uv+ v vvv. . . L ^/ + . . + + ^a + a kvV w. L a a y 7 wh a t c o mmo n
se n se i s, n t a sk o f t h e c o g n i t i o ;i a l t h e o r i st . Ag a i n , i t i s n o t ma k-
i n g a n o t h e r 's c o mmo n se n se o n e 's mi n so t h a t o n e wo ul d g o a bo ut
spe a ki n g a n d a c t i n g l i ke a n At h e n i a n o f t h e 5t h c e n t ur y B . C. B ut
just a s c o mmo n se n se i s un d e r st a n d i n g wh a t i s t o be sa i d a n d wh a t i s
t o be d o n e i n a n y o f t h e si t ua t i o n s t h a t c o mmo n l y a r i se , so un d e r -
st a n d i n g a n o t h e r 's c o mmo n se n se i s un d e r st a n d i n g wh a t h e wo ul d sa y
a n d wh a t h e wo ul d d o i n a n y o f t h e
si t ua t i o n s t h a t a r o se i n h i s pl a c e
a n d t i me .
T h i s Un d e r st a n d i n g a n o t h e r 's c o o n se n se i s ve r y si mi l a r t o
wh a t i n Ro ma n t i c h e r me n e ut i c s i s n a me d "Ei n f uh l e n " , "e mpa t h y ".
De r i ve d f r o m V a n c ke l ma n n a n d d e ve l o pe by L c h l i e r r i a c h e r a n d
Di l t h e y t o be a t t a c ke d by c o n t e n r po r n r i e s un d e r t h e i n f l ue n c e o f
He i d e g g e r (B e i n g ; a n d T i n e , se c . 72-77).
Ro ma n t i c h e r me n e ut i c s c o n c e i ve s t h e t e xt a s Ausd r uc k, t h e e x-
e g e t e 's t a sk a s _ si n ,u h1e n , a n d t he c r i t e r i o n o f t h e e xe g e t e 's t a sk
a s P le pr o o du .ci e r e n y
, n a b i li t y t o sa y ju st why t he a ut h o r i n e a c h
ph r a se e xpr o a : 3o d
hi m se lf i n t he pr e ci se m a n n e r i n whi ch he di d.
It si n gle s o u t a v a li d t a sk o f t he i n t e r pr e t e r a n d i t g i ve s a n
a ppr o xi ma t e a c c o un t o f t h e
wa y i n whi ch t he t a sk i s pe r f o r m e d; b u t
i t i s
i n co m ple t e a s we ll a s a ppr o xi m a t e , a n d so i t ha s b e e n su b je ct -
e d .
t o a go o d de a l o f cr i t i ci sm ( Lu ] .t r i a n n , Ga da n o r ) .
C o n ce i v i n g t he t e xt a s A u sdr u ck ( e xpr e ssi o n , st a t e m e n t ) co r -
r e ct ly dr a y s a t t e n t i o n t o
t he s t li o t i c, i n t e r su b jo ct i v o , sy m b o li c
di m e n si o n s o f _ : e a si n g; b u t i t o v e r lo o k s o r pr e sci n ds f r o m o r f a i ls
t o i n si st o n t he a spe ct o f li n gu i st i c ! le a n i n g b y whi ch i t i s t r u e
o r f a lse , b y whi ch i t pe r t a i n s t o a n a b so lu t e do m a i n , b y 'whi ch i t
ca n b e t r a n sf e r r e d f r o m o n e co n t e xt t o a n o t he r .
...n n n ._.......--- ---

Again, empathy is the simplest description of the way in which
we grasp intoreub j octive, aesthetic, or symbolic r:eanings.But it
contains more that a suggestion of an extrineicisru that overlooks
the .development of the interpreter, his acquiring an understanding
of another's node of understanding, the widening of his horizon to
include or fuse with the horizon of others.So far from raising and
solving tho problau of the transference of meaning from the context
of an ancient writer to the context of the contemporary interpreters,
it encourages a ny thic elin na tion of the problem by suggesting that
the interpreter feels his way into another's riind end heart, his
thought and sensibility; and it leads to a falsification of issues
inasmuch a s it implies that there can be no logitinate transference
from one context toanother, that either one thinks with the mind of
Paul or also one has no "objective" knoiilodgo of Paul's meaning what-
ever.
Finally, the criterion of reprodueieren is'excessivo.it means
that one n o t o n ly understands t he author but also can do wha t the au-
thor himself could not do, namely, explain why .he wrote in just the
way he did.Common sense understands :that is to be said and what is
to be done; but common sense does not understand itself and much
less does it explain itself.
9. The Development of the Interpreter:
The rejor texts, the classics in.religion; letters, philosophy,
theology, not only are beyond the original horizon of their inter-
preters, but also demand an intellectual, moral, religious conver-
sion Of the interpreter over and above the broadening of his hori-
zon.
In this case the reader's original knowledge of the thing is just
adequate.He will cone to know the thing only inscfar as he pushes
the self-correcting process of loarnng to a revolution of his own
outlool.He can suLceod in acquiring that habitual understanding of,
the author that spontaneously finds his wave-length and locks onto it
only after he has effected a radical change in himself.
This is the existential dimension of the problem of hermeneutics.
It: existence is at the root of the perennial divisions of man-
kind in their views on morality, on philosophy, o n religion.
t:oreoier, insofar as the radical conae sion is only the basic
step, insofar as their remains the further task of thinking out-
ev-erything from the new and profounder viewpoint, there results the
characteristic of the classic:classical writing rust never be
able to be understood completely; the person who would be fashioned
by classical writings rust be willing to learn ever more from then.
There follows another basic aspect of the task of hermeneutics
from the existential dimension.
The classics ground a tradition, an Uberlioforcncl, a culture.
They create the milieu in which they arcs tudicd and interpreted.
They produce in the reader through tiie tradition the Vorverstandnis
(pre-understanding) that ho will need when he comes to read, stud,
interpret,
C
8
Su ch a t r a di t i o n n a y b e ge n u i n e , a u t he n t i c, a lo n g a ccu m u la t i o n
o f i n si ght s, a dju st m e n t s, r e -i n t e r pr e t a t i o n s, t ha t r e pe a t s t he o r i gi n -
a l n e ssa ge a f r e sh f o r e a ch a ge . In t ha t ca se , t he r e a de r wi ll e x-
e l i n a s di d t he di sci ple s o n t he wa y t o e a t s, " Di d n o t o u r he a r t s
b u r n wi t hi n u s whe n he spo k e o n t he wa y a n d o pe n e d t o u s t he Scr i p-
t u r e s? "
.On t he o t he r ha n d, t he t r a di t i o n r a cy b e i n a u t he n t i c. It n a y co n -
si st i n a wa t e r i n g-da wn o f t he o r i gi n a l m e ssa ge , i n r e ca st i n g i t i n t o
t e r m s a n d m e a n i n gs t ha t f i t i n t o t he a ssu m pt i o n s a n d co n v i ct i o n s o f
t ho se t ha t ha v e do dge d t he i ssu e o f r a di ca l co n v e r si o n . In t ha t ca se ,
a ge n u i n e i n t e r pr e t a t i o n wi ll b e m e t wi t h i n cr e du li t y a n d r i di cu le ,
a s wa s St . P a u l pr e a chi n g i n Ro m e a n d q u o t i n g Isa i a s, " Yo u sha ll i n -
de e d he a r b u t n e v e r u n de r st a n d."
It i s i n t hi s pe r spe ct i v e t ha t i s t o b e u n de r st o o d Ga da n e r 's a t -
t a ck o n t he A u f k la r u n ( En li ght e n m e n t ) a n d i li st o r i sn u s ( H i st o r i ci sm )
.a s i n v o lv i n g a l.a s a ga i n st b i a s i n ge n e r a l.
'In a sm u ch a s t he se M o v e m e n t s we r e co n ce r n e d wi t h cr e a t i n g a n e w
wo r ld f o r r o a n , a n e w t r a di t i o n , a n e w cu lt u r e , t he y we r e a st u t e i n
la y i n g do wn . a pr i n ci ple t ha t e xclu de d t he po ssi b i li t y o f a t r a di t i o n .
Bu t i n a sm u ch a s t he de st r u ct i o n o f t r a di t i o n i m pli e s a co n t i n u -
o u s r e t u r n t o pr i m i t i v e b a r b a r i sm -- whi ch wa s n o t t he a i m o f t he
En li ght e n m e n t o r Ri st o r i ci sn -- t he se m o v e m e n t s we r e i n co he r e n t a n d
sho r t si ght e d.
T he u lt i m a t e i ssu e he r e li e s b e t we e n De sca r t e s' a dv o ca cy o f a
u n i v e r sa l do u b t a n d N e wm a n 's pr e f e r e n ce f o r u n i v e r sa l b e li e f .
10 . Ju dgi n g t he C o r r e ct n e ss o f On e 's Un de r st a n di n g o f t he T e xt .
Su ch a ju dgm e n t ha s t he sa n e cr i t e r i o n a s a n y ju dgm e n t o n t he
co r r e ct n e ss o f ca n n o n se n se i n si ght .
T he de ci si v e q u e st i o n i s whe t he r o n e 's u n de r st a n di n g o f t he
t e xt i s i n v u ln e r a b le , whe t he r i t hi t s t he b u ll's e y e , whe t he r i t
m e e t s a ll r e le v a n t f u r t he r q u e st i o n s.
Fi o r e t he .'ze y wo r d i s " r e le v a n t " . It i m pli e s a r e f e r e n ce t o a
de t e r m i n a t e pr o spe ct i v e ju dgm e n t . Wi t ho u t su ch a ju dgm e n t i n v i e w,
o n e ha s n o cr i t e r i o n , n o r e f e r e n ce po i n t , f o r de t e r m i n i n g whi ch f u r -
t he r q u e st i o n s a r e r e le v a n t .
It f o llo ws t ha t ju dgm e n t o n t he co r r e ct n e ss o f o n e 's u n de r st a n di n g
o f t he t e xt i s, n o t a ge n e r a l j u c ; a n e n t o n t ha t u n de r st a n di n g i n a ll
i t s r e spe ct s o r a spe ct s, b u t li m i t e d ju dg-L2 i s wi t h r e spe ct t o de -
t e r m i n a t e a n d r e st r i ct e d po i n t s. T he y wi ll b e o f t he t y pe : a t le a st
t he a u t ho r m e a n s t hi s, a t le a st he do e s n o t m e a n t ha t .
T he so i n s po i n t co m e s t o li ght f r o m t he he t r i e n e u t i co l ci r cle .
On e u n de r st a n ds t he who le o n ly t hr o u gh t he pa r t s, a n d n o n e t he le ss
t he m e a n i n g o f t he po r t s i s de pe n de n t o n t he who le . In so f a r a s
t hi s ci r cle i s m e r e ly lo gi ca l, i t 5 .s su m o u n t e d b y u n de r st a n di n g.
Bu t i t ha s a f u r t he r a n d m o r e f u n da m e n t a l a spe ct , n a m e ly , t he r e la -
t i v i t y o f t he who le . 'i t h r e spe ct t o a se n t e n ce , t he pa r a gr a ph i s
t he who le ; wi t h r e spe ct t o a wo r d, t he se n t e n ce i s t he who le . Wi t h
r e se e ct t o a pa r a gr a ph, t he cha pt e r i s t ho who le ; wi t h r e spe ct t o t he
cha pt e r , t he b o o k i s t he who le . Bu t t he b o o k i t se lf st a n ds i n a f u r -
^
0 )
9
thor, far mbro complex type of context that includes the osora amnia
of the author, his sources, his contemporaries, the state of the
question in his day, the issues thon predominant, the author's aim
and Scope, his prospective readers, etc.In brief, there is an ever
broadening herngnguite context that ultimately finds itself in an
hi st o r i ca l co n t e xt . N o t o n ly i s t i r o hi st o r i ca l co n t e xt t o be known
through hermeneutic contexts, but also it does not possess the type
of intelligibility to be found in an hermeneutic context; the latter
is like the general's plan; the former is like the course of the bat-
tle.
How it is true that this relativity of the whole does not imply
a complete fluidity, a nenta rhpiof neaninc.The meaning of the
parts is affected by the ,lhole, but it is not affected in all re-
spects.That Brutus killed Caesar can be placed in a context that
praioos Brutus and, equally well, in a context .that damns him; but it
does not fit into o context in ;':hick it is true that Caesar killed
Brutus.The Gosnol of St.John has been read in a Hellenistic con-
text and now is being read in a Palestinian context brought to light
by the discoveries at Qumran.The change in context involves a
change in perspectives, a chance in difficulties, a change in the
questions that are raised and discussed.But still this chance in
context does not change much in a commentary that is based upon ex-
act analyses of the text and that is content to mace cautious and
r e st r i ct e d ju dgr i e n t s o n m e a n i n g.
T he r e i s. t o . b e n o t e d a ' r e la t i o n b e t we e n t he t wo r e a so n s gi v e n
for the restricted judgrsents to be made by the exegete.Our under-
standing of the text is correct insofar as it enables us to meet
all further relevant questions.Put w ghat are such questions? One
can pin then down in two manners.One can assign the prospective
judgment to which they nould bo relevant.One can assign the field
from which relevant questions might come.Because the field has
a m e a su r e o f i n de t e r m i n a t e n e ss, o n o i s dr i v e n t o a ssi gn i n g t he pro-
spe ct i v e ju dgm e n t . In a sm u ch a s o n e a ssi gn s su ch ju dgm e n t , o n e f i n ds
o n se lf a ssi gn i n g de t e r m i n a t e a n d r o st r i de d a sse r t i o n s.
T he i ssu e ca n b e pu t i n a t hi r d m a n n e r . T he e xe ge t e b e gi n s f r o m
hi s Fr a e e st e i i u n r ; , hi s o wn v i e wpo i n t , i n t e r e st s, co n ce r n s, t ha t
le a d-E; t o q u e st i o n t he t e xt . A s he le a r n s f r o m t he t e xt , hi s
Fr o e st e llu n e i b e co m e s t r a n sf o r m e d; he di sco v e r s t he q u e st i o n s t he
a u t ho r wa s a sk i n e a n d a t ce n pt i n g t o m e e t ; he u n de r st a n ds t he a u t ho r
i n t e r n s o f t he a u t ho r 's o wn q u e st i o n s a n d a n swe r s. Su ch a n u n de r -
st e n di n g, o f a n a u t ho r de f i n e s a co n t e xt , se t t le s a ll t ha t i s r e le -
v a n t t o , i t se lf , a n d a ll t ha t ha s n o b e a r i n g o n i t se lf . If t ha t
u n de r st a n di n g o f t he a u t ho r i s co r r e ct , t he n t he r e a r e n o f u r t he r
r e le v a n t n u e st i o n s. St i ll, t o de t o m i n e whe t he r t ha t u n de r st a n di n g
i s co r r e ct i s m a de di f f i cu lt b y t he i n de t e r m i n a cy o f t he who le .
A n d u n t i l t ha t i n de t e r m i n a cy ca n b e e li m i n a t e d, t he e xe ge t e ha s t o
ha v e r e co u r se t o t he de v i ce o f a wa k i n g r e st r i ct e d a n d li xi i t e d ju dg-
m e n t s i n st e a d o f pr o n o u n ci n g - ju st wha t i s t he su m a n d su b st a n ce ,
t he e sse n ce a n d t he a cci de n t s, o f a ll t he m e a n i n g co n t a i n e d i n t he
t e xt .
0
10
11. St a t e r o n t o f t h e L e a n i n g o f t h e T e xt .
In st a t i n g t h e ma n i a c o f t h e t e xt t h e e xe g e t e e mpl o y s c o n c e pt s
but t h e r e a r e n o t a bl e d i f f e r e n c e s o f o pi n i o n o n t h o t y pe o f c o n c e pt s
h e sh o ul d e mpl o y .
(a ) Al be r t De sc a n ps, "Re f l e xi o n s sur l a me t h . o d e e n t h o o l o g i e
bi bl i que ," Sa cr a P a : i n a , I, 13 2-157.
Pa ssa g o c i t e d f r o m pp. 142 - 113:
/ T h i s t h e o l o g y wi l l bo a s d i ve r se a s t h e r e a r e , i n t h e e y e s o f t h e
a l e r t e xe ge t e , n u m e r o u s b i b li ca l a u t ho r s; u lt i m a t e ly , t he r e wi ll b e
a s ma n y b i b li ca l t he o lo gi e s , a s t he r e a r e i n spi r e d a u t ho r s, f o r o n e
wi l l o b li ge hi m se lf a b o v e a ll t o r e spe ct t he o r i gi n a li t y o f e a ch o f
t he n ..'
/T ho i n q u i r e r wi ll a ppe a r t o t a k e de li ght i n slo i a a ppr o a che s, a n d
wi l l o f t e n t a k e t he pa t h o f scho o l chi ldr e n ; hi s de scr i pt i o n wi ll
ha v e t he f la v o r o f a n ci e n t t hi n gs; i t wi ll pr o v i de t he r e a de r wi t h
a n i m pr e ssi o n o f b e i n g i n a di f f e r e n t co u n t r y , o f b e i n g f o r e i gn ,
o f b e i n g a r cha i c; t he de si r e f o r a u t he n t i ci t y wi ll r i a n i f e st i t se lf
i n t he cho i ce o f v o ca b u la r y a s b i b li ca l a s po ssi b le , i n t he de si r e
t o a v o i d ; ha st y t r a n spo si t i o n i n t o m o r e m o de r n e xpr e ssi o n s, e v e n i f
t he y ha v e b e e n a ppr o v e d i n t he t he o lo gi ca l t r a di t i o n . T he r e i s q u i t e
e pr o bl e m o f d i sc r e t i o n i n t he cho i ce o f wo r ds i n b i b li ca l t he o lo gy .
/T he who le e xpo si t i o n o f t he wo r k . m i ll ha v e t o b e co n st r u ct e d f o llo w-
i n g t he co n clu si o n s f r o m t he st u dy o f i t s chr o n o lo gy a n d f r o m t he
li t e r a r y hi st o r y o f t he b i b li ca l wr i t i n gs; i t wi ll b e a m a t t e r o f
pr o pe r a r r a n ge m e n t . T ha t i s why t he q u e st i o n s a b o u t da t e s a n d a u -
t he n t i ci t y o f i n spi r e d : 'r r i t i n ss, a ppa r e n t ly se co n da r y i n b i b li ca l
t he o lo gy , a ct u a lly ha v e a de ci si v e m po r t a n ce .
/M o r e o v e r , t he se e xpo si t i o n s o f t he wo r k wi ll r e m a i n pa r t i cu la r
e n o u gh; i f t he y i n clu de t he who le o f t he b o o k s o f t he b i b le , t he y
wi ll b e a r o n ly u po n a po i n t o f we ll de li m i t e d do ct r i n e ; i f t he y
ha v e a co m ple x o b je ct , t he y wi ll o n ly b e a r o n o n e wr i t i n g o r a
gr o u p o f wr i t i n gs, A s f o r t he b i b li ca l t he o lo gy t ha t wo u ld li k e
t o e m b r a ce t he who le o r a t le a st a v a st po r t i o n o f i n spi r e d li t e r a -
t u r e , i t ca n o n ly do so b y r e m a i n i n g i n t e r i o r ly v e r y di v e r se , so m e -
wha t a s, o n a pr o f a n e le v e l, a " ge n e r a l hi st o r y " o f Eu r o pe o r o f
t he wo r ld m u st b e .
/C e r t a i n pe o ple , i t i s t r u e , dr e a m o f a k i n d o f co n de n se d v e r si o n ,
o f a n e xpo si t i o n o f t he ge n e r a l pla n o f Go d t hr o u gho u t hi st o r y o f
t he t wo T e st a m e n t s; t hi s wo u ld b e t he sa r i t hi n g a s a f o r m o f _ r r i -
v i le ge d b i b li ca l t he o lo gy , f o llo wi n g t he i de a o f se v e r a l wr i t e r s,
A ct u a lly , i t se e m s t o u s t ha t a sk e t ch o f t hi s o v e r -a ll pla n o n ly
b e lo n gs t o b i b li ca l 't he o lo gy t o t he e xt e n t t ha t t he hi st o r i a n ca n
r e co gn i ze hi m se lf wi t hi n i t ; t he b e li e v e r ht n se lf o n ly r e a che s t he
di v i n e pla n t hr o u gho u t t he r : la n y i de a s a n d a i m s o f t he sa cr e d wr i t e r s./
T he f o r e go i n g v i e w M a y b o n a m e d t he " co m m o n se n se co m m u n i ca t i o n
o f a co m m o n se n se u n de r st a n di n g o f t he t e n t " .
T he e xe ge t e b e gi n s f r o m co n t e m po r a r y co m m o n se n se ; he de v e lo ps t he
c o mmo n se n se o f a n o t h e r t i n s; h e spo o ks t o h i s pupi l s by be g i n n i n g
f r o m t h e i r c o mmo n sense and leading than into the multiple nodes of
the common sneso of the multiple scriptural authors; that coal is
vast, complex, endlessly nuanced.
In. turn the pupils will be able to communicate their understanding
in the same manner, uttering that initially gives an impression of
d ojsoraent (being in a foreign c o un t r y ) , d ' etranuete (strangeness) ,
d'archaisne (being archaic); but when they-Hive r e a c h e d understanding,
t mill lave become familiar to them.
(b) Besides the foregoing "common snese communication of a common
sense understanding of the text," one nay envisage a scientific com-
munication of a comnon sense understanding of the text.
Such scientific communication rises spontaneously fromthe fore-
going common sense communication, for the very effort to communicate
involves "die t endun Gzur Xlee" (the turning point for the idoa) .
tendency ndency and turn may be illustrated by the composition
of grammars and lexicons, which are based upon familiar understand-
ing of groups of texts, and summarize recurrent elenents or features
to be found in t e xt s. Ag a i n , f r o m t h e grammars and lexicons of dif-
ferent languages or dielocts, there arise another tendency and turn
to the idea in the forma of comparative grammars and comparative
language study. To take a different instance, place names in texts
lead to studies that collect the lot or the on a map; time refer-
e n c e s i n t e xt s l e a d t o st ud i e s t h a t c o l l e c t t h e l o t o f t h e m i n a
chronology; pe r so n a l n a me s i n t e xt s lead to genealogies, biographical
dictionaires, outlines of history, etc.
Nov the exegete drays upon all such studies in his work of in-
terpreting particular texts.Fron one viewpoint, his vworlc is one of
applying the results of investigations in a large number of special-
ized fields. ,But there is also another viewpoint that arises in the
measure that the application recurs over long series of texts.
For stating the Loaning of the text is a totally nor: and dispar-
ate task only o n t h e f i r st o c c a si o n . As the number of occasions counts
on which one states the meaning of texts, one finds oneself stating
over and over again the sane meanings or slightly different mean-
ings, and so one begins to compare and classify, to find basic recur-
rent categories, their di:Lferant:!ntzons, their frequencies.
Genetic processes next come to one's attention, and fromthe
fact one may proceed to the cause or formo r the end of the genesis.
So A.
Desca.ps casually montions both categories and genetic
considerations
in his reflections on the method of biblical theology.
So U.Peinador lays it down that overjone would consider biblical
theology to be a theology expressed in the very categories of the
biblical authors.
12
(c) In the third place one nay ash' about the foundations of a
scientific scientificcammunication of o common sense understanding of the test.
' This question appears in Descaripe' discussion, first, when he
begins by ruling out H. I. L arrou's contentions expressed in "De la
connaissancd histories", and secondly, when he discusses Dunery's
demand for a "crltinue radicale", pP.133-36,
154-57.
It appears in Peinador':a illustration of biblical categories by
the. "images" of the people of God and the kingdomof God, and as
well in his requirement that biblical theology presupposes definite
do(gas .
But it also *pears in the use of Hegelian thought as the spine
of historical development (as in the Tubingen school of 19th century
higher criticism) and in Bultuann's use of Ileidegger's existential-
ism, particularly in his :interpretation of St.Paul.Cf.I.:acquarrie,
An F:istentialiat Theoloriv, London, SCII Press,
195 5 w 1960.Finally,
he sane question appears in Inslp rt, Chapter 17, section 3.
There are a number of factors that enter into this problem, and
we must begin first froman enumeration and a description.
First, the effort, to attain a scientific communication of a com-
mon sense understanding of texts takes the interpreter beyond the ex-
plicit context or the original authors.Comparisons, classifications,
the listing of categories and their differentiations, the observation
and explanation of genetic processes, begin from.the context of the
original authors but they the iatize it, and by that very fact, go be-
yond it to ask and answer questions that the original authors did not
undertake to discuss.
Implicit in the foregoing shift of context is the shift from
hermeneutics to history.In hemeneutics the question is, What did
the author mean insofar as his meaning is conveyed by his text? In
history the.question becomes, What was going forward? The battle
plan of the general answers questions of the hermeneutic type, for
that plan tells what the general meant to do The actual course of
the battle differs not a little from the victorious general's plan,
and a great deal from the defeated general's plan.To ask about the
actual course of the battle is to ask a historical question, and its
answer is nomailJ , not this or that men's intention or meaning,
but what results from the interplay of numerous and conflicting in-
tentions and meanings.
Now the original authors used categories, effected differentia-
tions of categories, brought about develoments, but they did not sit
back and reflect on r:ilat they hnd done.It is precisely this that is
done when the scientific conimuniestion of a common sense understand-
ing of texts is attempted.It moves beyond the explicit context of
any given author's r.;eenir_g to construct a historical context that
contains, analyses and relates successive explicit contexts.
13
, ; co n dly , t he co m m o n se n se u n de r st a n di n g o f t e xt s b e gi n s f r o m a
co n t e m po r a r y b r a n d o f co m m o n se n se , t ha t o f t he i n t e r pr e t e r , a n d n o v e s
t o a n u n de r st a n di n g o f t he co m m o n se n se o f a n o t he r pla ce a n d t i m e .
Fo r t he i n t e r pr e t e r , hi s o v e n o r i gi n a l co m m o n se n so i s a Se lb st v o r -
st a n dli chk e i t ( se lf -u n de r st a n di n g) ; i t i s so m e t hi n g t o o 15 17 17 5 T o b e
e x pla i n e d, t o o ce r t a i n t o n e e d ju st i f i ca t i o n , t o o clo se ly co r r e la t e d
v ,It h dr a r a n a t i c-pr a ct i ca l sa y i n g a n d do i n g t o b e su b m i t t e d t o a n a ly -
si s. St i ll, i t i s o n ly o n e b r a n d o f co m m o n se n se : e a ch pe o ple , e a ch
cu lt u r e , e a ch la n gu a ge , e a ch r e gi o n , e a ch ge n e r a t i o n , e a dh so ci a l
cla ss ha s i t s o v n i ; a n d e a ch f i n ds t he o t he r 's st r a n ge , so m e t hi n g t ha t
i n t i n e o n e ca n co n e t o u n de r st a n d, so n o t hi n g t ha t pe r ha ps o n e v r i ll
m a k e o n e 's o : n b y se c i o -cu lt u r a l n i gr a t i o n , b a t n o t so m e t hi n g t ha t i s
o n e a n d t ho sa n e cll o v e r .
H o e s t he co n t e m po r a r y di f f e r e n t i a t i o n o f co r n o n se n se , whi le i t
_ do e s r i o t i m ply a r e la t i v i sm , do e s i m ply a r e la t i v i t y . " : he n t he i n -
- t o r pr e t e r i n t e r pr e t s f o r so n g o n e , b e b o o r s i n m i n d t ha t pa r so n 's
ho r i zo n . IIe v i i ll spo o k di f f e r e n t ly a t a co n gr e ss o f hi s co lle a gu e s,
i n hi s u n i v e r si t y le ct u r e s, a n d i n a pu b li c a ddr e ss. H e wi ll b e a b le
t o b r i n g t hi n gs ho m e e f f e ct i v e ly pr e ci se ly i n t he m e a su r e t ha t he u n -
de r st a n ds t he co m m o n se n se ci hi s a u di e n ce , i .e ., u n de r st a n ds v ha t
t he y v i i ll u n de r st a n d i m m e di a t e ly a n d f u lly .
It f o llo v i s t ha t ,ju st a s t he r e i s a ^ 'l
i p
e n du g zu r Ide e t ha t go e s b e -
y o n d t he co n t e xt o f t he t e xt s t o b e i n t e r e ; r e d, so ci a o t he r e i s a
'; o ,, o n du n zu r Ide e t ha t go e s b e y o n d t he co m m o n se n se o f t he i n t e r pr e t e r s,
t h a t de t e Ei E t he i r ca t e go r i e s a n d t he ge n e t i c pr o ce ss o f t he de v e l-
o pm e n t o f t he i r sci e n ce o r f i e ld.
T hi r dly ,. t he r e e xi st hu m a n sci e n ce s. T he y a r e co n ce r n e d u i t h t he
o r de r o f hu m a n li v i n g i n f a m i ly a n d so ci e t y , m o r a ls a n d e du ca t i o n ,
st a t o a n d la v e , , e co n o m i cs a n d t e chn i cs. T he y a r e co n ce r n e d wi t h t he
Le a n i n g o f hu m a n li v i n g i n i n t e r su b je ct i v i t y a n d sy m b o l, i n a r t a n d
la n gu a ge , hi st o r y a n d r e li gi o n , li t e r a t u r e , sci e n ce a n d phi lo so phy .
In so f a r a s t he se f i e lds o f i n v e st i ga t i o n ge t b e y o n d t he i n i t i a l
de scr i pt i v e pha se o f o b : e r v a t i o n , co lle ct i o n , co m pa r i so n , cla ssi f i -
ca t i o n , i n so f a r a s t he y a t t e m pt t o e : t pla i n , co r r e la t e , a n a ly ze pr o -
ce ss, t he y b e co m e sy s t c.i a t i c. T he i r u lt i m a t e ca t e go r i e s a n d di f f e r -
e n t i a t i o n o f ca t e go r i e s a r e , o r a i m t o b e n o t wha t ha ppe n e d t o b e t he
ca t e go r i e s o f t hi s o r t ha t : t r i t e r o r gr o u p o f wr i t e r s, b u t v ha t a r e
de m a n de d b y t he su b je ct i t se lf , wha t li e i n t he n a t u r e o f m a n , " t ha t
ca n f i t a ll ca se s, whe t wi ll b r i n g o u t m o st e f f e ct i v e ly t he n a t u r e
a n d st r u ct u r e o f e a ch.
N o t he r e su lt s o f su ch hu m a n sci e n ce a r e a n e f f e ct i v e t o o l f o r
t he sci e n t i f i c co m m u n i ca t i o n o f co m m o n se n se u n de r st a n di n g o f t e xt s.
T he y a r e su ch a t o o l, n o t o n ly v t he n e m plo y e d o n o r i gi n a l t e xt s, b u t
a lso zi he n e m plo y e d o n t he t e xt s v n: i t t e n b y i n t e r pr e t e r s o f t he o r i g-
i n a l t e xt s. Ju st a s t he i n t e r pr e t e r v i i ll n o t he si t a t e t o e m plo y
14
Grammars and lexicons, geographies and histories, in his i n t e r pr e -
t a t i o n o f t e xt s, so t o o he wi ll a v a i l hi m se lf o f t he t o o ls o f a n a ly -
ais and corinunication provided by the human sciences.
; Fourthly, there exist philosophies a n d theologies.Already ,;
have spoken of understanding t he text as a development in the.inter-
preter and indeed of a conversion of the interpreter, But such co:-
version and its opposite are thematized and objectified in philos-
ophical and theological positions.In those fields thot find scien-
tific statement, and auch scientific statement is the statement of the
foundations of basic orientations and attitudes.
Now such basic orientations and attitudes find t he i r unfolding,
expression, concrete realization (;) in the original texts, (2) in
the interpreations placed upon the original texts, a n d (3) in the
manner in which the human sciences are conceived, Grounded, directed,
developed.The basic orientations and attitudes are the basic moan-
ings'of all texts, whether of authors, of interpreters, or of human
scientists.
(d) Basic Context.
Context is a remainder-content; it denotes the rest that is rel.e-
vsnt to the interpretation of the text.
Material context is the rest of the documents or monuments rele-
vant to the interpretation of the text.
Formal context is hermeneutical or historical.
Herneneutical formal context is the dynamic mental and psychic
background from which the author spoke or wrote; it is the set of
habits of sensibility and skill, of intellect and will, that come to
a second act in the context.
Historical formal context is the genetic-dialectical unity of a
series of hermeneutical formal contexts.
The distinction between hermeneutic and historical is illustrated
by the difference between the General's plan of battle and the actual
course of the battle.The former has the unity conferred on it by a
single mind (matched against other minds) .The latter ccrresaonds
neither to the victorious nor to the defeated general's plan; it is
what is realized through conflicting plans and decisions and because
of them; but it results not merely from plans and decisions but ciao
from what they overlooked.
Basic context is a heuristic notion, partly determined and partly
to be determined.It is what becomes determined in the totality of
successful efforts at exegesis.
At a first approximation, the basic context is the pure desire
to know, unfolding through experience, understanding,, and .:dg ent
and leading to the statements found in the texts of authors, inter-
preters and critics.
15
Se c o n d l y , i t i s t h e Pur e d e si r e a s a r e a l i t y 'wi t h a r e a l un f o l d -
i n g l e a d i n g t o a c t ua l st o t e r :e n t n i n e a c h o f t h e r e l e va n t a ut h o r s, i n -
t o r pr o t e r s, a n d c r i t i c s.
T h i r d l y , i t i s a r e a l i t y t h a t d e ve l o ps, t h a t pr o c e e d s f r o r a t h e
un d i f f e r e n t i a t e d t h r o ug h . d i f f e r e n t i a t i o n t o a n a r t i c ul a t e d i n t e g r a -
t i o n . Suc h d e ve l o pme n t i s bo t h i n d i vi d ua l (f r o m i n f a n c y t o se n i l i t y )
a n d h i st o r i c a l (f r o m pr i mi t i ve s t o c o n t e mpo r a r y c ul t ur e ). .
F o ur t h l y , i t i s a r e a l i t y t h a t un d e r g o e s c o n ve r si o n , i n t e l l e c t ua l ,
n o r a l , a n d r e l i g i o us, a n d t h a t i s subje c t t o a be r r a t i o n .
It i s t o be n o t e d t h a t ba si c c o n t e n t i s (1) r e a l , (2) o n e a n d
ma n y , (3 ) t h e g r o un d o f g e n e t i c r e l a t i o n sh i ps, a n d (J . ) t h o g r o un d o f
d i a l e c t i c a l r e l a t i o n sh i ps.
F ur t h e r , i t i s a t o n c e f a c t ua l a n d n o r ma t i ve : t h e pur e d e si r e i s
bo t h a f a c t a n d a n o r m; a n d o bse r va n c e o f t h e n o r m a n d n o n -o bse r va n c e
a r e 'f a c t s wi t h a n o r ma t i ve c o n n o t a t i o n .
Ag a i n , ba si c c o n t e xt i s r e l a t e d t o c o mmo n se n se a n d sc i e n t i f i c
st a t e me n t s o f t h e c o mmo n se n se un d e r st a n d i n g o f t e xt s, a s t h e uppe r
bl a d e o f sc i e n t i f i c r :e t h o d t o t h e l o ve r bl a d e . T h e y a r e mut ua l l y d e -
t e r mi n i n g , a n d t h e y r e sul t i n a ph i l o so ph i c a l l y o r t h e o l o g i c a l l y
g r o un d e d sc i e n t i f i c st a t e me n t o f t h e c o o n se n se un d e r st a n d i n g o f
t h e t e xt s.
Cf .
t e r . . , ! , ,.
Ch a pt e r
t n n
"T h e
,. . . . . v ^. _ . ^ . , . .
In :. ?. t ^h t ,L (,. se c t i o n 3 t-u
K
h e T r ut h O L In t e r t pr e t . t a -
t i o n "; g r a pi e r 15, se c t i o n 7 o n Ge n e t i c :o t h o d ; Ch a pt e r s L -5 o n
Empi r i c a l I. . o t h o d ; t h e Epi l o g ue o n t h e a d d i t i o n o f t h e d i me n si o n o f
f a i t h t o h uma n d e ve l o pme n t a n d d i a l e c t i c .
(o ) L o g i c o f B a si c Co n t e xt .
B a si c c o n t e xt i s a e o n t e xt o f c o n t e xt s; i t i s n o t o n t h e l e ve l o f
t h e a ut h o r 's un d e r st a n d i n g o f wh a t h e me a n s; i t i s n o t o n t h e l e ve l o f
t h e i n t e r pr e t e r 's e r 's c o mn + . o n se n se st a t e me n t o f a c o mmo n se n se un d e r st a n d -
i n g o f t h e a ut h o r 's me a n i n g ; i t i s n o t o n t h e l e ve l o f a sc i e n t i f i c
st a t e me n t o f a c o mmo n se n se un d e r st a n d i n g o f t h e a ut h o r 's me a n i n g ; i t
i s t h e l e ve l o n wh i c h g e n e t i c a n d d i a l e c t i c a l r e l a t i o n sh i ps a r e f o un d
be t we e n t h e sc i e n t i f i c a c c o un t s o f suc c e ssi ve a ut h o r s} me a n i n g s.
Co mpa r e (l ) r e f e r e n c e f r a n c s, (2) t h e g r o up o f t r a n sf o r ma t i o n .
e qua t i o n s d e f i n i n g t h e g e o me t r y o f t h e r e f e r e n c e f r a n c s, (3 ) t h e
se r i e s o f g r o ups o f t r a n sf o r ma t i o n s d e f i n i n g t h e se r i e s o f g e o me t r i e s.
B e c a use ba si c c o n t e xt pl a c e s a se r i e s o f a ut h o r s wi t h i n a g e n -
e t i c -. d i a l e c t i c a l un i t y , i t g o e s be y o n d t h e i n t e t n i o n s o f t h e a ut h o r s.
It i s h i st o r i c a l , a n d t h e h i st o r i c a l br i n g s t o l i g h t wh a t wa s g o i n g
f o r wa r d t h r o ug h t h e a ut h o r s' i n t e n t i o n s a n d d e e d s but n o t me r e l y be -
c a use o f t h e i r i n t e n t i o n s a n d d e e d s but a l so be c a use o f wh a t t h e y
o ve r l o o ke d o r f a i l e d t o d o .
E. g . , B a si c c o n t e xt r e l a t e s t h e t r i n i t a r i a n d o c t r i n e o f T e r t ul l i e n ,
O r i g e n , a n d At h a n a si us. B ut T e r t ul l i e n d i d n o t d o so ; O r i g e n d i d n o t
d o so ; At h a n a si us d i d n o t d o so .
16
This does not imply that basic context in only in the mind of the
upper-blade historian. It is also in the minds of the authors, but
there it is implicit, vecu, in the mode of verstehen, etc. The Gen-
etic is in then as thei d r y` ynanic openness or their stagnation; the
dialectical i s i n t h e m a s t h e i r Go o d o r un e a sy conscience.
Basic context differs fromthe scientific statement of a common
sense undorstandinc of the text. Such scientific statement presup-
poses the common sense understanding of the text and employs in stat-
ing that understanding (1) the categories constructed fromthe text
and (2) the categories conctructotl by human science. Basic context
is concerned with the gonesio and dialectical abbrrations of categories.
Basic contexts differ fromcordon sense understanding of the text;
i t i s c o n t e n t t o se l e c t i n the light of its own Principles (usually
unknown to the author) significant if very brief points. E.g., prove
Tertullian had two distinct nodes of thinking about t h e d i vi n i t y o f
the Son. Such selection is not undorstanding Tertullian. Indeed,
not .oven a sciontific statc!:ent of a common sense understanding of
Tertullian does more than affect such selections, though it does so
in a complete manner.
Conversely, the questioiio arising fromscientific statement and
frombasic context contribute nothing to common sense understanding
of the text or situation.
E.g., the Council of Ephesus defined our Lady's divine maternity.
The definition is a corollary to the explication of the Christian
tradition and its sources: one and the sane is God and man. But the
naive are prone to ask, Did our Lady know she was the mother of God?
Bow did she know it? How did she conceive? How did she feel about
it? 1-lo:r do you prove all this fromScripture? Does St. Luke write
with your account of our Lady's thoughts and feelings in mind?
Such questions arise solely froma total incomprehension of the
nature and possibility of serious exegesis, and serious history.
It is possible to arrive at a common sense understanding of the
texts, at a scientific statement of t h a t c o mmo n sense understanding,
at a basic context that relates in a genetic-dialectical series the
scientific statements.
But this possibility does not amount to t h e possibility of giv-
ing reasonable ans=s to the imaginative curiosity. The answers
have to be theological, and theological answers do not include an
imaginative reconstruction of the past.
July,. 1962
Regis College
Toronto