Hermeneutics and Axiology: the Ethical Contents of Interpretation
In 'Raiders of the lost paradigm', Peter Lassman has assessed much of the current 'crisis' literature within social theory, and has highlighted examples of this persistent theme. If the architect of modern hermeneutics was indispensable to Dilthey, who in turn designed verstehende social science, certainly this centrality to thought has not slipped into our own day through the filters that Gadamer and Habermas each made. The reason it cannot is because it is insistently axiological and practical or, in the Greek sense, it is the activity of prudentia, of practical rationality. Gadamer's remonstrance with Schleiermacher, who himself did not escape altogether the winds of scientism, speaks just as forcefully to contemporary theorists. A distinguishing feature of Schleiermacher's ethics is its capacity to serve both as a philosophy of history, hence as a comprehensive interpretation of human thoughts and acts, and as a positive basis for particular historical sciences. The very idea of a definitive interpretation seems to be intrinsically contradictory.