The Method of Theology 9:1
Sku: 31700A0E060
Archival Number: CD/mp3 317
Author: Lonergan, B.
Language(s): English
Decade: 1960

CD/mp3 317, first half of ninth lecture in the 1962 Institute 'The Method of Theology.' Sponsored by Rev. Conrad Dietz. Next there is the general question of hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is not a primary field of inquiry. The primary field that lies behind it is cognitional theory. Knowing what an author means is a particular case of knowing, and hermeneutics is a particular application of a general cognitional theory. Contemporary hermeneutics is complicated by four factors: the emergence of historical consciousness, the significance of meaning in the Geisteswissenschaften, either the application of mistaken philosophies to hermeneutics or the desire to do interpretation without any philosophy at all, and modernity's wholesale reinterpretation of the past. There are three main aspects to the interpretation of a text: understanding the text, judging the correctness of one's understanding of the text, and stating what one considers the correct interpretation of the text. Understanding the text may be considered on four successive levels: understanding the thing, understanding the words, understanding the author, and developing in one's own capacity for understanding. Each of these levels is treated in turn. The point to the first requirement is that if one does not understand the thing, one is not going to understand the author. The first requirement is opposed to a principle of the 'empty head,' which is based on the notion that knowing is taking a good look. Insofar as the interpreter and the author understand the thing in the same way, there is no difficulty. But if the understanding is different, the second requirement, understanding the words, becomes important. The gradual development of understanding understands the parts, and corrects, qualifies, complements the acts of understanding with regard to each part as one moves through the whole discourse from the words to the sentence, from the sentence to the paragraph, from the paragraphs to the chapter, from the chapters to the book. It is by the self-correcting process of learning that we gradually spiral into what the author is really saying. Sometimes the problem is not so much understanding the thing or understanding the words, but understanding the author. The author is so different from me. He belongs to another nation, another time, another language, another culture, another way of life, another cast of mind. Understanding the author is similar in structure to understanding the common sense of the people with whom we live. And at this point Lonergan digresses a bit to discuss Romantic hermeneutics once again, since it had some awareness of this problem of understanding the common sense of other people. The element of truth in Romantic hermeneutics is that just as one has a commonsense understanding of other people's common sense who are one's companions, so there is a development of common sense that takes on a certain aspect of the common sense of another period, other people. The major texts in letters, in religion, in philosophy, in theology are beyond the horizon of any average interpreter. They demand a development, a refinement, perhaps a religious, moral, or intellectual conversion, a broadening of horizon, if the interpreter is to measure up to the level of those texts. The reader's initial knowledge is just inadequate. One comes to know what the text is about just in the measure that one pushes the self-correcting process of learning to a revolution in one's own outlook. This existential dimension of hermeneutics extends into the issue of the authenticity or inauthenticity of the tradition in which one stands.

Database and descriptions © Copyright 2017 by Robert M. Doran

Audio restoration by Greg Lauzon


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