Heidegger and the Hermeneutic Turn of Philosophy
FEHÉR M. ISTVÁN
Hermeneutic philosophy has come to be a
major philosophical trend of the 20th century philosophy. It has transformed
the traditional ways of approaching philosophical problems, of looking upon
and dealing with them indeed, it modified to a great extent our understanding
of philosophy itself.: “To speak of a revolution in the history of thought
is perhaps too grand,” an interpreter wrote recently, “but certainly there
has been a general movement that can be called the ’hermeneutic turn’.”1
The emergence of contemporary hermeneutic
philosophy, which may also be called the hermeneutic turn of philosophy, is
largely due to the philosophical work of Martin Heidegger. Heidegger on his
part performed a kind of hermeneutic turn himself on his path of thinking.
It is this twofold theme, contemporary hermeneutics or the hermeneutic turn
of contemporary philosophy on the one hand, and Heidegger’s hermeneutic turn
at the other, that I wish to discuss in what follows.
In the first part of my paper I will sum
up some of the major claims of contemporary hermeneutics, then
I will proceed to present in some detail what I call specifically Heidegger’s
hermeneutic turn. The presentation of Heidegger’s hermeneutic turn will not
be confined to something such as his contribution to XXth
century or contemporary hermeneutics, but will be treated on its own.
I propose to show some of the reasons why Heidegger is often claimed to have
given hermeneutics an ontological dimension or ontological interpretation
– and, in particular, how in Heidegger’s ontological radicalization of hermeneutics the influence of
Dilthey and Husserl played
a fundamental role.
1. The Emergence of Contemporary Hermeneutics
The problem of the interpretation of texts
handed down by the tradition is about as old as philosophy itself. In its
traditional sense, hermeneutics has been understood as the theory of rules
which govern the interpretation of texts, and which should permit us to establish
their possibly objective meaning. Due to a number of circumstances, such as
the cultural crisis of our century, the expansion of technology and world
civilization, the loss of sense of classical humanistic tradition, etc., the
problems of interpretation have come to assume an ever more important role
in recent philosophy. The hermeneutic problematic has emerged as a central
topic, and has been given autonomous philosophical elaboration, in the thought
of at least two of the most influential philosophers of our century: Heidegger
and Gadamer. The hermeneutic turn of philosophy which they carried
out implies that interpretation is no more seen as an auxiliary discipline
of human sciences as the rules of interpretation of classical texts. Rather,
it emerges as an autonomous philosophical stance insofar as man is viewed
in all kinds of his everyday activities not only in handling classical texts
pertaining to the compartment of human sciences as an interpreting animal.
In assessing the full import and the radicality
of this turn, we have reason to speak about an overall hermeneutic reconception of philosophy. The radicality
of this change would however be wholly misunderstood and to a considerable
extent underestimated if we conceived of it in terms of a change whereby our
description of just one being among many others had been changed, while that
of the others had remained basically the same. Rather what this change implies
is that all our habitual conceptual strategies and linguistic devices together
with the underlying comportment and worldview, are
to undergo an overall reconsideration and reconception
one often called destruction or deconstruction.
The hermeneutic turn of philosophy implies
further far more than the mere fact that philosophical thinking has now come
to center its reflection upon the hermeneutic tradition – the
texts of authors who have exposed, in various ages and places, various doctrines
and conceptions of interpretation. What it implies is, rather that the problem
of interpretation is looked upon as a philosophical problem sui generis, whereby
philosophy itself gains a kind of hermeneutical self-awareness and undergoes
a deep transformation. Philosophy, thus transformed hermeneutically, re-defines
its relation to the classical (hermeneutical) tradition, no less than to the
other disciplines. The hermeneutical reflection has nowadays become, in a
very broad sense, a kind of medium, or element, of philosophy
– an analytical device, as it were – which
has a diffuse presence permeating the most various branches and fields of
philosophical significance of hermeneutics lies in the fact that philosophy
has been handed down in texts; be it ontology, epistemology, ethics, etc.,
wherever we look we have to do with texts which require interpreting, appropriating,
and handing over. But even refutation and criticism are
not productive unless based upon preliminary understanding of what the texts
to be refuted or criticized have to say. The relevance hermeneutics has for
the sciences is given, second, by the fact that hermeneutical thinking illuminates
some wider horizon of life into which the sciences themselves as particular
forms of socio-historical human activity are embedded. Last but not least,
hermeneutics has also some considerable political relevance: hermeneutic openness,
as an attitude essential to this thinking, may help educate and bring up young
people to be critical and self-critical citizens, able to understand and respect
alien conceptions and cultures. In a pluralistic universe,
a “logic of questioning and answering” (Gadamer)
becomes particularly important in helping us work out a mutual understanding
(Verständigung). Understanding a text is on a hermeneutical
view, understanding it together with its truth claims, on the one hand, and
letting the text challenge our own criteria of judging it on the other. The
main hermeneutic deficiency in interpreting philosophical texts lies, on a
Gadamerian view, not so much in applying false or
bizarre criteria, but, rather, in making the criteria of our confrontation
with the text inaccessible to critical scrutiny.
In order to assess the full import and the
radicality of this turn, which amounts to an overall reconception of philosophy, we are to go back to its sources,
i.e. to reconstruct the problem situation of German philosophy at the turn
of the century.
2. Heidegger’s Hermeneutic Turn: Hermeneutics and the Being-question
In its attempt to challenge the positivistic
idea of unified science as well as to defend the autonomy of the human studies,
epistemologically oriented German philosophy had come to distinguish between
two autonomous kinds of scientific knowledge or cognition: the one providing
knowledge of general laws and characteristic of the natural sciences, the
other making us acquainted with singular events and proper to the kind of
knowledge we have in human sciences [Geisteswissenschaften].
These two forms of knowledge were sometimes also distinguished terminologically
as explanation [Erklärung] and understanding [Verstehen].
Dilthey defined understanding as “the process by which we
know some inner content from signs received by the senses from outside”;2 interpretation was for him “the artistic [arts-like]
understanding of life manifestations objectified in written form.”3
He conceived hermeneutics as “the methodology of the understanding of recorded
Implicit in the epistemological dualism
of explanation and understanding is a latent ontological distinction between
nature and spirit. With regard to nature our knowledge is explanation, concerning
consciousness it is understanding. „We explain nature,
and we understand spirit,” says Dilthey.5 That
is the reason also why Dilthey finds something like
the „understanding of nature” an improper or just approximate or „metaphorical”
For Heidegger hermeneutics is no more wissenschaftstheoretisch-oriented (or
validity-oriented). This follows from his
basic tendency to challenge the priority of epistemology and theory
of science in philosophy, and to reaffirm the primacy of ontology. One of
his main arguments is that scientific cognition is preceded by and derived
from, man’s Being-in-the-world. In the elaboration of his philosophical stance,
Heidegger transformed phenomenology in an ontological way which is very much
the case with what he did with regard to hermeneutics itself. Like phenomenology,
hermeneutics was also given an ontological dimension that it formerly did
In accordance with this reconception
of philosophy, Heidegger no longer views understanding and interpretation
as just regional concepts confined to particular domains to the methodology
of the human sciences. Rather he views man in all the modes of his everyday
activities as an interpreting animal. This holds also with regard to the kind
of activity we call philosophical research, i.e., questioning. Insofar as
the human being is an interpreting animal it interprets being as well, and
Heidegger formulates his being-question specifically in terms of a question
concerning the meaning (Sinn) of being. As
Ricoeur puts it: “The usage of interpretation in
the historico-hermeneutic sciences is only the anchoring
point for a universal concept of interpretation.”7
is on this view no more a way of knowing proper to the human studies, in contradistinction
to explanation as the way of knowledge characteristic of the natural sciences.
It is rather a way of being of the being called human. Humans are
understanding, so to speak all along. What they understand are not
matters of fact out there in the world but the way they find themselves in
the world involved in it and coping with it.
With regard to hermeneutics this reconception of philosophy implies furthermore that interpretation
does not presuppose “recorded expressions,” as with Dilthey,8 but vice versa: making assertions
whatsoever presupposes preliminary interpretation. Assertion is for Heidegger
a derivative mode of understanding.9 A
hammer e.g. is for all above encountered as a tool for pounding nails
into the wall; and in this encounter it has always already been preliminarily
understood or interpreted as such. If the hammer proves to be too heavy “[i]nterpretation
is carried out primordially not in a theoretical statement but in an action
[...] – laying aside the unsuitable tool, or exchanging it, ‘without
wasting a word’”.10 To put it bluntly: for Heidegger, in order
to do interpreting one need not speak or make assertions, but in order to
speak one must have done interpreting.
Brought up in the scholastic tradition but
extremely responsive to contemporary logical-epistemological ways of philosophizing
represented by neo-Kantianism and phenomenology, Heidegger had as early as
his doctoral dissertation and his habilitation work hoped to pose the Being question. Studying modern logical or epistemological
theories in order to use them for metaphysical purposes meant for Heidegger
recognizing the fact that such theories are not exempt from metaphysical presuppositions.
Nor, inversely can metaphysical or ontological theories be exempt from logical
or epistemological presuppositions; that is, from more or less explicit assumptions
concerning human thinking or knowing – in short from a theory of man as a
rational animal. If you pose the question of Being you already set a certain logic and conceptuality into
motion every time; and these repose upon a certain attitude of the knowing
subject. One of Heidegger’s early insights is that the tradition from Aristotle
onward had gained its access to Being from within
the conceptual horizon provided by the theoretical attitude, giving thereby
rise to theories of Being in terms of objective presence. That this comportment
was far from being the original mode of being of human existence was,
however, an insight which required the prior unification of the Husserlian
perspective of philosophy as a strict science with the tradition of existential
and life philosophy. It was in the course of this unification that Heidegger’s
basic hermeneutic perspective was born.
Indeed what we call hermeneutic philosophy
or the hermeneutic turn of 20th century philosophy today, relies for its emergence
upon the work of Martin Heidegger and more specifically upon the turn which
Heidegger himself carried out after World War I. when he came to adopt the
specific philosophical perspective which was to remain characteristically
or distinctively his own for the whole path of his thinking.
student and academic writings bear witness to a solid familiarity with the
major philosophical trends of the day and they display well-argued preferences,
in no case can they be considered to be the works of an autonomous thinker.
It was only after the war that Heidegger was to find his own voice and to
begin going his own way towards Being and Time. Heidegger’s turn following
World War One is the turn through which Heidegger, a talented student
of Husserl, Rickert, Dilthey
or others, became Heidegger himself, i.e., the thinker we know and appreciate
today, using a distinct language and conceptuality, one all his own. Thus
it is important to outline briefly the main lines of Heidegger’s rethinking
and development of his position into a new and original outlook.
We should bear in mind that it is somehow
the prerogative or perhaps the fate of every great and original philosopher,
if he is really such, to rethink and redefine the concept of philosophy itself.
Small wonder then that Heidegger, when he set out on his own, repeatedly reflected
upon philosophy itself, re-examining its very concept and meaning.11
Rethinking and redefining the concept of philosophy itself, what philosophy
really is, if it is to be radical enough, means undertaking an intense confrontation
with the leading philosophical tendencies of the day, no less than with the
philosophical tradition in general. This is exactly what Heidegger did.
devastating critique of contemporary trends of philosophizing employed the
strategy of taking them seriously, taking them at their word, as it were,
and then uncovering the extent to which they fail to do justice to their own
claims. His critique had basically the following directions. Epistemologically
oriented scientific philosophy was criticized for not being scientific enough,
life philosophy was accused of failing to grasp life itself, existential philosophy
was charged with not seizing upon existence, historicism was called to account
for losing sight of nothing less than history itself, and, last but not least,
phenomenology was challenged for not being phenomenological enoughindeed,
for being “unphenomenological.”
An overall attempt at appropriation and reappropriation, an effort to come to terms with the significant
tendencies of contemporary philosophy – inclusive of
the philosophical tradition in general – should however sooner or later display obvious preferences which
somehow constitute the basis and criteria for the confrontation, the reappropriation
and the development of a new perspective. Schematically speaking, Heidegger’s preferences lay clearly with Dilthey’s
life-philosophy, i.e., the perspective centering around the conviction that
philosophy’s ownmost object
is life or historical life, on the one hand, and with Husserl’s phenomenology that called for a return to the things themselves,
on the other. His main operation consisted in reciprocally mediating between
the two, or fusing the one with the other, and that is how his basic hermeneutic
perspective was developed.
Husserl’s password sounded: Back to the things themselves, but the thing
properly so-called was for him consciusness with its intentional acts. The thing, by contrast,
came to assume an entirely different character for Heidegger. Given his sense
for Dilthey, the thing was to be for him life itself
in its originality, that is, as it is lived in everyday,
pre-scientific life, and as it expresses itself in its own language. Husserl
insisted on presuppositionless assumption as well
as description of the given over against all kinds of theoretical construction,
and Heidegger enthusiastically took over this insight from Husserl
and turned it against him as well as Dilthey, who was claimed to describe life from a theoretically
of the problematic of factualhistorical life was to serve as a starting point for
the renewal of the Being question, that is, a renewal of systematic or scientific
philosophy - not just as a turning away from it, as has been the case with
so many anti-metaphysical thinkers in the history of philosophy. The posing
and working out of the Being question pertains to what Heidegger calls fundamental
ontology. The latter becomes embedded in, and begins with, a thematization
of the being of the subject – a discipline named
existential analytic, which becomes rooted in the hermeneutics of human being.
One of Heidegger’s earliest
insights is that contemporary philosophy’s descriptions of everyday life, the environing world, etc. stem
from, and are rooted in, theoretical comportment and conceptuality. They therefore
fail to do justice to factical life
– its comportment and the language it speaks – precisely insofar as the theoretical attitude is a derivative
mode of factical life. In 1921– 22
Heidegger urges that the meaning of Descartes’ “I am” should be investigated
more deeply, and warns against allowing traditional views of the “I”
to infiltrate surreptitiously. If life is to be brought to self-showing, then
it is the “am” rather than the “I”
which must be stressed.12 In the third part of the course
Heidegger provides the first detailed analysis of what will be called “hermeneutics
of facticity” in 1923, and
“existential analytic” in Being
and Time – a description put under the heading of “factical
As part of the rethinking of the methodological devices
of phenomenology and contemporary philosophy, we find sketches and outlines
of a theory of understanding with its characteristic pre-structure.13
A result of this reconsideration is the exposition of what Heidegger calls
“formal indication,” which is taken to be the method proper of philosophy or
phenomenology.14 Generally speaking, it is due to Heidegger’s
search for proper methodological devices for an adequate conceptual expression
of “factical life” that the hermeneutic problematic
emerges in the postwar lecture courses. Theoretically (and ahistorically)
neutral knowledge is opposed to, and gives way to, existentially (and historically)
involved understanding (or pre-understanding) and interpreting – whereby knowledge becomes at best a subdivision of understanding.
All these efforts are in the service of seizing “life.”
The main character of the latter is concern (Sorge)
rather than knowledge.15
It is in his effort to gain a new access to life, as
well as to reject the theoretical conceptuality and comportment proper to
transcendental philosophy, that Heidegger formulates his hermeneutic concepts
and formal indication, and so comes to the elaboration of a hermeneutics of
facticity. “Facticity” is a term
adopted to substitute for the vague and ambiguous concept of life employed
by life-philosophy, as well as for that of “existence” employed by Jaspers
and Kierkegaard. “Hermeneutics,” “hermeneutical,” have the meaning of rival
concepts to “theory”, “theoretical,” understood in terms of “theoretically
neutral.” The description of life, or “facticity”,
obtains an overall hermeneutic character precisely in virtue of the insight
that interpretation cannot be regarded as something added, as a kind of extension
or annex, as it were, to some theoretically neutral (and allegedly “objective”)
description of a state of affairs: rather, preliminary “interpretedness”
is inherent in all kinds of description, in all kinds of seeing, saying, and
experiencing.16 If there is no “pure” theory (for “theory” is a
derivative mode of being or comportment of one particular being called human),
there is no pure description. What this insight implies for an adequate description
of life or facticity is that theoretical concepts,
as well as the language theory speaks, should be abandoned in favor of a language
growing out of everyday life and able to let things be seen in their interpretedness,
that is, in exactly the way we encounter and have to do with them; a hammer,
as has been said, is primarily encountered as a tool for pounding nails
into the wall, rather than as a neutral thing out there having the property
of interpretation implies that hermeneutics cannot remain a subordinate discipline
of the human sciences, but becomes, as Heidegger explicitly states, “the selfinterpretation
of facticity.”18 It is important to see that this “selfinterpretation of facticity”
is not a kind of anthropology, simply a matter of our having to do with ourselves,
implying that other beings of the world are left untouched. Insofar as humans
are precisely the beings who describe the world in its entirety, hermeneutics
gets linked to ontology – a major reason why in the title of the 1923 course
“hermeneutics of facticity” and “ontology” occur
together, clearly anticipating the correlation of fundamental ontology and
existential analytic in Being and Time.
Man’s fundamental mode of being, Heidegger claims in BT, is Being-in-the-world.
One’s original relation to things emerging in his environment is one of using,
handling, employing, arranging rather than “knowing” them. His practical way
of having to do with things presupposes preliminary understanding of them,
in particular, of what they are for. Understanding is not something to be
attained first in science – be it natural or human – but rather vice versa:
the knowing relation to the world is a derivative one. Heidegger shows in
a series of analyses how, in virtue of what modifications of Being-in-the-world
man’s knowing relation to the world springs – how, in order for a thing to
become an object of knowledge or scientific research, our preliminary access
to it, that is our way of having to do with it, must have undergone a specific
modification. With regard to our hermeneutic problematic and the re-evaluation
of the concept of understanding we may say: knowledge derives from understanding
and not vice versa.
2.1. The Relevance of Husserl’s Phenomenology
Heidegger’s use of hermeneutics for ontological
purposes is hardly conceivable without his appropriation of phenomenology.
In its turn, Husserlian phenomenology was open to
a hermeneutic reinterpreation or radicalization
from the very beginning. Let me sum up some of the basic characters that show
1) The proclamation of returning to “the things themselves”
(e.g. in Husserl’s programatic Logos-essay).19
2) The reconception
of philosophy in terms of a “science of true beginnings, or origins,” a science
that is “concemed with what is radical,” and therefore
is “radical itself in its procedure.”20
3) The ideal of a scientificity sui generis for
philosophy; the insistence on a specifically philosophical, i.e. phenomenological
method; the preference of description over construction;
the emphasis laid on “experience”, “essence”, and “meaning”.
4) The dismissal of the authorities, the quest for an “unprejudiced”, “presuppositionless”
research, and the urge to return to the original sources of intuition as the
only legitimizing source for concepts in philosophy.21
radicalization of the innermost claims of phenomenology in his postwar lectures
made phenomenology turn against Husserl. Against
phenomenology in the name of phenomenology itself.22 Insights
deriving from his intense confrontation and hermeneutic reconception
1) The “thing itself,” if viewed “presuppositionless” enough,
is not transcendental consciousness, but life or later being.
2) Similarly, the
“origin” or “source” in Husserl’s claim of philosophy as “science of true beginnings,
or origins”, is not transcendental consciousness
and its reflective acts. Rather, the origin is historical. The historical
ego precedes the transcendental. The transcendental ego emerges by virtue
of a dehistorization [Entgeschichtlichung]
of the historical ego, suppressing its primordial, i.e. “original”, historicity.
3) Husserl’s delimitation of the specific research field
of phenomenology itself (transcendental consciousness) is “unphenomenological”,
i.e. dogmatic, affected with metaphysical bias. It is carried out not so much
by returning to “the things themselves”, to the true “origins” – as the maxim
of phenomenology would require – as under the influence of a pre-conceived
idea of what should constitute the business of philosophy. The Cartesian–Kantian
orientation is traditionally and thus dogmatically assumed rather than phenomenologically
discussed and delimited. While prohibiting the making of assertions about
being, Husserl tacitly commits himself to certain ontological positions without
thematizing the access to those positions phenomenologically.23
4) Husserl’s allegedly “pure” description is “theoretically”
biased. His “natural attitude” is not natural enough; it is indeed
“artificial” or “theoretical”. The “experience” he conceptualizes is
affected with “naturalism” – a view against which Husserl
conceives himself as fighting as firmly as possible. In the “natural” attitude,
Husserl tends to “experience” the reality in a naturalistic
way. What is needed is an attempt to experience the intentional being more
originally, i.e., in a more unprejudiced way, in its “natural” setting – something
that precisely Being and Time will provide with the title of “existential
2.2. The coupling of Husserl and Dilthey
Heidegger frequently spoke of Dilthey’s appreciation of Husserl;
this may have prompted him to assume the task of uniting the impulses of both
thinkers. His strategic move is, in this regard, a double one. His hermeneutic
reshaping of phenomenology draws on Dilthey precisely
by shifting the accent from “consciousness” to “life”, and, while in approaching
Dilthey’s theme, “life”, he employs phenomenological
descriptive strategies, transforming it into a “hermeneutics of facticity”.(Roughly,
the theme is provided by Dilthey, the method by Husserl.)
By doing this, he thinks he is doing justice not only to Husserl’s
innermost efforts in a more original and “unprejudiced” way than Husserl himself ever did, but, incidentally, also to Dilthey’s own. Heidegger interpreted Dilthey
as having striven to get access to historical reality, historical
life, rather than historical knowledge. Dilthey wanted to interpret life out of itself, but this tendencydeviated and indeed distorted by the wissenschaftstheoretisch climate of the age
– ended up in an attempt at an epistemological foundation of the human studies.
The suggestion is that Dilthey interpreted life
not from itself, but from an epistemological, i.e. distanced, perspective
– one major reason why Dilthey’s whole conceptuality
was to undergo a hermeneutic purification. What mattered to Heidegger was
access to historical being, rather than to historical knowledge
with its alleged objectivity (and the difference between transforming
our historical knowledge and transforming our historical being is all too
apparent). But Heidegger thinks this was also Dilthey’s
original impulse before it became obscured and misunderstood by himself,
undergoing as it did a considerable limitation. In any case, it was Dilthey’s program, as Heidegger understood it, that Heidegger
brought to bear on Husserl’s phenomenology, that let him perceive its inadequacies, and,
finally, transform it hermeneutically. He gave finally an ontological reconception
to both transcendental phenomenology and methodological (geisteswissenschaftlich)
hermeneutics in his existential analytic.
The hermeneutic transformation of Husserl’s phenomenology is inspired to
a considerable extent by Heidegger’s effort to develop an original, “unprejudiced” approach to life. In the course of various devastating criticisms,
Heidegger more often than not takes great pains to note that there is a positive
and original impulse inherent in life-philosophy, that he indeed appreciates
the impulse very much, while what he rejects is just its insufficient (because
parasitic) realization.24 We should note that, when Heidegger,
for all his criticism, emphasizes the positive tendencies of life-philosophy
the philosopher he most frequently has in mind is Dilthey.25 And
we can hardly conceive of Heidegger’s historicist opposition to Husserl’s
transcendental ego, the stress upon „das Historische” without Dilthey’s influence. Heidegger seems
to suggest that the basic effort of life-philosophy is correct. He seems even
to share the view of contemporary philosophy that the object primarily to
be approached and investigated is “life”. But rather than developing conceptual means adequate to its
ownmost object, “life”, life-philosophy relies upon the tools of the adversary for its
own concepts, tends to borrow them from there. That is also the reason why,
having realized that their tools are not equal to the task, life-philosophers
tend to come inevitably to the conclusion that life, history, and existence
The point Heidegger makes could be put as
follows: irrationalist philosophy is really too
rational, for in claiming its objects to be irrational it uncritically borrows
the measure or concept of rationality from the adversary rather than developing
or elaborating a rationality or conceptuality of its own that conforms to
A good example
of Heidegger’s modified outlook is that, by adopting a hermeneutic way of seeing,
traditional empiricism can be shown to be insufficiently “empirical”
– indeed, laden with dogmatic “theoretical”
presuppositions. Understandably enough, if Heidegger turns back to “factical
life”, he might be expected to heartily embrace empiricism
– but the “experience” Heidegger
has in mind is something entirely different from the concept of experience
applied in empirical philosophy. “Experience” is a key Heidegger and the Hermeneutic Turn of Philosophy 21
word of the young Heidegger, but, as he elucidates it at the very beginning,
“experience is not understood here in a theoretical sense,
as empiricist perceiving in contradistinction to something like rational thinking.26
What we perceive in the first place are, hermeneutically seen, by no means
“sense data.” “What we »first« hear”, writes Heidegger in Being and Time, “is
never noises or complexes of sounds, but the creaking wagon, the motor cycle.
We hear the column on the march, the north wind, the woodpecker tapping, the
fire crackling.” And he adds significantly: “It requires a very artificial and complicated comportment [Einstellung]
to ‘hear’ a ‘pure noise’.”27
In other words: to claim we first perceive a “pure noise”
requires having changed comportment, having assumed a theoretical attitude.
In like manner, what we do see in the first place is not something
like colored surfaces, or, still less, „sense data”, but e.g. the professor’s chair, a ready-tohand object in our surrounding world. What is immediately given is not acts of consciousness; an immediate,
unprejudiced experiencing knows of no acts of consciousness, sense data, pure
sounds or noises, complexes of colors and surfaces, and the like. “Heidegger’s strikingly different conception of hermeneutics”
may legitimately be seen to lie in the fact that “Heidegger’s
analysis of Dasein as being-in-the-world changes
our understanding of understanding from a derivative phenomenon to the
central feature, the keystone of human experience”.28 The case is not such that there is, first, something
such as experience pure and simple, which gets interpreted in a second step.
Every experience is always already interpreted – it is
interpreted experience. Experience is always already meaningful or meaning-laden.
If there is a problem to be explained it is not how things come to assume
meaning, but rather the other way round: how, by what modification of man’s
being-in-the-world things become devoid of meaning. For
humans are, as has been said, interpreting animals, and that through and through.
Abbreviations of Heidegger’s Works Cited
SZ Sein und Zeit. Fünfzehnte, an Hand der Gesamtausgabe durchgesehene Auflage. Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1979. / English translation by J. Macquarrie and E. Robinson.
New York: Harper & Row, 1962.
„Phänomenologische Interpretationen zu
Aristoteles (Anzeige der hermeneutischen Situation),” ed by H.-U. Lessing, Dilthey–Jahrbuch
fur Philosophic und Geschichte der Geisteswissenschaften 6 (1989), pp.
Wegmarken. Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 9, ed. by F.-W. von
Herrmann. Frankfurt/Main: Klostermann, 1976.
Prolegomena zur Geschichte des Zeitbegriffs, SS 1925, Gesamtausgabe, Vol.
20, ed. by P. Jaeger. Frankfurt/Main: Klostermann, 1979. / English
translation by T. Kisiel, History of the Concept
of Time: Prolegomena, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985.
GA 21 Logik. Die Frage nach der Wahrheit,
WS 1925/26, Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 21, ed. by W. Biemel.
Frankfurt/Main: Klostermann, 1976.
GA 29/30 Die Grundbegriffe der
Metaphysik. Welt – Endlichkeit – Einsamkeit, WS 1929/30,
Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 29/30, ed. by F.-W. von Herrmann. Frankfurt/Main: Klostermann,
GA 56/57 Zur Bestimmung der Philosophie,
Kriegsnotsemester 1919 und SS 1919, Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 56/57, ed. by
Heimbuchel. Frankfurt/Main: Klostermann, 1987.
Grundprobleme der Phanomenologie (1919/20), WS 1919/20, Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 58, ed. by
H.-H. Gander. Frankfurt/Main: Klostermann, 1993.
Phänomenologische Interpretationen zu Aristoteles. Einfuhrung in die
phänomenologische Forschung, WS 1921/22, Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 61, ed.
by W. Bröcker and K. Bröcker-Oltmanns. Frankfurt/Main: Klostermann, 1985.
Ontologie (Hermeneuti der Faktizität), SS 1923, Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 63, ed. by K. Brocker-Oltmanns. Frankfurt/Main: Klostermann, 1988.
Lecture given for Faculty and Students of the Philosophy
Department of Babeş–Bolyai University, Faculty of Philosophy, in Kolozsvár (Cluj), on May 18, 1998, upon kind invitation of the Department
and the Pro Philosophia Foundation.
1 David C. Hoy: “Heidegger and the Hermeneutic Turn,” in: The Cambridge
Companion to Heidegger, ed. Ch. Guignon
(Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1993), p. 170.
2 „Vorgang, in welchem wir
aus Zeichen, die von außen sinnlich gegeben sind, ein Inneres erkennen.” (W.
Dilthey, „Die Entstehung der Hermeneutik,” in: Dilthey, Gesammelte Schriften,
vol. 5, p. 318).
3 „Das kunstmäßige Verstehen von schriftlich fixierten Lebensäußerungen”
(ibid., p. 332).
4 Ibid., p. 332.
5 „Die Natur erklaren wir, das Seelenleben verstehen wir”
(Dilthey, „Ideen über eine beschreibende und zergliedernde Psychologie,” Gesammelte
Schriften, vol. 5, p. 144).
6 „Verstehen der Natur – interpretatio naturae – [...] ein
bildlicher Ausdruck.” („Die Entstehung der Hermeneutik,” p. 318).
7 P. Ricceur, “Phenomenology and Hermeneutics,” in Hermeneutics and the Human
Sciences, ed. John B. Thompson (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1981), p. 107. See also Richard E. Palmer, Hermeneutics. Interpretation
Theory in Schleiermacher, Dilthey,
Heidegger, and Gadamer,
(Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1969), p. 130: “Hermeneutics
as methodology of interpretation for the humanities is a derivative form resting
on and growing out of the primary ontological function of interpreting. It
is a regional ontology which must be based on the more fundamental ontology.”
8 Dilthey construed hermeneutics as being
“the methodology of the understanding of recorded expressions” („Die Entstehung
der Hermeneutik,” p. 332).
For a more detailed reconstruction, see Rudolf A. Makkreel,
Dilthey: Philosopher of the Human Studies,
2nd ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), pp. 258f., and, for Dilthey’s revisiting
his standpoint with regard to the distinction of natural and human sciences
reconstructed from recently edited manuscripts, the Afterword to the Second Edition (pp. 423ff.). On the difference
between Dilthey’s and Heidegger’s understanding
of hermeneutics, see Rudolf A. Makkreel, “The Genesis
of Heidegge’s Phenomenological Hermeneutics and
the Rediscovered ‘Aristotle Introduction’ of 1922,” in Man and World 23
(1990), pp. 310ff.
9 See Heidegger BT, § 33. (Bibliographical Remark: Heidegger’s works will
be cited with abbreviations. The abbreviations for the Gesamtausgabe
volumes take the form of the letters GA followed by volume number, colon,
and page numbers. Full bibliographical data are provided at the end of the
paper. If there are references to both the original German text and the corresponding
English translation the German pagination and the English pagination are separated
by a slash. For example: “SZ 10/30,” “GA 20: 417/301f.,” the number before the slash indicating the German edition,
the one after the slash the English edition. Other abbreviations: WS = Wintersemester;
SS = Sommersemester.)
10 Heidegger SZ, 157/200.
11 In his transcript of the
WS 1919–20 course „Grundprobleme der Phanomenologie,” F. J. Brecht noted on
the „Ursprungsgebiet” of philosophy the following: „Das Schicksal
der Philosophie! Tendenz in der Geschichte der Philosophie: immer neu anfangen, um es zu
erreichen” (Oct. 14, 1919).
12 GA 61: 173ff.; for later, see,
e.g., SZ 46/71, 211/254.
13 See GA 56/57: 116f.; GA 61:
41ff., 59; GA 9: 9, 32, 38f.; GA 63: 79f.; for later, see GA 20: 416/300.
14 GA 9: 9f., 29; GA 61: 20, 32ff., 60, 66f., 113,
116, 134, 141, 175; GA 21: 410; GA 29/30: 425ff.
15 GA 61: 89ff.; PIA 240.
16 See GA 61: 86f.; PIA 241, 264;
for later, see GA 20: 75/56, 190/140, 416/300; SZ 169/213, 383/435.
17 SZ 154ff./195ff.
18 GA 63: 14.
19 „Philosophy as Rigorous Science,”
in Husserl, Shorter Works, eds. P.
McCormick, F. A. Elliston (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981),
pp. 176, 196.
20 Ibid., p. 196.
21 See, e.g., Husserl’s “principle of all principles” (Husserl,
Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologischen Philosophie,
Husserliana III/l, ed. K. Schuhmann [The Hague: Nijhoff, 1976],
22 See GA 58: 6, 145, 237.
23 See Ideen, I, § 76; GA 20: 155ff., 178.
24 See GA 61: 82, 117; GA 9: 13f.; GA 63: 69, 108.
25 See GA 63: 42; further GA 9: 13f.;
GA 61: 7.
26 GA 61: 91.
27 SZ 164/207; see GA 20: 367/266.
28 D. C. Hoy, “Heidegger and the Hermeneutic Turn,” p. 171