The Inner Word in Gadamer's Hermeneutics






Publication: The Review of Metaphysics
Author: Higgins, Paul
Date published: June 1, 2011

SUMMARIES AND COMMENTS

KENNETH J. ROLLING AND STAFF*

ARTHOS, John. The Inner Word in Gadamer's Hermeneutics. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 2009. xx + 460pp. Cloth, $65.00 - One of the most puzzling passages in all of Hans-Georg Gadamer's work is found in Section ??, 2, B ("Sprache and Verbum") of his magnum opus, Truth and Method. In this frustratingly brief reading of two quasi-Thomist texts on the verbum interius, Gadamer claims, remarkably, that the Christian idea of incarnation is integral to his own hermeneutics. In The Inner Word in Gadamer's Hermeneutics, John Arthos adeptly exposits Gadamer's claim that the modern reduction of language to a tool used by a representational subject can be counteracted by the robust sense ?? verbum and logos found in Christian theology. For Gadamer, this is a perfect illustration of the depth and mystery of language. Just as the Logos proceeds from God the Father and takes nothing away from the Father in His incarnation, language manifests truth without oUminishing the reality of the thing. Gadamer detheologizes the inner word, connecting it to "the tradition" rather than to Christ as Logos, and correlates it to the universal "interior" dimension of language as opposed to the "exterior" spoken word.

The Inner Word in Gadamer's Hermeneutics is split into two parts. The first part (Chapters 1-6) examines the history of logos and verbum in a number of key historical figures; this history then informs the line-byline reading of "Sprache und Verbum" that comprises the second part of the book (Chapters 7-11). In Chapter 1, "The Graeco-Roman and Judaeo-Christian Word," Arthos examines the varied (and interrelated) Western interpretations of "word" and logos as the breath of God (in the Hebrew Bible), as Christ the incarnate Word, and as logos in Greek philosophy. Chapter 2, "Immanence and Transcendence in the Trinity," surveys the Patristic view of Christ and the Trinity, focusing particularly on Augustine's adaptation of the Stoic verbum as a deepening of Greek philosophical logos which grants a weight and objectivity to reality and the human person. Chapter 3, "Hermeneutic Anticipations: The Circular Ontology of the Word in Augustine," analyzes Augustine's interior word through a close reading of self-knowledge in his De Trinitate, focusing especially on the "transitivity of being and language" as opposed to Greek philosophical aei on. Chapter 4, "'The Word Is Not Reflexive': Mind and World in Aquinas and Gadamer," shows how Gadamer casts Aquinas as a proto-anti-subjectivist whose "interior word" is correlated with the non-reflexivity of intellect. Chapter 5, "The Pattern of Hegel's Trinity: The Legacy of Christian Immanence in German Thought," focuses on Gadamer's adaptation of Hegel's immanentization of the Trinity in the cultus or dialogical community. Chapter 6, "Heidegger: On the Way to the Verbum," examines how Gadamer appropriates Heidegger's hermeneuticizing of Aristotle's logos as Sprache rather than Logik. Chapters 7 through 11 consist of a painstakingly close reading (and fresh translation) of "Sprache und Verbum" which weaves together insights from the preceding historical analysis.

In the conclusion, Arthos finally strikes a critical note, pointing out that Gadamer's combination of secular and Christian teaching is "a balancing act." This is an understatement, and is in my estimation the real issue at stake in "Sprache und Verbum." Gadamer's vague hope that the cultural inheritance of the incarnation will "save" language is problematic if only because Gadamer, like Heidegger and Dilthey before him, has left out Christian theology's most salient feature - that is, the horizon of the infinite. It is far from obvious that one can so easily utilize the ontologica! and hermeneutical significance of Christian revelation apart from its native theological context, and hence "Sprache und Verbum" appears to be yet another case of Gadamer's persistent tendency to synthesize for the sake of synthesis. Arthos also fails to sufficiently question why, exactly, Gadamer opaquely insists on the centrality of Christian revelation as the only possible resource for "saving" language, as this leaves out other obvious candidates (mythology, poetry, non-western theology). While a further exploration and critique of Gadamer's claims would have been welcome, this is not to fault Arthos for the book that he has written. The Inner Word in Gadamer's Hermeneutics is an impressive work of scholarship, and should be of interest not only to Gadamer scholars, but also to those looking to foster dialogue between contemporary hermeneutics and Christian theology. - Paul Higgins, The Catholic University of America.

* Books received are acknowledged in this section by a brief resume, report, or criticism. Such acknowledgement does not preclude a more detailed examination in a subsequent Critical Study. From time to time, technical books dealing with such fields as mathematics, physics, anthropology, and the social sciences will be reviewed in this section, if it is thought that they might be of special interest to philosophers.

Author affiliation:

-Paul Higgins, The Catholic University of America.

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