Addressing Contemporary Challenges to Hermeneutics

George H. Taylor


Hermeneutics encounters three current challenges: by more quantitative orientations, by stances that reject pluralism, and by criticism that the hermeneutic field is elitist and esoteric.  The article offers a response through Ricœur. The hermeneutic “choice in favor of meaning” insists upon the ontological value of the human condition. It shows the insufficiency of the quantitative approach, the remaining value of pluralistic consideration of what human meaning entails, and the real world consequences of interpretation. Examples in Ricœur show how a hermeneutic choice in favor of meaning is not passive but instead reads texts with a particular orientation even when the text seems engaged in another project. The article’s final part undertakes an internal critique, raising the adequacy of Ricœur’s emphasis on meaning as an affirmation of “being.” The example of Buddhist insistence on “emptiness” is offered as one counterexample. The article concludes by arguing that in our contentious times hermeneutics confirms its contemporary vitality through its choice in favor of meaning even as it retains pluralistic consideration of what that meaning entails.


Ricœur; Hermeneutics; Pluralism; Being; Emptiness.

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ISSN 2156-7808 (online)