Tuesday, 14 July 2015


From Sathish Thiagarajan, 8 July 2015:

Dear Fr.,

I know you are busy! I got your hermeneutics notes… 

I am choosing to treat you as my professor and so willingly disturb you, as a student. 

I am reading on hermeneutics these days. 
I got an article by Jean Grondin. I am attaching it with this mail. 
I get the development of the hermeneutical concern from Schleiermacher, Dilthey, Heidegger (hermeneutics of existence), Gadamer (hermeneutics (original problem with Heideggerian insights) language and tradition)! 

What is the problem of Habermas against Gadamer? Is Habermas unable to accept the necessity of language and tradition as the path to understanding? Is Gadamer losing hope in the possibility of systematically moving towards a fusion overcoming prejudice etc.. (Lonergan’s method of interpretation)
What does Habermas mean when he speaks of the possibility of ’self-transcendence’ of language? (does he mean to say that there is a way out… and is critical of the pessimism of Gadamer?) So does Habermas agree with Lonergan’s project? (I am sure they might not have seen each other or agree to each other in person. But I am asking conceptually.)

Grondin seems ignorant of Lonergan’s project in Insight and MIT. He switches to postmodernists and then projects Ricoeur as sorting out the problem between Gadamer and Habermas! 
What is ‘hermeneutics of trust’ and 'hermeneutics of suspicion’? I get something… but it is ambiguous. 

Gianni Vattimo (nihilism) and Rorty (pragmatism) make a renewed commitment to relativism as the choiceless option given the impossibility of reaching Truth of a given text or reality (combination Gadamer-Heidegger-Nietzsche-Postmodern concerns)! Finally, Grondin concludes with the Derridian suspicion of every hermeneutic project (good will of the reader to understand the other) as also stripping the other of its otherness? 

All along i see all these french, Italian, american, and german philosophers, suspicious of any attempts towards resolving the problem? I understand the depth of the hermeneutical problem raised by them… but don’t we have a way out? In our daily life, their problematisation has helped us to be cautious, sensitive in our judgements, humble about our opinions, etc. Is that only the fruit of this pursuit? 

These are some of my questions. 

Thank you!


Tuesday, 14 July 2015:

Dear Sathish,

What a lot of questions! 
I need to refresh myself by reading at least my own notes, but just now I cannot do that. 
from what i remember: 

Habermas feels that Gadamer allows tradition to overwhelm him. Gadamer feels this is an unjustified criticism. In fact, I am not sure that Habermas has any way out of this impasse. Gadamer has some way, which is perhaps the way discovered by Heidegger (the question is not jumping out of the hermeneutical circle, but entering properly into it = becoming aware, to the extent possible, of our situatedness). But Gadamer is more open than Heidegger to the dynamic / dialectic of questioning, and that is his salvation. It is the dialectic of questioning that is one of the ways out. Ricoeur also admits this, affirms this. But I find Lonergan to have given me most clarity on this matter: how questioning is an approach to truth (remember the absence of further relevant questions); the limitations of this approach (and hence the need for a remote criterion, which is authenticity in all its dimensions); how, therefore, our attainment of truth remains fragile in so many cases (except in the most ‘stupid’ ones - not really stupid, but the banal ones, the ones in fact without which we would not be able to live, catch trains, do anything at all…). 

Grondin’s book Introduction to Phil Hermeneutics I found good because of the way it made Heidegger and Gadamer intelligible. surely he has no idea of Lonergan. no one is God, no one can read everything - though people like Heidegger were amazing in what all they read. but then even Heidegger has his limitations, coming from his own background. “Everyone fights with his own demons.” 

Rorty realises our situatedness, and feels there is no way out of it, so he opts for what he calls ethnocentrism. within this kind of option, he still has many brilliant and useful things to say. he also does know the dynamic of questioning, as I try to show in my article on him. the dynamic of questioning is the dynamic of conversation or dialogue, and anyone who appeals to conversation is admitting the dynamic of questioning, and therefore has an approach to truth. you will find Rorty talking about a pragmatic approach, in which everything is conventional. and that to an extent, in the area of ordinary, everyday, commonsense life, is true! it works! that is how in fact we work! His problem is that he then universalises this fact which is valid in the area of common sense. 

About Vattimo I do not know enough. but he also, i am sure, has something from which we can learn. as far as I remember, he is not an out an out relativist. 

about Derrida i know even less, but the remarks i gathered in my notes might be indicative. even the most postmodern thinker is upset when he feels misrepresented. that is interesting for me. and then, I have discovered that there are many varieties of postmodernism. naturally. it is not a dogma, it is not a school. but it looks like everyone has an inbuilt tendency to absolutize what is no doubt true in some limited area of experience. 

so dear Sathish, i do not think there is no way out. I think hermeneutical philosophy and its postmodern daughters have done us a great service by bringing to the centre of our attention our situatedness, our “being already engaged”, the fact that there is no God’s eye view, there is no Hook from which we can Hang, there is no jumping out of our minds. Also that the subject is by no means an isolated cartesian individual something. the deep interconnectedness of subjects, of persons; the priority of the We, of community. the fragility of the community and of subjects and persons within it. but of course it is still groping its way. 

i am sure if I read Derrida i will find much that is fascinating. these are all great men! they have taken the trouble to think.

as for myself, I am happy with the little I have learnt from them. like in the case of faith: not that we have to think our way into it. it is that we have been already Loved, and that we need to take the time out to discover what it is that has happened / is happening to us… and so on. (see the paper I gave in Yercaud for the jubilee). (and also what Pope Francis is saying. worth reading, calmly, Evangelii Gaudium, and even the last chapter of Laudato Si’.)

thanks for that! I think I find philosophy easeir than formation!


  1. The last line was the icing on the cake!!

    1. ha ha! Casti, I had no idea you were following or that anyone was following this blog which is quite inactive.

      challenge: to overcome unnecessary dichotomies, e.g., between philosophy and formation