Hermeneutics and deconstruction (mis-)understanding and plurality
ASCA Theory Seminar, 14 June, 3-6 pm. organized by Alex Thinius, Divya Nadkarni, Fabienne Rachmadiev, Jakko Kemper and Zoenie Liwen Deng.
The texts of this session deal with the plurality of meaning and what it is to understand something or someone. In Gadamer’s view, it is the other or the text that poses a question to oneself, where understanding the other means asking their question. Understanding, for Gadamer, requires thus a fusion of horizons, where the meaning of the discussed text itself emerges from language and on the grounds of a tradition. On Derrida’s view, in contrast, dialogue does not have such a character of fusion, but the outcome of ‘understanding’ is rather the proliferation of different meanings in the play of significations. This play of evermore différrance is the meaning of the text, if that word is to have any meaning after all. In their contributions to the conference in Paris on ‘text and interpretation’ in 1981, one can witness this seeking, interplay, or stalemate of (mis-)understanding between hermeneutics and deconstruction. Spivak stresses how deconstruction is not about decentering the subject, but looking at the forces that produce the subject in dialogue, which include those outside of language. Thus, in her view, the subaltern cannot speak. Vasterling approaches the problem of understanding and plurality by suggesting a critical hermeneutics. Meaning indeed is evermore plural and understanding does not presuppose agreement, though we can decide to agree.
Readings (excepts, ca. 30 pages in total):
- Gadamer, Hans-Georg. Truth and Method. Translation revised by Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall. London / New York: Bloomsbury, 2013. pp. 311-318 and 381-383.
- Derrida, Jacques. “Violence and Metaphysics.” in Writing and Difference. Translated by Alan Bass. London: Routledge, 1978. Pp. 143-146 and 159-163.
- Derrida, Jacques. "Three Questions to Hans-Georg Gadamer." in Michelfelder and Palmer eds. Dialogue and Deconstruction: The Gadamer-Derrida Encounter. New York: SUNY Press, 1989: 52-54.
- Gadamer, Hans-Georg. "Reply to Jacques Derrida." in Michelfelder and Palmer eds. Dialogue and Deconstruction: The Gadamer-Derrida Encounter. New York: SUNY Press, 1989: 55-57.
- Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. "Can the Subaltern Speak?." in Chrisman and Williams eds. Colonial discourse and post-colonial theory: A reader. Columbia University Press, 1994: 86-90
- Vasterling, Veronica. “The Hermeneutic Phenomenological Approach to Plurality: Arendt, Habermas, Gadamer”. In van der Heiden ed. Phenomenological Perspectives on Plurality. Leiden / Boston: Brill, 2014. pp. 170-173.
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