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Human Studies

, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 333–369 | Cite as

Toward a General Theory of Understanding. Schutzian Theory as Proto-hermeneutics

  • Dániel HavrancsikEmail author
Theoretical / Philosophical Paper

Abstract

This paper aims to explore the relations between Schutzian theory and hermeneutics. After presenting the connections between hermeneutic thought and Schutz’s work from a historical point of view, it will argue that despite its significant differences from hermeneutic theory, Schutzian theory can be utilized as a kind of proto-hermeneutics. By now, the heterogeneous movement of the interpretive social sciences has reached an established position, but with their growing reliance on the impulses coming from philosophical hermeneutics, the latent problem comes to the foreground: the former demand for an action-theoretical grounding has faded away. Currently, action theory itself is no more dominated by the work of interpretively minded authors, but by the theories of rational choice. This results in a false opposition between the explanatory models, which base their arguments on historical, cultural, and linguistic factors, and those, which focus on the plane of the decisions of individuals. Bypassing the objectivism present in both the rational choice approach and hermeneutics, Schutz’s pragmatic theory of the life-world, originating from both interpretive and pragmatic intellectual influences, may be useful to overcome this opposition, and can serve as a proto-hermeneutical point of departure: that is, as a theory which cannot alone take over the duty of hermeneutics, but which can complement hermeneutics on a fundamental level.

Keywords

Alfred Schutz Hermeneutics Action theory Interpretive social science Objectivism 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I would like to express my deep thanks to Michael Staudigl for his help in carrying out the present research, as well as Anna Németh and David George Rich for their kind help in correction of my English in this essay. I also would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments on the previous draft of the paper. While carrying out the present research, I enjoyed the support of the CEEPUS scholarship program, financed by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Science, Research and Economy.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Eötvös Loránd UniversityBudapestHungary
  2. 2.Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in HungaryBudapestHungary

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