Hermeneutic Excellence as a Meta-Ethic

  • Brian Hughes
Part of the Analecta Husserliana book series (ANHU, volume 95)


Moral Philosophy Aesthetic Experience Historical Consciousness Philosophical Hermeneutic Moral Excellence 
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  1. 1.
    Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue, 2nd ed. (Notre Dame: Notre Dame Press, 1984).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ibid., 189.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Brian Hughes, The Moral Nature of Artistic Genius, Ed.D. diss., Teachers College, Columbia University, 2006; available at Scholar
  4. 4.
    See MacIntyre, op cit., 188.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Ibid., 191.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    MacIntyre proposes that hermeneutics may be seen as a subdiscipline of ethics. See Alasdair MacIntyre, “On Not Having the Last Word,” in Gadamer’s Century (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002), 169.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, 2nd ed. (New York: Continuum, 2002), 180.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Rüdiger Bubner, “On the Ground of Understanding,” translated by B. Wachterhauser, in Hermeneutics and Truth, edited by B. Wachterhauser (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1994), 69.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    I hung a solo exhibition at Columbia University in 2005 that was comprised of such work. Titled “War Images,” the show featured a series of printed works that were created from thumbnail images of Picasso’s various Weeping Women paintings, drawings, and prints (c. 1937).Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Gadamer, op. cit., 118.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Gadamer’s concern is for universal truth and not merely subjective and contingent truths. The difference between these two notions of truth is a persistent worry of contemporary philosophy. Thomas Nagel offers a sober view of the difficulty but also the possibility of arriving at universal truth through his work on objectivity. See “The View from Nowhere,” in Skepticism: A Contemporary Reader, edited by K. DeRose and T. A. Warfield (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 272–291.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    John Dewey, The School and Society and The Child and the Curriculum (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), 198.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Ibid., 199.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Gadamer, op. cit., 180.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    The notion of historical consciousness is central to hermeneutics. For more on historical consciousness as an explanatory framework for knowledge, see Gadamer’s critique of Dilthey’s analysis of knowledge in Gadamer, op. cit., especially 231–242.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Ibid., 293.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Ibid., 267.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Ibid., 295.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Ibid., 269.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Ibid., 299.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Ibid., 374.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Ibid., 373.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Ibid., 374.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Ibid., 374.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Ibid., 304.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Ibid., 289.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    MacIntyre, op. cit., 194.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Gadamer, op. cit., 295.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Ibid., 295.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Ibid., 304.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    It is worth noting here, if only as an aside, that the popularity of sports may be a result of this quality of historical consciousness. Most sports meet MacIntyre’s definition of practices. But they are, additionally, surprisingly engaging from a spectator’s point of view. Perhaps due to the clear (and visceral) nature of excellence in sports, as well as the clearly stated rules of engagement, it is easy to comprehend a fairly comprehensive historical horizon. That is, sports wear tradition on their sleeve, and often literally so. In light of this example, Gadamer’s notion of an embrace makes more sense, for we see how being privy to a single historical horizon makes us feel good—we enjoy understanding what is going on, and knowing why one outcome is better than another.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Gadamer, op. cit., 305.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    yIbid., 304.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Ibid., 305.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    MacIntyre, op. cit., 193.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Alasdair MacIntyre and Joseph Dunne, “Alasdair MacIntyre on Education: In Dialogue with Joseph Dunne,”Journal of Philosophy of Education, 36(1), 2002, 1–19.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Chris Higgins aptly calls this distinctiveness a “moral phenomenology.” See “MacIntyre’s Moral Theory and the Possibility of an Aretaic Ethics of Teaching,” Journal of Philosophy and Education, 37(2), 279–292.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Gadamer, op. cit., 303.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Ibid., 297.Google Scholar

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© Springer 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian Hughes

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