The Genesis of Philological-Historical Hermeneutics

Part of the Contributions to Phenomenology book series (CTPH, volume 50)

At the end of the Middle Ages, the literary tradition was once again in a critical situation. The concordance of the tradition was threatened by tensions and diaphonies. The real economic and political factors cannot be considered here. It is sufficient to list the factors that were immediately of significance for hermeneutical consciousness. (1) There was a growing tension between the eminent text, the Bible–especially considered from the viewpoint of a biblical hermeneutics in which the literal sense had priority–and the complicated dogmatic system of the church. The devotio moderna confronting the individual immediately with the word of God created a medium in which the heretical subculture of the Middle Ages had a chance to spread its influence among educated people. Even the leaders of the earlier heretics, e.g., the Waldensians and the Bogomiles, were simple and uneducated people. Their subculture had no affiliations with the universities or other educational institutions. In contrast, the leaders of the pre-reformatory movements, like Wycliffe and Hus, were welltrained scholars in theology and philosophy, especially the philosophy of Ockham. (2) The unity of philosophy, the sciences, and theology was lost. Science had gained its independence and defended it with the principles of Averroism. Philosophy, split in different schools (first of all the nominalists and the realists), served as a handmaiden for different theological positions. The attempt to reconcile natural reason and revelation had serious side effects. Human reason could be found in other literary traditions-not only inthe philosophical traditions of classical antiquity, but also in the further developments of philosophy and the sciences in the Jewish and Islamic traditions. As in in classical antiquity, it was in the last instance cultural contact that initiated the destruction of the unity of a tradition. (3) Poetry and the fine arts discovered secular topics. Poetry in particular was on the way to becoming an independent literary genre no longer exclusively serving the purposes of religion. Thus there was a new medium ready to work with, one having new contents not connected with Christianity. Art in general was now able to become the mirror of the mythology and the art of classical antiquity in the Renaissance.


Literary Tradition Truth Claim Christian Tradition Classical Antiquity Historical School 
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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

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