Hermeneutics and Human Finitude: Toward a Theory of Ethical Understanding

By P. Christopher Smith | Go to book overview

to have become almost total. One need only think in this regard of those whom MacIntyre challenges, Gewirth, Dworkin, Rawls, Nozick, and, despite his valiant resistance, MacIntyre himself. For MacIntyre's resistance to have succeeded, his juxtaposition of classical virtue with liberal individualism would have to have been recast as the juxtaposition of the ethical, sittliches self with its substantive, qualitatively specific duties and rights, with the moral "person." And the hermeneutical understanding of finite ethical consciousness would have to have been juxtaposed with the analytical reasoning of external reasoning or Raisonnieren.25

Our task now is to lay bare Sittlichkeit's structure of embeddedness-in or, in Heidegger's language upon which Gadamer builds so extensively, the structure of immer schon unterwegs sein in -- always being already under way in something, namely, the language that we speak. We have seen that ethical understanding is an instance of such being under way in something, an instance of our participation in the language that we have inherited, that sustains us, and in which we reach our ethical understandings. We must now turn to Gadamer's overall treatment of language itself so that on the basis of the insights we might attain concerning our relationship to language, we may then proceed to give clearer definition to the dialogical process of reaching ethical understanding in language and, more generally, to the idea of a hermeneutical ethics.


NOTES
1.
The question of at least an indirect influence of Gadamer's thought upon MacIntyre is an intriguing one. There is no indication of it in After Virtue though that book treats many Gadamerian themes as we will see. However in the later Whose Justice? Which Rationality? -- to which I will refer often and in greater detail further on -- there is frequent reference to "tradition-constituted and tradition-constitutive" inquiry ( WJWR9, 10, 354, 390). Of Continental "hermeneutical" philosophers only Derrida receives mention (WJWR 369), but this expression comes so close to the translation of Gadamer wirkungsgeschichtlich

-94-

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Hermeneutics and Human Finitude: Toward a Theory of Ethical Understanding
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Introduction xi
  • Notes xxvii
  • 1 - Macintyre and the Disarray of Analytical Moral Philosophy 1
  • Notes 94
  • 2 - Language as the Medium of Understanding) 105
  • Notes 171
  • 3 - The Ethical Implications of Gadamer's Theory of Interpretation 179
  • Notes 257
  • Conclusion: Gadamerian Conservatism 267
  • Note 281
  • Bibliography 283
  • Index 287
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