Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

Hustwit, J.R. Interreligious Hermeneutics and the Pursuit of Faith

Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

Hustwit, J.R. Interreligious Hermeneutics and the Pursuit of Faith

Article excerpt

HUSTWIT, J. R. Interreligious Hermeneutics and the Pursuit of Faith. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2014. 162 pp. Cloth, $80.00--J. R. Hustwit explains the objective of his Interreligious Hermeneutics and the Pursuit of Truth this way: "This book's aim is to give a philosophical account of how interreligious dialogue, when placed within the landscape of hermeneutics, results in the production of positive claims about the sacred." This aim is as ambitious as it is pertinent because, as Hustwit notes, contemporary hermeneutic philosophy has largely abandoned all hope that a constructive, realist dispute about competing religious claims is feasible. The putative impossibility of doing so is due to two reasons.

On the one hand, there exists a widespread assumption that religious claims are simply not the sort of claims that should be understood as straightforward truth claims. As Hustwit explains, on such a view, one that "de-claims" religious language, "all religions are equally alienated from the Real." In other words, the doctrines, claims, and practices of religious traditions are at best heuristic devices that attempt, but fail, to express sufficiently the unvarnished truth of divine transcendence. On the other hand, there exists another widespread assumption, one equally extreme, according to which only one religious view is ultimately correct, so it is pointless to engage with competing traditions in any serious, honest, and productive rational discussion and dispute. After all, if one already knows the truth, why bother with those who don't?

In opposition to both tendencies, Hustwit proposes a third alternative: "First, religious truth claims are best understood as hybrids, born of authentic revelation and cultural construction.... So, the hybridity thesis implies a second: Interreligious dialogue among robust claims can and should move beyond a mere exercise in conviviality," and thus we should pursue "interreligious dialogue that is capable of adjudicating truth claims as better and worse, and as a result discloses ontological features of the world we share." In what follows, Hustwit articulates a philosophical method--one he calls "fallibist hermeneutics"--that at once does justice to the plurality of religious traditions but allows them to be placed in a productive dialogue that aims to evaluate their competing claims with a realist standard of truth at stake. There are two longstanding objections to this approach, so naturally Hustwit dedicates considerable effort to addressing them. One is the problem of incommensurability--and with it the historicism, relativism, and skepticism it engenders--the second, the problem of truth itself. Only a hermeneutic consciousness, says Hustwit, can acknowledge the multiplicity of religious traditions and the particularity of their respective forms of life but still explain how and why we should engage in the sort of dispute that would take these competing claims seriously. In short, the trick is to find a way not to distort each religious tradition's own logic while not throwing up our hands, concluding that there simply aren't any universal norms of rationality that would allow meaningful disagreement across traditions. …

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