Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

The Very Idea of Radical Hermeneutics

Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

The Very Idea of Radical Hermeneutics

Article excerpt

MARTINEZ, Roy, ed. The Very Idea of Radical Hermeneutics. Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1997. xi + 208 pp. Cloth, $55.00--In 1987 John D. Caputo, one of America's foremost Heideggerian thinkers, published a text, the impact of which is still being felt today. Radical Hermeneutics: Repetition, Deconstruction, and the Hermeneutic Project (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987) is a scholarly and perspicacious critique of traditional hermeneutic thinking (Heidegger, Gadamer, and Ricoeur) from a level-headed deconstructive perspective. Unlike many other books of the same genre, Radical Hermeneutics is not content to indulge in wild postmodern excesses at the expense of clear and sober critical reflection. What demarcates Caputo's work from the usual brand of neo-Nietzschean aestheticism that passes itself off as "Continental ethics," is that it eruditely underscores the political and ethical implications of deconstruction so as to render it practical and effective. In so doing, Caputo adroitly demonstrates how Derrida furnishes us with the wherewithal to respond in a reasoned and articulate fashion to the problems endemic to the present age.

After a decade, Radical Hermeneutics continues to stimulate, provoke, and engage. This is evidenced in the fact that the book still ranks as the most popular of Caputo's impressive corpus in terms of sales figures. Moreover, it is now a recognized fact that John Caputo is one of postmodernism's most influential and trustworthy spokespersons in the English-speaking world. His fervently held conviction that this type of thought need not undermine philosophy's most hallowed tenets, makes him someone with whom the broader philosophical community can do business. It is precisely this ability to converse with friend and foe alike, in a language free of jargon and obfuscation, that Roy Martinez's collection The Very Idea of Radical Hermeneutics endeavors to exploit.

Throughout the thirteen contributions to this text, each fundamental feature of Caputo's Radical Hermeneutics is subjected to lively and intelligent scrutiny. Shaun Gallagher's appraisal of "the place of phronesis in postmodern hermeneutics" deftly shows how the spirit of Aristotle's ethics is reappropriated by Caputo to counter the charge that his take on hermeneutics engenders irresponsibility in decision-making and wanton irrationalism. …

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