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Although biblical exegesis and rhetoric, from which modern hermeneutics derived its first principles, are ancient arts, an effort to establish hermeneutics as a universal science, and especially to extend its principles to the science of society, is of a decidedly recent origin. "There is little doubt," states Gouldner, "that hermeneutics' roots in the modern era are traceable to Romanticism." Why is this so, what makes romanticism fertile ground for hermeneutical speculations? Hans-Georg Gadamer, a leading authority on hermeneutics, makes this intriguing suggestion about its origins:

The hermeneutical problem only emerges clearly when there is no powerful tradition present to absorb one's own attitude into itself and when one is aware of confronting an alien tradition to which he has never belonged or one he no longer unquestioningly accepts. . . . Historically it is worthy of note that while rhetoric belongs to the earliest Greek philosophy, hermeneutics came to flower in the Romantic era as a consequence of the modern dissolution of firm bonds with tradition.

Gadamer does not pursue the argument much further, yet his remark offers a clue for a potentially fruitful line of inquiry.


Hermeneutics; Romanticism; Sociology


Social Psychology and Interaction | Sociology


Posted with permission, all rights reserved. Social Research: An International Quarterly

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