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Orientation and Judgment in Hermeneutics

This book provides an innovative approach to meeting the challenges faced by philosophical hermeneutics in interpreting an ever-changing and multicultural world. Rudolf A. Makkreel proposes an orientational and reflective conception of interpretation in which judgment plays a central role. Moving beyond the dialogical approaches found in much of contemporary hermeneutics, he focuses instead on the diagnostic use of reflective judgment, not only to discern the differentiating features of the phenomena to be understood, but also to orient  us to the various meaning contexts that can frame their interpretation.
Makkreel develops overlooked resources of Kant’s transcendental thought in order to reconceive hermeneutics as a critical inquiry into the appropriate contextual conditions of understanding and interpretation. He shows that a crucial task of hermeneutical critique is to establish priorities among the contexts that may be brought to bear on the interpretation of history and culture. The final chapter turns to the contemporary art scene and explores how orientational contexts can be reconfigured to respond to the ways in which media of communication are being transformed by digital technology. Altogether, Makkreel offers a promising way of thinking about the shifting contexts that we bring to bear on interpretations of all kinds, whether of texts, art works, or the world. 

248 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2015

Philosophy: General Philosophy


“Makkreel is already well known as one of the leading scholars of the history of hermeneutics, but in addition he has always been an original thinker of hermeneutics as such. This book draws together Makkreel’s own hermeneutical thinking as developed over many years, and does so in a way that provides both a unified vision of hermeneutics in its philosophical context and of hermeneutics in its historical development. . . . While Makkreel’s Orientation and Judgment in Hermeneutics is indeed a valuable and significant work in its own right, providing an intriguing and innovative elaboration of hermeneutics from a Kantian-Diltheyan perspective, what is perhaps most interesting about it is precisely the topological direction that it opens up, but only partly begins to explore. Makkreel’s work, like Figal’s, thus provokes a set of further questions concerning, not only hermeneutics, but the very relation between hermeneuein and topos. Could it be, for instance, that hermeneutics is essentially topology–and what would that mean?”

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

“Makkreel’s book is full of interesting exegetical and philosophical discussion of major themes in the development of philosophical hermeneutics since Kant. . . . A new account that can better address the complex problems of interpretation and understanding in our own time. This book is a welcome step in that direction.”

Journal of the History of Philosophy

Orientation and Judgment in Hermeneutics stands out as one of the most insightful and provocative books of its kind in recent years. . . . With remarkable lucidity, Makkreel re-inscribes the Kantian power of critique and self-criticism within the interpretive dynamic of a contextualized understanding.”

Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology

"Discerning and thought-provoking....Makkreel unfolds in Orientation and Judgment in Hermeneutics a significant alternative conception of hermeneutics that reconceives its universal-contextual, ontological-ontic, and philosophical character. As such, this work will be essential reading for anyone trying to come to grips with the scope and limits of interpretation within our contemporary hermeneutical situation, and it will need to be seriously considered by exponents of other interpretations of hermeneutics."

Research in Phenomenology

“In this book, Makkreel offers fresh and new insights into the problems of philosophical hermeneutics. What we need today more than ever is ‘orientation’ in our judgments on an increasingly complex and differentiated world. On the basis of his long-standing hermeneutic work on philosophy’s classics, he takes us on an unprecedented backwards journey through texts of Gadamer, Heidegger, Dilthey, Hegel, and Kant.”

Angelica Nuzzo, Graduate Center and Brooklyn College, CUNY

“In this insightful inquiry, seasoned scholar Makkreel reassesses and refines Dilthey’s conception of the human sciences—but also Kant’s hermeneutically relevant theory of reflective judgment—in order to develop an orientational and reflective form of hermeneutics that addresses the new challenges of interpretation in our multicultural and digital age.”

Jean Grondin, Université de Montréal

Orientation and Judgment in Hermeneutics is a momentous and significant book, not only for the philosophical discipline of hermeneutics but also, because of its impeccable clarity, for a much larger audience. It is, above all, a synthetic work, Makkreel’s own original contribution to hermeneutics in the global world of the twenty-first century.”

Rodolphe Gasché, University at Buffalo, State University of New York

"Orientation and Judgment in Hermeneutics is a particularly thought-provoking contribution to the literature of hermeneutics....It will continue to generate extensive, widespread and welcome discussion."

Continental Philosophy Review

Table of Contents


Part One: The Hermeneutic Situation

Chapter 1 Philosophical Hermeneutics: Reassessing the Tradition in Relation to Dilthey and Heidegger
The Interrelations of Hermeneutics and Philosophy in the Tradition
The Extent to Which Dilthey’s Hermeneutics Relates to the Cognitive Aims of the Human Sciences
Moving from Conceptual Cognition to Reflective Knowledge
Heidegger’s Ontological Hermeneutics
Ontico-Ontological Understanding of Historical Time

Chapter 2 Dialectics, Dialogue, and Communication
Feeling, Aesthetic Erlebnis, and Artistic Erfahrung
Hegel on Interpretation and Dialectics
Gadamer on Interpretation and Dialogue

Part Two: Interpretive Contexts, Judgment, and Critique

Chapter 3 Reflective Orientation and the Bounds of Hermeneutics
Royce: Cognitive Exchange and Communal Conspectus
Reflective Judgment and Orientation
Kant’s Transcendental Topic
Reflective Topology and Judgmental Contexts
Philosophy and the Reflective Specification of Bounds
An Amphiboly of Reflective Orientation
Worldly Orientation

Chapter 4 The Hermeneutics of Attaining Knowledge: The Role of Judgmental Assent
From Conceptual Classification to Judgmental Articulation
Interpreting as Cognizing Meaning and Knowing Truth
Kant on Opining, Believing, and Knowing
Preliminary Judgments and the Provisionality of Reflective Judgments

Chapter 5 Aesthetic Consensus and Evaluative Consent
Levels of Aesthetic Consensus in Kant
Reflective Schematization and Contextual Configuration
Exemplarity and Emulation
Typification and the Intuitive Presentation of Meaning

Chapter 6 Validity, Legitimacy, and Historical Attribution
Knowledge and Legitimacy
Hermeneutics and Adjudication
Ascriptive and Attributive Modes of Imputation
The Legitimacy of Interpretations
Authentic Interpretation and Intersubjective Legitimacy
Pragmatic Characterization
Conscientiousness and Truthful Interpretation

Chapter 7 A Reflective and Diagnostic Critique
Critique as Constitutive and Categorial
Critique as Regulative and Emancipatory
Critique as Reflective and Judgment-Centered
From Reflection to Reflexivity
A Responsive Hermeneutics and a Transformative Critique
Completeness in Critical Hermeneutics

Part Three: Applications and Adaptations

Chapter 8 Genealogy, Narrative History, and Hermeneutic Transmission
Nietzsche’s Challenge to the Objectivity of Historical Interpretation
Narrative Approaches to History
Incommensurable Contexts and the Possibility of Universalist History
Delimiting the Appeal to Causes in Historical Interpretation
Causes and Influences
Intentionalist Explanation and Hermeneutical Contextualization
Normative Judgment or Normalizing Genealogy
Hermeneutics and Historical Transmission

Chapter 9 Contextualizing the Arts: From Originating to Medial Contexts
Meier on Representational Signs and Their Intentional Context
Kant and Expressing What Was Inexpressible
Dilthey on Manifestations of Life and Their Interpretive Contexts
The Earth-World Conflict in Heidegger’s “The Origin of the Work of Art”
The Medial Contexts of Works of Art
The Medial Presentation of the Commonplace in Contemporary Art
Transitional Modes of Understanding


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