Dialogue Hermeneutical Considerations in the Production of Knowledge

The question of intersubjectivity is constitutive of Schleiermacher's preoccupation with the production of knowledge. Although the Dialektik is mainly concerned with epistemological and transcendental issues, it hints at its hermeneutical presuppositions in the two criteria that Schleiermacher establishes for knowledge, namely, correspondence and identity of process. An important question concerns how testing of these criteria can take place in order to gain certainty that thinking is indeed striving for knowledge. For Schleiermacher, the only viable candidate for testing is intersubjective communication. Only when claims of correspondence and accounts of how these claims have come to be made are checked against others can one ascertain if the two criteria for knowledge have been fulfilled (or not).

Schleiermacher's definition of dialectic in intersubjective terms distinguishes him from his German Idealist contemporaries, Fichte and then Hegel. One of the key texts in which Schleiermacher explains the hermeneutical partnership to dialectic is the 1833 "Introduction" to the Dialektik, the only section of the Dialektik that Schleiermacher ever published during his lifetime. Paragraph 4 sets his position in sharp contrast to that of others who, as Schleiermacher criticizes, define dialectic by inventing a language that conveys no intersubjective meaning. Thinking is only relevant in relation to knowledge when it is articulated in language in an interpersonal context. Hermeneutics works with dialectic in order to facilitate the intersubjective processes of communication and understanding in the endeavors of producing discursive knowledge. The hermeneutical "art of understanding another person's utterance correctly"9 is an interpersonal duty that makes dialectic possible.

The key presupposition that not only characterizes Schleiermacher's herme-neutics but also captures a fundamental approach of his thought is a mechanism of "externalization" explaining why thinking requires language. "Discourse," Schleiermacher writes in the Hermeneutics and Criticism, his lectures on herme-neutics, "is only the thought itself which has come into existence."10 By "coming into existence," Schleiermacher means that thinking taking place as a process in consciousness is manifest externally to others when thought's content, structured by the forms of thinking, is externalized in language. Thought's forms are externalized by the proposition that "s is p" (for example, "The emerald is green"). On the basis of language's subject-predicate form, Schleiermacher can argue that language represents the way that thinking links predicates to a subject, thereby forming concepts. There is a continuum between thought and language that both necessarily relates thinking to an intention outside of consciousness -thinking is about something - and communicates that intention to others.

Schleiermacher has often been misunderstood on this point concerning the relation of thought to language. A common misunderstanding attributes to Schleiermacher a separation between thought and language. Language "expresses" an experience that is considered to be pre-conceptual and pre-discursive; language is an accidental discursive representation of a content interior to conscious-ness.11 Yet this misunderstanding is easily cleared up when two fundamental elements of Schleiermacher's thought are considered. Schleiermacher stresses that thought and language are related on a continuum. First, the continuum is an ontological structure that early nineteenth-century thinkers appropriated from Leibniz in order to explain how a unified system can arise from two entities. At any point on the continuum, an intimate and necessary relation between the two poles is ontologically established. Second, the continuum secures the bidi-rectionality between thought and language. If communication is oriented to the goal of successful interpersonal interaction, then communication must take place under the condition of linguistic commonality. Language must be presupposed to have common aspects in order for communication to occur in such a way that it is understood by someone other than the communicator.

An interpretation that attributes to Schleiermacher a private interior fact of consciousness subsequently groping for language hoping to express it does not appreciate Schleiermacher's hermeneutical insight that interpretation must necessarily presuppose the relation of language to intentional thinking (thinking that is about something). As we will see in the next section on theology, the thought-language continuum has important consequences for understanding the linguistic features of a historical religion.

The continuum connecting thought to language is based on a philosophical-anthropological mechanism that explains why externalization is an inevitable and necessary aspect of consciousness. A text that describes this mechanism is the "Ethics" section, §§ 3-6, of the "Introduction" (§§ 1-31) to The Christian Faith. By "ethics," Schleiermacher means a study of the principles of history as psychological explanations for human agency. The ethics section in §§ 3-6 describes the structure of consciousness in order to show the psychological reason for the various social institutions by which human agents act in history. If thinking is related to the academy and doing to politics, then feeling is the psychological explanation for religion as necessarily lived out in historical communities.

Schleiermacher's mechanism of externalization presupposes both a realism in regard to the content that is "revealed" and a necessary intersubjective motivation for externalization. A human person wants to disclose or describe the contents of her consciousness to others so that they too might be able to compare experiences with her. The "consciousness of kind" that anthropologically constitutes every human person grounds a fundamental human openness to others. Subjectivity is disclosed to be co-constituted with intersubjectivity by the sheer fact of interpersonal communication.12 Once the mechanism of externalization is found to be anthropologically basic, its underlying psychological structure can be described in such a way as to explain how a pole of interiority that maintains individuality of thoughts and feeling is necessarily related on a continuum to its communication through gestures and words already having a common determination.

The German philosopher Manfred Frank has now reconstructed and then re-dated Schleiermacher's lecture notes on hermeneutics together with additional material in order to yield the current two-part sequence as grammatical and psychological explications. Frank's edition has been translated into English by Andrew Bowie.13 The solid footing that Frank has given to the study of Schleiermacher's hermeneutics dovetails with the continuum that we have seen to characterize Schleiermacher's metaphysic of intimate relation between an inner core of identity and its external expressions in temporal development. The two-part division to the Hermeneutics exhibits the tight connection that Schleiermacher envisions between the grammatical and psychological aspects of interpretation, and, as Frank insists, highlights the significance of the grammatical as sole access to the psychological intention of the author. Just as there is no approach to an essential and unchanging core of a historical entity that is metaphysically distinct from its temporal and changing manifestations, so there is no way to grasp the psychological intention motivating an author to write her text other than through an interpretation of her literary composition. (We will revisit this same point in the next section on the "essence" of religion and of Christianity.)

By "grammatical" interpretation, Schleiermacher means all the literary features that can yield an interpretation of the text as produced by an author. These features include the entire grammatical, syntactical, logical, rhetorical, and tonal features of a language as used by the individual author and as compared to the grammatical-linguistic conventions used in the author's context. A text's meaning can be gleaned by comparing the author's "subjective" use of a language with the way in which that language is used "objectively" by others. Schleiermacher also pays attention to details such as the ways in which relative clauses are related to the main part of the sentence in order to yield authorial emphasis, the genre in which the language occurs that shapes the subject matter in a distinctive way, the way parts of a sentence are logically related to each other to indicate psychological connections between ideas about reality, and the rhetorical function of a particular choice of words that gives literary clues as to the value and meaning an author assigns to a term.

The language pole of the thought-language continuum is connected to the author's psychological motivation. By following a text's grammar to its psychological pole, Schleiermacher intends to reconstruct the author's intention in communicating a linguistic-literary articulation of an experience. For Schleiermacher, the "psychological" pole means both the reference to reality that the author intends by the text and the point in the author's biography at which the particular text is externalized. The grammatical and psychological aspects of the text yield authorial intention in terms of both a reference to an experience and its moment of expression in the author's biography. A text's meaning is intimately related to its production.

The hermeneutical theories that Schleiermacher established for modern knowledge are evident in his hermeneutical praxis. In fact, the practice of his theory set the parameters for modern interpretative traditions in Plato studies and in New Testament studies. Schleiermacher translated Plato's entire corpus into German14 and interpreted Plato's work as the externalization of a motivating intention (Tendenz), unfolded and developed in the distinct dialogues. Schleiermacher used his interpretative method to date the works as Early, Middle, and Late Dialogues, thereby establishing the consensus (with slight modification) for today. Similarly setting the stage for modern deuteropauline studies, Schleiermacher interpreted the New Testament epistle, 1 Timothy, by comparing its literary expressions to the Pauline corpus, and concluded that the author of 1 Timothy could not have been Paul. He also identified the basic parallel literary structure of Colossians 1:15-20 - the relation between Christ in creation (verses 15-16b) and Christ in redemption (verses 18b-20b) - that still is the exegetical consensus.15 Another debate in New Testament studies with which Schleiermacher was preoccupied concerned the question of Synoptic dependence. Schleiermacher offered an interpretation of John's Gospel that differed substantially from increasing scholarly consensus regarding Mark's originality. Although proved wrong, Schleiermacher's interpretation is compelling from the perspective that it takes seriously the literary criterion of coherence in order to make the case that John experienced Jesus close up, and wrote the first Gospel out of the psychological immediacy of this experience. Schleiermacher's own hermeneutical praxis shows how he regarded texts as productions of authors. The text is not an inert letter, unrelated to reality, but a transcript of a living, experiencing human being.

The dialectic and the hermeneutics are two academic disciplines displaying structural similarity. Both dialectic and hermeneutics are oriented to an elusive ground of unity while establishing access to the ground through the reality of intersubjective interactions with one's environment constituting individual development. Yet they are also mirrors of each other. The dialectic aims to get at correspondence and the identity of knowledge production through the diversity of sense perceptions and experiences in a linguistic milieu, while the hermeneutics looks at the diversities of literary-linguistic expressions in order to grasp an author's motivation to externalize an experience for others that in turn provides glimpses into the author's core identity. Both the desire to know and inter-subjectivity are contextualized, not relativized, under conditions of human existence. Schleiermacher's self-designation as a "Herrnhuter of a higher order" preserves the central Pietist insight into the personal experience of the unifying ground of existence, while addressing the complex epistemological and herme-neutical issues of subjectivity under human conditions. Schleiermacher's theology, as I will show in the next section, takes his Pietist leanings into a "higher order" of taking seriously the conditions, motivations, and experiences available to humans as they articulate the truth about self redeemed by Jesus in relation to both world and God.

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