Herméneutique et grammatologie [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 33 (2):429-430 (1979)
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Since Heidegger’s reformulation of the task of philosophy, the ontological significance of texts and interpretation has risen to the foreground of philosophical discourse, with widespread repercussions in the humanities at large. Today the two most influential and suggestive approaches to derive from Heidegger in seeing the philosophical enterprise as a relentless examination of a text are those named in the title of Jean Greisch’s book. Relations between the two camps are strained, however, and simultaneous assessment of both has been sadly lacking. In such a climate Greisch’s book is a welcome contribution, for it presents carefully and contrastingly the thought of the two leading spokesmen of these rival positions: Hans-Georg Gadamer and Jacques Derrida. Though well aware that a presentation cannot be balanced and impartial where no simple bipolarity, but rather a "chiasme," exists between the two parties, Greisch nonetheless devotes roughly equal space to both viewpoints. In comparing them he frequently juxtaposes terms used within each system to denote the same problematic: the presence of history in the text, for instance, is seen as Wirkungsgeschichte by Gadamer, as trace by Derrida. More often, however, this symmetry cannot be carried out, and Derrida’s self-styled "parasitical," "subversive" stance toward the premises of hermeneutics often gives him the last word. Greisch’s intention, however, is not to prove the superiority of one over the other. To him, they are representatives of two separate cultural universes, and he announces his aim as "entrer dans leur ‘pensée'".



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