Between Gadamer and Ricoeur: Preserving Dialogue in the Hermeneutical Arc for the Sake of a God Who Speaks and Listens

Sophia 53 (4):553-573 (2014)
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Wolterstorff defends the claim not only that ‘God speaks’ through the Bible but also that the reader gains ever new insights upon subsequent readings of it. I qualify this project with the philosophical hermeneutics he rejects—namely that of Gadamer and Ricoeur. Wolterstorff thinks what he calls ‘authorial discourse interpretation’ provides warrant for religious communities believing that ‘God speaks’ to them through a text. In developing this hermeneutic, he dismisses the viability of Gadamer and Ricoeur's approach because, Wolterstorff asserts, their form of interpretation is merely an operation performed on an artifact. While a cursory study of Gadamer and Ricoeur might support such dismissal, particularly Ricoeur's emphasis on writing's obliteration of dialogue, a closer study guided by the hermeneutic priority of questioning complicates Wolterstorff's caricature. If writing obliterates dialogue, what happens to questions and responses? My thesis is that dialogue with another is preserved through the hermeneutical arc. I demonstrate this through specifying distinct logics of question and answer that occur in the reading process, and I delimit these logics by way of appeal to contemporary literacy pedagogy and its taxonomies of questions. A voice does speak with and listen to a reader in the event of reading, in this case a God who is not behind but before the text. Isolating this other who speaks and listens provides reinforcement for constructive theological work aligned with Gadamer and Ricoeur's hermeneutics, and answers for the experience of hearing ‘God speak’ differently through sacred texts



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Nathan Eric Dickman
University of The Ozarks

References found in this work

Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language.John Rogers Searle - 1969 - Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
I and Thou.Martin Buber - 1970 - New York,: Scribner. Edited by Walter Arnold Kaufmann.
Oneself as Another.Paul Ricoeur - 1992 - University of Chicago Press.
Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language.William P. Alston - 1970 - Philosophical Quarterly 20 (79):172-179.

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