What is Romantic Hermeneutics, What Does It Mean?

What is Romantic Hermeneutics, What Does It Mean?

June 26, 2021 Off By Felso

For the first time, Schleiermacher, under the influence of F. Schlegel, tried to make hermeneutics a universal understanding and exposition doctrine and tried to solve it from all its dogmatic and occasional aspects. Thus, the normative meaning of the text in hermeneutics has been taken into the background. Comprehension is the “productive repetition” of the text on the basis of genius. Thus, Schleiermacher argued that life should be understood with a singularizing interest, starting from a metaphysical understanding.

In this teaching, the role of language came to the fore and the limits of philological interpretation, which remained dependent on the written work, were tried to be overcome. Schleiermacher’s grounding of hermeneutics on the basis of speaking and understanding each other has brought a new depth to hermeneutics. In the meantime, the foundations on which a system of spiritual sciences should be based were also laid. Hermeneutics was now the foundation of all historical sciences; not just theology. Until then, theologians and philologists had used hermeneutics only as a tool to reveal the dogmatic meaning of the text. However, with Schleiermacher, the way to historicism was opened (Gadamer 1995: p.14=15).

For Schleiermacher, who first revealed philosophical hermeneutics in the interpretation of the Bible, the method of understanding used by hermeneutics as an art of giving meaning is as a universal method, by identifying all spiritual creations, products of thought, these creations and products with their makers, and meanwhile we identify ourselves with them. Written texts to be handled with this method are actually linguistic products, and language is the medium for the society to make sense of the universe as well as the individual.In other words, both the individual and the society comprehend the universe through the common meanings attributed to words in every historical age.

So much so that language, as such, is the carrier of meanings. Because of this, language is also the carrier of history, as the medium that enables us to interpret how people conceived the universe in every historical age. So much so that “Every historical work is a certain history” (Özlem 2001: p.246). For Schleiermacher, hermeneutics is an art of understanding that is in question wherever there is language. Hermeneutics can be thought of as an art of understanding both individual language contexts and language as a whole. In this respect, “Hermeneutics as the art of understanding does not exist alone, but with many special Hermeneutics.”

Schleiermacher argues that besides the individual hermeneutics, a general hermeneutics regarding the legality of all of them is required. However, “It is difficult to draw the boundaries of general hermeneutics”. The most important task to be done here is to find and determine the legality of hermeneutics” (Erdemli 1991: p.266-267). Hermeneutics, until Schleiermacher, is a rule constructed by combining individual rules in order to reach a universally accepted art of exposition. This building housed the functions in which grammatical/linguistic, historical, aesthetic/rhetorical and objective/factual explanatory styles were effective together in the exposition process.And hermeneutics had come out of the philological virtuosity of centuries and now it became aware of the rules on which these functions depended.

Schleiermacher turned to these rules, to the analysis of meaning, to the knowledge itself aimed by understanding; and he derived from this knowledge of the essence of understanding the possibility of universal exposition, its auxiliary means, its limits and rules. But he could only analyze understanding as a reconstructing, reconstructing, in its living relationship with the process of producing written works. He considered feeling, intuiting and comprehending the creative process in which a written work that affects living comes into existence, as a necessary condition for the knowledge of that other process, that is, the knowledge of the other process that we want to understand the whole of a work from the written signs and the creator’s intention and thinking style (Dilthey 1999: p.101-102).

As it is known, Schleiermacher suggested that “textual interpretation should be based on the whole-part relationship. Every text is a whole made up of parts; it is necessary to understand the whole starting from the part. However, in order to understand the part at the same time, it is necessary to act from the whole. Schleiermacher does not understand this reciprocity between the part and the whole. He called this coming the “interpretive loop”. In his first period, Dilthey proposed this hermeneutic method of text analysis as a model for understanding history and living” (Özlem 1994b: p.197).


East West Quarterly Thought Journal; New Thought Movements Special Issue; Philosophy Art Culture Publications; May; July 2002