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  • Birnbaum, Pierre. Blahuta, Jason P. Blum, Lawrence A. Buchanan, James. Buckley, James, J. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Strong Hermeneutics by Nicholas H. Recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in ethics, particularly in the approaches of deconstruction and hermeneutics. At the same time, questions of identity have risen to prominence in philosophy and beyond into cultural studies and literature. Strong Hermeneutics is a clear and accessible investigation of both the enlightenment and postmodern or 'weak' approaches Recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in ethics, particularly in the approaches of deconstruction and hermeneutics.

    Strong Hermeneutics is a clear and accessible investigation of both the enlightenment and postmodern or 'weak' approaches to contemporary discussions of ethics. The weak view, which can be traced back to Nietzche and seen in the recent work of Rorty and Lyotard, is sceptical of any universal principles in ethics.

    Strong Hermeneutics: Contingency and Moral Identity

    The enlightenment view, starting with Kant and more recently seen in the work of Habermas, views identity as subject to universal but formal moral constraints, the renewing of which is the proper task of ethics. Nicholas Smith argues that neither of these views can provide a proper framework for ethics. Strong Hermeneutics presents a defence of this view, compares it with the realism and anti-realism debate in philosophy, and demonstrates its relevance to contemporary issues, particularly ecological responsibility.

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    To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. There then follows a discussion of the suitability of this conception of self-reflection as a paradigm for regaining moral identity by overcoming contingency. I argue that while the model is more apt than some critics have assumed, it is questionable whether it owes its power to a departure from the orbit of hermeneutics. In his later work, Habermas construes the normative implications of the dialogical constitution of subjectivity differently.

    In a manner that reflects his growing distance from hermeneutics, Habermas becomes gripped by the conviction that the key to the intelligibility of moral identity lies hidden in the deep structure of language use.

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    • Language use, for Habermas, comes in two fundamentally distinct kinds. On the one hand, there is communicative action, which is action oriented to reaching an understanding with another; and on the other hand there is strategic action, in which language is used as an instrument conditioned by some externally defined goal. Forms of linguistic action that are not oriented to consensus reached by understanding, Habermas claims, are parasitic on the originary communicative mode.

      Only communicative action, in other words, is sui generis language use. Now this claim has drawn extensive criticism from what I have been calling a weak hermeneutic perspective. On the other hand, there are considerations of the kind put by Lyotard for reversing the priority; that is, for making strategic language use originary.

      I argue, however, that neither Habermas nor his weak hermeneutic opponents are fully successful in making their case. I conclude with the strong hermeneutic suggestion that the stalemate between them arises from a misleading presupposition of both parties—that language should be considered primarily under its pragmatic aspect at all. But there are, I think, good hermeneutic grounds for questioning their propriety. In particular, the notion that an autonomous moral domain is a suitable object of rational reconstruction—in the same manner in which, say, grammatical competence may be—is deeply problematic.

      As a corollary, the division of labour Habermas imposes on philosophical reflection to accommodate the hypothesis that moral competence is reconstructible arguably distorts its subject-matter. In his more recent writings, Habermas has revised his theory Introduction 9 in order to obviate problems of the kind noted here, but we are still led to the conclusion that his account of the intelligibility of the moral demand remains skewed by an unwarranted suspicion of the conservative bias and metaphysical burden of strong hermeneutics.

      Moreover, if these revisions were allowed to develop unhampered by such prejudices, I suggest, if they were permitted to unfold according to their inner logic, discourse ethics would soon find itself back on clearly recognizable hermeneutic ground. In chapter seven, my claim that strong hermeneutics provides the basis for a critical ethical outlook without metaphysical excess is put to the test by examining how it might make sense of the problem of ecological responsibility.

      The signal failure of Enlightenment fundamentalism to render ecological responsibility intelligible on a more than prudential, utilitarian basis has undoubtedly pushed many philosophers and social critics in the general direction of hermeneutics. But which kind of hermeneutics is best equipped to succeed where Enlightenment fundamentalism fails?

      Drawing on Stephen K. In advancing it I do not mean to propose that philosophical criticism in the field of ecological politics is exclusively of hermeneutic provenance. For responsible ecological politics is not just a matter of sensitive world-disclosure. It also requires a sound sense of the structure and imperatives of democratic action-coordination. In a tradition that is conveniently earmarked as running from Schleiermacher through Dilthey and Heidegger to Gadamer and Ricoeur, hermeneutics shows continuity through considerable diversity in content.

      Taylor Charles

      But I shall not, to any serious degree, be dealing with the variety of hermeneutics in this historical sense. According to the framework set out here, there are three major tributaries of hermeneutic thinking. In the chapters that follow, these strong, weak and deep varieties of hermeneutics—and offshoots of them that claim to move beyond the horizon of hermeneutics as such—are brought into debate on matters concerning the contingency of self, culture and value. Following Weber, the Enlightenment fundamentalist maintains that the becoming modern of a society and its characteristic ways of understanding the world involves an irreversible The variety of hermeneutics 11 process of disenchantment.

      From the Weberian perspective, the transition to modernity appears as an evolution from traditional modes of thought and action like religion, revelation and myth, to rational enlightened modes like science and technology. Enlightenment fundamentalism then imports philosophical significance to the phenomenon of disenchantment by construing it as definitive of the maturation of human rational capacities. According to the Enlightenment fundamentalist, science and technology are not merely the prevailing form of reason in modern times; they do not just chronologically succeed religious and mythic ways of seeing the world.

      Rather, they give the lie to those orders of significance which, as supposedly revealed through myth, dogmatic metaphysics and religion, ground human identity in its pre-mature phases of cognitive development. In other words, Enlightenment fundamentalism construes disenchantment as conceptually as well as historically compelling.