Chrysostomos Mantzavinos' Naturalistic Hermeneutics: A Critical Appraisal

In our paper we discuss Chrysostomos' Mantzavinos' 2005 Naturalistic Hermeneutics. By introducing the term "naturalist hermeneutics" invites us to much discussion and controversy. Besides the fact that they belong to different, if not oppositional, philosophical traditions, naturalism and hermeneutics could hardly be considered to form a unique philosophical position, namely a "naturalistic hermeneutics". Nevertheless, this is what Mantzavinos claims in his book. In the first part of the paper, we give the main points of Mantzavinos' reconstruction of the rise and evolution of philosophical hermeneutics, with special reference to Wilhelm Dithey's work. In the second part, we try to trace his project back to Hans Albert's critical rationalism and his harsh critique of hermeneutics, especially in Heidegger and Gadamer. Then we treat Mantzavinos' main objection to hermeneutics which is its relativism regarding truth (Wahrheitsrelativismus). This is also the point where our own counter-arguments to Mantzavinos' thesis come forth: does philosophical hermeneutics necessarily invite epistemological skepticism? The target of most contemporary hermeneutic philosophers, starting with Heidegger and Gadamer, is no other than the Cartesian legacy in all its facets: the subject-object dichotomy which Mantzavinos seems reluctant to abandon, the search for ultimate foundations for knowledge, the attachment to a certain concept of method, finally, the belief in reason as an ahistorical matrix. We thus oppose Mantzavinos' too simplifying version of hermeneutic phenomenology, but also his too hasty attack against the alleged relativism of hermeneutics.

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