Standing on All That Is Yet In The Past: Thoughts Towards a Political Hermeneutics

“I believe in the future. It is wonderful because it stands on what has been achieved.”

- Sergei Korolev 

It is all too familiar to be told that ‘the fact of the matter is’, followed swiftly by the dullest of opinion. Too often are ‘opinion’ and ‘fact’ deemed interchangeable. Although such a conflation may appear harmless on the surface, it erodes our grasp of existence, letting it slip away into an abyss. Acting and judging are the twin pillars of politics itself. To judge the world and act upon it is to be political. However, we can only act and judge if we know the world that we are judging and acting within. To know the world in order to change it, we must interpret it coherently from the outset. This is the link between epistemology, interpretation and politics (i.e. how we know what we know so we can act).

The field of philosophical discussion concerning ‘interpretation’ is widely referred to as ‘Hermeneutics’. The foundational claim of hermeneutics is that the world is always within a process of becoming interpretable and being interpreted. There is no objective ‘truth’ only intersubjective interpretation, to adapt a phrase once uttered by Nietzsche. Truth is but an interpretation made concrete in its totality. In this manner, hermeneutics claims that as there is no authentic truth to the world (an interpretation in and of itself), we must undergo the process of separating good interpretations from bad interpretations; an Augustinian procedure perhaps of dividing wheat from chaff.

Let us say that I asked the question: What is a chair? One can retort in numerous ways, but  with ‘It is an object for sitting on’ ranking as the most common answer. The essentialist thinkers of past would have socratically responded with: ‘ah! But this rock could be an object for sitting on, and yet we know it is a rock and not a chair. So, I repeat, what is a chair?’ (And so the dialogue would have continued). Hermeneutics however wishes to engage with the lack of truth that disturbs our world and rigorously forms good interpretations of the objects and phenomena within it. The difficulty is of course separating good interpretation from bad when all interpretations undergo sublimation to a certain supposed level of truth – as ‘opinion’. This is the function of hermeneutics, to examine the theory and art of interpretation itself.

The origins of hermeneutics are etymologically connected to the Greek God Hermes, who medieval, biblical and early modern scholars would have us believe was solely known for being the messenger of the gods. Essentially, if Hermes delivered the messages of the gods, then hermeneutics is the art of reading them.1 This correlates to the history of hermeneutics itself, which began its life concerned with ascertaining the correct interpretation of God’s Word through a process of ‘Biblical Exegesis’. This, however, ignores a whole strain of Greek theological mythology. Hermes is not just a messenger, but also a trickster – a mischievous courier.2 We must always remember that we are not Gods, we must prove ourselves worthy enough to read divine messages, to gain enlightenment, to understand our world; we must solve the trickery behind our instinct and interpretive capacity in order to distinguish wheat from chaff. If those interpretations taken from the messages of the gods at face value are now ‘common fact’, crystallised as ‘truth’, then Hermes’ titter can be heard on the breath of the wind, revelling in his trickery. The job of hermeneutics is to unravel his mischief and achieve a good understanding of the world in which we exist.

Although hermeneutics has its divisions and sub-schools, as do all fields of philosophical enquiry, in this short piece I would like to briefly sketch out the basis of an explicitly ‘Political Hermeneutics’. This sketch must begin with the predicate that politics is itself not limited to any distinct incarnation or mode. In our epoch, the ‘political’ section of any media outlet will typically discuss the events of the moment in the institutions of the state, or the events which will be addressed at some point by these institutions. This is to crystallise and limit the nature and phenomenon of politics as ‘the political’. Sadly, broad interpretation of politics as concerning government policy has had a detrimental effect on politics proper.

Politics proper is not exclusively the politics of the state, nor the politics of the national assembly, nor parties, nor leaders, nor ministers, nor councillors. Politics proper is the politics of the civic association, whatever that association may be. To be political is to engage in the discourse surrounding how the civic association is to act as a single unit, it is to engage in the organization that arises out of acting and speaking together, “and its true space [the political] lies between people living together for this purpose, no matter where they happen to be”.3 When people utter ‘I don’t like politics’, or ‘I am not political’, although I interpret this to be ‘I care little for policy discourse’, what they are suggesting is that they surrender their discursive stake in judging the actions and behaviour of the civic association they are the citizen of. This is by its very character anti-political in a non-humanistic frame.

In his ‘Politics’, Aristotle argued that man is a political animal by nature.4 What differentiates us from other beings is that we are conscious of the decisions we make together, the world we create in the space between ourselves. It is part of being human to be political – politics is itself part of our existential condition, as we always exist in the world amongst others – the basis of the civil association. The only way that one can become truly non-political is by secluding oneself, by becoming a lone individual, a hermit in a cave never to mix with others again – and at that point one renounces oneself as ‘zōon politikon’, and becomes ‘zoē’ – a process of ‘lupinization’ where one becomes animalian.5

Interestingly, in political science, a common talking point is ‘political apathy’. In our increasingly positivist-dominated epoch, such apathy is of course measured by analysing data, collating voting turnout, party membership, electoral registration, and so on. Naturally, this narrowly circumvents politics proper, deeming our societies to be unpolitical simply as they are lacking interest in the discourse of policy and governance. Even in an era of declining ‘political participation’, politics proper still occurs. Politics mostly takes place outside of institutions. It takes place in coffee houses when intellectual sparring partners argue about the direction of social life; it takes place on the airwaves when topical programmes hear from listeners; it takes place when any number of people gather and engage in a discourse about how their civic associations act. No matter the location, this becomes ‘the site’ of politics by judging our collective action and behaviour in some way. You and I are in conversation right now in fact. As you read this we have become interlocutors through the screen or page, the space between us is thus the site of politics; no more or less political than that of the grandest parliament, congress, supreme court, senate, committee or assembly.

When the meaning of politics proper is forgotten and we neglect that politics is to engage in the discourse about the world we create, the political site and space between us begins to rot and the world we create becomes disposable. In order to keep the world between us from becoming disposable, we must nurture a love for the world we create (Amor Mundi) and this means that we must throw ourselves into the practice of politics.6 We must re-engage in the discourse around how our civic association acts and the kind of world we create when we act in concert. To engage in this discourse is therefore to begin with how we understand the world. To engage in this discourse is thus to begin with interpretation.

One of the greatest lacunas in the study and discussion of hermeneutics is its connection to politics. As hermeneutics holds its origins in textual exegesis, we could argue that a hermeneutics connected to the political sphere is but the interpretation of political texts. What would a ‘political text’ consist of? As ‘the political’ concerns judging the actions of a civic association, a contribution to such a discourse would constitute a ‘political text’. With this in mind some of the greatest works of political thinking, could be considered as ‘political texts’; from obvious works such as ‘Das Kapital’, ‘A Theory of Justice’, or ‘The Prince’, to more subtle illustrations like Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, H.G. Wells’ ‘The War of The Worlds’, Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’, or Collins’ ‘The Hunger Games’. No matter what mode the political text may take be it in the academic, commercial or novelised form, they are united in that they discuss and judge the actions of the civic association broadly, i.e. how we act together and what kind of world we create.

To focus on interpreting political texts alone is of course an act of political exegesis. Nonetheless, does this make it a mode of political hermeneutics? The simple answer is no. Although to interpret the discourse surrounding politics is itself a political act by engaging in how we broadly understand our collective action, this is still not political hermeneutics proper. To interpret the action of the civic association is political hermeneutics.

Hans-Georg Gadamer, one of the greatest proponents of Hermeneutics, contended that at the heart of philosophical hermeneutics rests what Aristotle referred to as phronesis – the ‘practical wisdom’ that stems from attaining an understanding of the world, gaining insight into our own concrete situation.7 The task of a political hermeneutics is to etch out a strictly political phronesis, an understanding of the actions and direction of the civic association we ourselves are members of. Naturally, it comes at no surprise that such interpretive action takes place on a rolling basis. Many of the texts, discussions and debates we take part in are of a politically hermeneutic mode. In political theory, for example, traditions of thought already begin with divergent interpretations of the world and our place within that schema. If we take a political object or phenomena different traditions and sub-traditions will interpret the same object from within their respective horizons, leading to varied interpretations. 

‘The state’ is an obvious example of such a concept with divergent interpretation. Liberals contend that ‘the state’ is a neutral umpire that regulates and protects citizens’ lives, at least to some extent. Conservatives are unified in their theological interpretation of sovereignty, with the state as the seat of authority, morality, and order so to protect a fallen humanity from itself. Marxists grasp the state as a bourgeois mechanism for managing the affairs and reproduction of the capitalist mode of production, recasting the ripe conditions to exploit the proletariat. Feminism, for our final illustration, interprets the state as being always in some way connected to the notion of ‘patriarchy’ – a male dominated and oriented socio-political system in which women are limited to some degree. And so interpretations go on as horizons differ.

As with all traditions of thought, sub-divisions differ to the extent of their common interpretive assessment. If we use the conceptual notion of ‘Patriarchy’, the extent of its presence is disputed. Liberal Feminists may argue that it is present on the level of formal politics, as related to women’s participation in the public sphere or legal rights in the private sphere. Other factions may, and indeed do, disagree. Some contend that patriarchy manifests itself at the deepest levels of behaviour and is omni-present, others that patriarchy is attached to race, others that it is connected to post-colonialism, queer theory, linguistics and so on. The point I am here making is that no matter what the object of interpretation may be, traditions will diverge, and so will the sub-traditions that rest within them – horizons of interpretation upon horizons of interpretation.

A political text wills itself to be interpreted, as all texts will themselves to undergo interpretation. It is from the basis of our experience in the world that we flood text with meaning, and as such, our experience colours the manner in which we interpret a text. Let us take a classic work, such as Plato’s ‘Republic’. The reason why Plato’s masterpiece of political thinking is a classic is because our experience of the world, of our politics, lends itself to something within Plato’s dialogue, be this the allegory of the cave, the question of justice, philosopher kings, or otherwise. Even though we can situate Plato’s work within its context, the initial step of any worthy hermeneutic process, there is something about our own experience, in our context, that finds meaning in the pages of a text written thousands of years in the past.8

In this sense, texts whether political or otherwise are living. We breathe new life into them through the meaning we give, meaning connected to the experiences of our context. In doing so it is the basis of hermeneutics to not only interpret but to breathe new life into the object of interpretation, to drag what may have been lost, forgotten, unused or unseen from the past into the present – bestowing it with meaning for ourselves today. For example, to illustrate this point, one’s mind is drawn immediately to Karl Popper’s ‘The Open Society and Its Enemies’ in which he locates the seeds of totalitarianism in the works of thinkers such as Hegel, Marx, Rousseau and, to continue the example given above, Plato. Of course, Plato, Hegel, Marx and Rousseau can never be critiqued as being totalitarian, because such an experience exists outside of their context. To do so would be an act of the purest anachronism.

Nonetheless, by interpreting texts of the past with our own experiences in mind, we breathe life into these old texts anew by drawing new relevance from them into our own world. A more obvious example is in Heidegger’s magnum opus ‘Being and Time’. Here he interprets the forgotten concept of Being (Dasein) sitting across philosophical texts undetected, dredging this to the surface to engage with in our own academic, social and political context. These are but two illustrations of how texts consistently will themselves to be found interpretable in that we find meaning in their pages outside of their own context. Those texts in which we simply find nothing are sealed to their context, and as such are almost lifeless in our own; at least until they are perhaps given CPR by an interpreter in the future.

Texts can be given meaning because of language. It is a basic predicate of hermeneutic phenomenology to grasp the world in terms of language. Language shrouds all things in our world; it is how we mediate our existence. All things are made up of language, every object you can think of, every idea you have ever had, every thing you have ever sensed, all of it, dragged into being and interpretable because of language. Look in front of you, what do you see? A computer? A phone? A screen? A page? These objects you can give meaning to because of the object’s relationship to the language we use and create for them. Something that has no language attached to its pure existence is not understandable – it cannot or is yet to be mediated. Once we have strapped language to the object it becomes interpretable. In order to bring things into being they require language for us to mediate. For example, how often do you type in a new piece of terminology into a document on your computer, a term you know to be relating to something in the world itself, and yet to have a piece of outdated software anchor its written form in blood-red. This is the point. If the software does not know the language, how can it know it is authentic – it cannot. As software is designed by humans, if those coders who design the software exist before a piece of language has dragged an object into existence, it simply does not exist in the software. Language is thus the world itself, and language is passed, it evolves.

This notion is central to hermeneutic phenomenology. All language exists within a context and as such interpretation is connected to the historicity of language. All language is created within a historical horizon. All terms I have used so far in this piece have been used before I was thrown into the nexus of linguistics and language we know as the world. The terms we use make manifest a world not of our own but of our ancestors, the greatest contribution they gifted to us – the world itself. We always speak from a tradition of linguistic ‘prejudice’, where terms denote certain experiences and this is inescapable.9 When a writer enunciates, they speak from within a contextually bound horizon.

 To place this into a political mode with an illustration, many find Hobbes’ ‘Leviathan’ a complex read because it is written in old English.10 If we simply place the text before us and stare, its music cannot be heard. It is our job to undergo the rigorous process of interpretation, of reading to play its tune. This requires transposition from the manner in which it was written to our own context, our own historically bound horizon. If we take Hobbes’ work as an illustration, his discussion of man and the modern state within its horizon cannot foresee the future ills and complications the modern state would impose on collective civic life in the contemporary world.

Nonetheless, it is our job as interpreters to grasp what is being said and how it can live for our own time. This is done perfectly by those Hobbesian scholars such as Quentin Skinner, Noel Malcolm or Carl Schmitt who dig deep into Hobbes’ horizon and pull back to the surface the buried treasure he was unaware he hid for those in our context to interpret.11 These scholars fell into the linguistic tradition of Hobbes’ but re-invigorated it through their interpretive exegesis. This is how a text or action can be given new life and phronesis substantiated, by teasing out, acknowledging, understanding and recasting the historico-linguistic trajectory of that being interpreted. This is what Gadamer penned as ‘The Fusion of Horizons’ and it is the very stuff of understanding.

Hence, such an argument explains why philology and etymology are so vital to our academic endeavours. They highlight the past meaning and evolution of language, uncovering something lost or forgotten about the objects we arbitrate on a daily basis. Let us give a political example. Before employment in the English language, ‘Opression’ rested within the French linguistic toolkit indicating a cruel or unjust use of force. Fundamentally, this demystifies no more than it fogs, signifying what we already know about the concept. This requires us to go further into the past. Without surprise, the French term holds its origins in the Latin phrase ‘oppressionem’ (‘oppressio’ in the nominative). This is the noun of action from the past-participle stem of ‘opprimere’ – the assimilated form of ‘ob-’ and ‘-premere’. Individually ‘ob-’ implies ‘against’ and ‘-premere’ ‘to press down’. Thus, we can see that at the etymological foundation of oppression rests opprimere – signifying the forceful pressing down of something or someone. From here we can argue that to interpret oppression is not to interpret a form of limitation or coercion, but the holding of a subject stationary (pressing down) in its very being. To oppress is to hold in place an individual so that their very existence cannot progress, so their subjectivity is frozen.

 Lets take a piece of text from the past, “Time is on the side of the oppressed today, it is against the oppressor” (Malcolm X), where oppression implied a suppressive limitation, and read into it our small etymological stroll. What you have done is breathe new life into the text – understanding more of the complex relationship between ‘time’ and ‘those whose being is held stationary’, as opposed to that of ‘the moment’ and ‘the subjugated’. Thus, by reaching into the past we can adapt the manner in which we interpret the present and the future, by adapting and creating new terms to summon new existences into the world. This is what it is to be ‘radical’, breaking down preconceptions of language and thus existence, recasting them so to unleash its potentiality from the chains of language and meaning we unknowingly forged.

Equally, this implies readdressing the language we use because the language we use creates the present. I shall take a current issue to illustrate this neatly. One of the greatest hermeneutic endeavours of the contemporary times is the question of how we interpret and linguistically grasp gender. Perhaps the language we use, at least in English, is insufficient to cope with more than binary gender norms. In English there are informally two grammatical genders, male and female, and no room for language in between. Thus when we are faced with Trans people who subjectively identify as being Trans, in a process between the genders and thus breaking the binary, we hold no linguistic category in which to place them. This may explain why so many in the English speaking world cannot accept that there can indeed be more than two gender categories, simply as we are yet to create language to pull ‘Trans Categories’ into being in the same manner we have done other genders and subjectivities. Perhaps this is why other languages with more defined and numerous grammatical genders are able to summon the language in which to mediate such subjectivity. Do not misunderstand, my point here is to exclaim that Trans people do indeed break down the gender binary; their very existence is testimony to this fact. Subsequently, we should create new language to accommodate this existence so we may fully bring it into the illumination of the world; in doing so ending the suffering the lack of such language has caused.

The future of our collective existence is therefore the space of language we have not yet summoned. Potentially the greatest proponent of Hermeneutics in the twentieth century, one of Martin Heidegger’s many additions to the field was to lay out the relationship between ‘Being’ and ‘Time’ as a result of acknowledging the historicity of language and thus existence.12 In doing so, Heidegger employed a technical trope of literary hermeneutics known as ‘The Hermeneutic Circle’. In the 19th century the hermeneutic circle had been of methodological significance as a technique of reading a work for its understanding. Its basic predicate is that one cannot understand part of a text without understanding the whole and neither the whole without grasping the sum of its parts. By moving between contemplation of ‘part’ and ‘whole’ a text itself snaps into place and one ascertains an understanding – ultimately coming to ‘square the hermeneutic circle’.

Heidegger adapts our understanding of the hermeneutic circle precisely as he employs it within his system of thought to show that just as ‘part’ and ‘whole’ mutually construct one another, so too does being and time. We always begin life in a world already being interpreted – we are always thrown into a world full of structures upon structures of meaning. The interpretation of the world already takes place before we open our eyes. This is the task of hermeneutics, not just to tease out an understanding of the world, but to bring to the forefront of our understanding the preconceptions and pre-understandings in place prior to our entrance into existence. Only in this manner can understanding be itself reinvigorated for our own times.

If part of our being is to interpret being broadly, than this implies that as language holds historicity, i.e. sits within a historical horizon, that being itself changes with the adaptation of time and language – ultimately going on to continue reconfiguring language across time, and thus being, and hence language, and therefore being. Being is mediated by language, as discussed above. Language is established by Being, in giving meaning to the world. This is how Heidegger revolutionises the study of hermeneutics and the hermeneutic circle – by incorporating into our grasp of interpretation elements of existentialism and the historico-linguistic predicates which accompany it.  The task of early Heideggerian hermeneutics is therefore to locate being and its potentiality within the myriad of historico-linguistic horizons in operation both before and during our existence. In fact, we could go as far as to say that they are one and the same.

When I experience the meaning of the world as I interpret it, I am utilising language forged by historical Being. Mediated experience during my existence is always within the linguistic horizon of past Being. Therefore, without the radical break that playing with interpretive language implies, present Being is always existent in the past and as such is the language of potentiality. This is the genius of Heidegger and Gadamer together; to understand ourselves and Being broadly, we must accept that we exist within the linguistics of the past, bringing alive with every moment past Being that had a hand in adapting such language itself. Thus, present interpretation is always itself historical – we always live in-between the past and the present. Perhaps, on a humorous note, it is therefore safe to say that the awkwardness of such a condition fuelling the very fabric of life makes all of us the real ‘inbetweeners’, not just a handful of comically gauche teenagers on television.

A central pillar of this post-modern hermeneutics is the unlocking of being’s potentiality hidden in the temporal linguistics of our interpretive faculties. As part of one’s own horizon is the utilisation of contextually bound language, to re-interpret the prejudices and preconceptions of the world is to reinterpret the preconceptions buried within the language that forms part of one’s own horizon. This requires our delving into the past so to reinterpret the potentiality for the future of Being, adapting the meaning of the very linguistic toolkit which enables us to mediate in the first instance. In this, by focussing on the relationship between language, potentiality, being, and temporality, we can see that the aim of such a hermeneutics is to disrupt the meaning language unfolds in the present by revisiting the manner in which such language became rigid and preconceptional. By revisiting the past in ‘the present’ (In which language is historical and a projection of past Being), Being in the present re-forges the language of the past, causing a linguistic rupture and thus opening the space of potentiality for the future. In simpler terms, the goal of such a hermeneutics is to ensure that the ‘potentiality of a thing adapts from what it used to be’, utilising the language of what it once was.

At this moment, it is important that we return to ‘the political’. Political Hermeneutics we understood as interpreting the collective action of a civic association. To engage in politics is to engage in the dialogue surrounding the action of the civic association one is a member of. So how does this link to the mutual constitution of Being and time? In order to answer this, we must bring Paul Ricoeur into the fold. One of the latter doyens of hermeneutic phenomenology, Paul Ricoeur contended that meaningful action could be interpreted as text.13

Actions are interpretable in that they can become an occurrence in and of themselves, made sense through language alone. Let us give an example of an action, of speech without words. If someone were to bump into me with some force as I was sat on a busy train, my interpretation of such action, of such an occurrence, would be different than if someone decided to bump into me with force whilst I was walking alone on a pavement. The former we could class as an accident and the other of intention. It is this mediation of action as intentional that leads to our response, be this to query such action, bump back, get angry etc. This is why being an audience member at the ballet is an interpretive activity. One has to give meaning to that which does not disclose language or image for itself, one has to find within the activity of movement some speech to interpret. In this manner interpretive actions may themselves be Locutionary speech acts. This means they are part of the hermeneutic world and may be interpreted as such. This was Ricoeur’s addition to hermeneutics – to reaffirm Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics for more than simple literature, or art as text, but to include meaningful action as interpretable text also.

This is of importance for these preliminary thoughts as my sketch of a political hermeneutics orbits around the discourse concerning the actions of the civil association one is a member of. As we have seen above, although interpreting texts which concern themselves with the political realm is part and parcel of a political hermeneutics, it is still but only part. A political hermeneutics must prima facie be the interpretation of acts in tandem with the discourse making sense of such action by judgement. This requires that we amalgamate the thought of Gadamer and Ricoeur if we wish to tap into what their grasp of interpretation may teach us about the political sphere broadly.

For many years, it has been the task of John D. Caputo in purporting his ‘Radical Hermeneutics’, combining the philosophical hermeneutics of Gadamer with Derrida’s radical deconstruction.14 As I explained above, understanding for both Gadamer and Heidegger is an activity from within a historical horizon. If one seeks to understand the past from the present, one must reconcile contextual dealignment. In this manner, understanding is always a relearning from within a subjective horizon. What Caputo emphasises is that such a condition lends itself to the process of levelling and rebuilding anew that we associate with postmodern deconstruction. The purpose of deconstruction, if one can say that it has a purpose at all, is to interpret an entity by levelling the presuppositions linguistically associated to it, and then undergo its reconstruction with credence to the forgotten elements buried within its being, lending its own projection to its inherent ‘otherness’.15 This goes hand in hand with the claims made by Gadamer that we as beings always speak from a tradition; the addition of deconstruction to this is the radical will to recast our grasp with an eye towards the inherent otherness of all things.

What makes postmodernism radical is its propensity to reform that which we would like to think of as having always been concrete. What radical hermeneutics offers is the capacity to reinterpret the world with an eye to privileging forgotten or simply different trajectories of thought, to tap into the inherent ‘otherness’ that is supressed within all things. This, as explained above, requires delving into the past at the present moment in order reinterpret our linguistic faculties of the present through the use of language.

In a political manner, radical hermeneutics can be applied directly to the questions, queries and judgement concerning the action of the civic association. We can reassess and reinterpret past political acts as meaningful action through Ricoeur’s lens, grasping the behaviours of the civic association as Locutionary acts, ready and willing to be interpreted then reformed. The future of our collective action is thus always in how we interpret the meaningful actions of the past. If we wish to understand the political sphere in our time then we must be aware of the historicity of language and interpretations of acts, interpreting the meaningful acts of the past with the same careful slightness we would afford to texts. By interpreting the present as travelling through the archaeology of the linguistic past, we may find the very variations and differences which may drag into existence the linguistic understanding we need to nurture contemporary politics and forge a better future.

political hermeneutics is always the interpretation of action both past and present in order to cultivate the potentiality of the future. The Soviet Union’s chief rocket engineer and designer at the beginning of the space race commented once on the relationship between the past and the future. Sergei Korolev, who made humanity a cosmic being by overcoming terrestrial gravity with the success of Sputnik, claimed: “I believe in the future. It is wonderful because it stands on what has been achieved”. Korolev is of course suggesting that the future is ‘wonderful’ as it sits atop the edifice of human achievement. If a political hermeneutics insinuates anything it is that the reverse is in fact more of the case.  The future that we can create through our actions, the future that is built upon the acts of our civic associations, is possible because we may interpret and re-configure that which was lost to the past – all from the vantage point of our historically bound linguistic horizons in the present.

If these notes towards a political hermeneutics teach us anything, such a teaching would run counter to Korolev’s claim. Rather, we would be exclaiming: ‘I believe in the past. It is wonderful because it stands on all that is yet to be achieved’.


1 Judith N. Shklar (2004) ‘Squaring The Hermeneutic Circle’, Social Research: An International Quarterly, 71(3), PP. 655-678.

2 John D. Caputo (2018) Hermeneutics: Facts and Interpretation in the Age of Information, London: Penguin, pp. 15-17.

3 Hannah Arendt (1998) The Human Condition, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, p. 198.

4 Aristotle (1981) The Politics, London: Penguin Books, p. 59.

5 For more Information see: Giorgio Agamben (1998) Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Agamben grasps zoē as ‘bare life’, in comparison to ‘bios’ as ‘qualified life’. In being excluded from the polis, one’s very being is reduced to that of ‘bare life’, unable to engage in the political activity that makes us human.

6 For more information on ‘Amor Mundi’ see: Elizabeth Young-Bruehl (2006) Why Arendt Matters, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, pp. 79-83.

7 Hans-Georg Gadamer (1981) “Hermeneutics as Practical Philosophy”, in Reason in the Age of Science, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, pp. 88-112.

8 John D. Caputo (2018) Hermeneutics: Facts and Interpretation in the Age of Information, London: Penguin, pp. 99-100.

9 Hans-Georg Gadamer (2004) Truth and Method, New York: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd.

10 Thomas Hobbes (2003) Leviathan, London: Penguin Books.

11 Quentin Skinner (1996) Reason and Rhetoric in the Philosophy of Hobbes, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Noel Malcolm (2002) Aspects of Hobbes, Oxford: Oxford University Press; Carl Schmitt (2008) The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes: Meaning and Failure of a Political Symbol, Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

12 Martin Heidegger (2010) Being and Time, Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

13 Paul Ricoeur (1981) “The model of the text: meaningful action considered as text”, in John B. Thompson (Ed.) Hermeneutics & The Human Sciences: Essays on language, action and interpretation, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 197-221.

14 John D. Caputo (1987) Radical Hermeneutics: Repetition, Deconstruction and the Hermeneutic Project, Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press. 

15 For more information on ‘Deconstruction’ see: Jacques Derrida (2013) Of Grammatology, Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, pp. 27-73.

Picture: Giacomo Balla, 'Pessimismo e Ottimismo', Flickr, Roger,