> >If we have to assign a label, I think "hermeneuticists" is more
> This is something I don't know much about. What is the difference between
> hermeneut and a humanist? Is a hermeneut a specific kind of humanist? If
> not, how do they differ? I was under the impression that hermeneutics is
> hundreds of years old, and constitutes the art of interpretation-- sounds
> like one of the humanities to me. But below, you seem to treat it as a
> successor to science, a task for which it does not seem well suited.
"Humanist" I think can refer to any tendency to emphasize humanity over
against some other focus, and this could apply to anything from the spirit
of the Renaissance to Ed Asner and the People for the American Way. Under
such a broad tent, even the scientific orientation of modernity could be
classified as "humanist," inasmuch as it has grown out of an orientation
that seeks to explain empirical phenomena by human observation and without
recourse to God as a ready-to-hand category. "Hermeneutics," in popular
usage, does indeed refer to methods of interpreting texts. But in
philosophical hermeneutics, it has an application at once broader and more
specific. Since Schleiermacher, it has referred to the general
understanding of understanding, and hence goes beyond the interpretation of
texts (whether that is conceived as an art or whatever) to form a
subcategory of epistemology.
> >This is an interesting observation. It is similar to the point made by
> >the "microhistorians" (e.g., Carlo Ginzburg, Giovanni Levi) who are
> >reacting to what they perceive as the hegemony in historiography of
> >science analysis. They focus on history on the smallest scale--the lives
> >of small villages or even of individuals--without denying that
> >observations on the largest scale, the domain of social science analysis
> >and its models, are useful.
> Well, as an anthropologist, perhaps we were among the offenders. :-)
> But our particular group focused on small-scale analysis, too (in my case,
> small rural estates), and found social science analysis useful at that
> level as well.
But you probably focused on the small-scale primarily as a type, or an
instantiation of a more general principle. The microhistorians in fact
focus on the individual qua individual, believing that individual experience
is historically legitimate in itself, and not simply as a local
manifestation of a larger rule.
> >I saw that in another post that you referenced Kuhn. Do you place any
> >stockat all in his suggestion that all empirical observation, which is
> >bedrock of a scientific method, already takes place within a larger
> >paradigm that is not subject to methodological control?
> First, I like Kuhn's book, and consider it foundational to my philosophy
> science, along with Hempel, Popper, and Imre Lakatos. However, I can
> scarcely recognize him in your characterization. Nothing is beyond
> methodological control, once the importance of placing it under
> methodological control becomes clear. One way his scientific revolutions
> might be described is that a paradigm gets overturned when it becomes
> increasingly apparent that certain important phenomena have not been
> subject to methodological control.
i.e., are not explainable under the old paradigm. We have different
readings of both Kuhn and Lakatos. I take it that both Kuhn's "paradigm"
and Lakatos's "hard core" are indeed subject to change in the face of
observation of novel facts, but not in the same way that observations are
made or theories formed from within the paradigm or in relation to the hard
core. As I understand it, paradigms are overturned in view of anomalies,
but not by application to the anaomalies of a method previously at work in
the old paradigm. A new paradigm, with new methods, is proposed. This is
why the shift is a "revolution," and not simply a growth or expansion of the
paradigm, and why such revolutions are usually brought about when the
proponents of the old paradigm retire or are otherwise off the scene.
Paradigms don't shift by application of method to anomalies, but by the
introduction of an entirely new paradigm, a new way of viewing things, which
introduces new methods. The methodological control you say is necessary for
a revolution to occur sounds like it is in fact paradigm-independent, a
meta-method for controlling paradigms but not itself relative to any
paradigm. I understand Kuhn to say that there is no such meta-method.
>I have been wanting to read more of Freyne's
> work. However, this sounds like it falls into the PoMo conceit of treating
> the texts as the only reality. I regard the texts only as evidence (good,
> bad, or indifferent) for actual historical events. For me, the texts are
> the means to an end, not an end in themselves (so far as historical Jesus
> research is concerned.)
Not every reference to or concern for "narrative" is an attempt to limit
reality to texts. (BTW, this is a good reason for dropping the "postmodern"
moniker. I don't use it because it has ceased to be descriptive, if it ever
was, and has become political, blamed by some for everything from nihilism
to bad breath. It's too often facilely associated with postructuralism and
deconstruction, but I know some who want to accept the postmodern label
while having nothing to do with deconstruction.) Freyne suggests that the
narrative context of the sources be our point of departure for understanding
the discreet data of the sources (e.g., individual sayings or pericopae).
Of course, though this context is primary, it is not exclusive, for limiting
oneself to the narrative of the source would not yet be doing history.
Seeing the context of the sources as essential (though not final) is
opposed to a form- or tradition-critical orientation that treats individual
units of tradition as completely detachable from their contexts, and so
scruntizes them, in what has been called an "atomistic" fashion. This
approach assumes that the data can even be understood individually, apart
from some larger whole. I think the fact is that the individual data always
have their sense in the context of a larger whole, and if they are wrested
from the whole of their narrative contexts, they will be given a sense in
some other context, and that usually the tacit one of the interpreter's
prefered picture of Jesus.
But even if the context of the sources is our point of departure for
understanding the individual data, to remain with this context for
understanding the data would not be to do history. Other contexts must be
brought to bear, such as Crossan's macro- and meso- levels. Unfortunately,
Crossan employs these other contexts only after sorting the data into
"authentic" and "nonauthentic" categories, which determinations he has made
by treating the data as individual units without consideration for the
narrative contexts within which the units have their sense. This he claims
he can do by application of his method of stratification and multiple
attestation to tradition complexes. But what Freyne is approaching, and
what I think is essential, is that the individual data cannot even be
understood apart from a sense-making context, and the appropriate historical
context with which to begin (though not necessarily end) is the context in
which the data come to us, teh narrative context of the sources.
> This raises a question in my mind that perhaps you can help me understand:
> Christian conservatives are regularly criticized for "privileging" the NT
> canon over against non-canonical works. If we adopt texts as our only
> reality, then do we not fall prey to the same criticism? The only
> difference being which texts we choose to privilege?
Of course, doing history does not allow us to privilege any particular
source simply on the basis that it is in the canon. And texts are not the
"only reality," but they must be the first context within which the data are
understood, because they are the contexts within which the data come to us.
> >Philosopher-historian David Carr has written on the narrative nature of
> >experience in his Husserlian phenomenological analysis in _Time,
> >and History_. Both of these may be ways of taking account of the
> >contextual nature of the hsitorical data.
> Is "contextual" a synonym for "idiosyncratic"?
> I'm still not clear about why historical data is any more "contextual"
> any other data.
They aren't. But the nature of the historical object, which I am taking to
be human action, is such that it has an irreducibly narrative component.
Carr has examined the narrative quality of temporal experience. He has
shown that human actions are performed within a "narrative" in the sense of
a story we tell ourselves to account for our experience as temporal. Our
actions are purposeful in that they are embedded in our narratives, and are
contextual in the same sense. The historical object consists in human
actions that were acted out of this narrative-contextual purpose, and the
historian is concerned to discover the sense-making narrative behind
(within) the actions in history.
Recognizing this narrative quality of experience, and the resulting
irreducibly narrative quality of history, though significant, is in one way
not particularly revolutionary in HJ studies, because Jesus scholars haven't
much been involved in the larger historiographic debate on whether narrative
is essential for history or whether it can be dispensed with, reduced to
some other means of undestanding such as the quantification of the social
sciences approaches that marked the heyday of "cliometrics" in the 1960's.
HJ scholars have pretty much always gone about their task narratively. But
I think there are other ramifications of Carr's observations that may have
greater methodological effect in HJ studies. At the very least, it will
qualify the way we understand the application of social sciences or any tool
that explains the particular action or event by reference to a general law.
If what we are after is the understanding of actions in terms of the
narrative sense by which they were performed, any subsuming of those actions
under generalities will have to be pursued loosely and with a close eye on
the particulars of the narrative.