Hermeneutics and the Ancient Philosophical Legacy: Hermeneia and Phronesis

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Hermeneutics as we understand it today is an essentially modern phenomenon. The chapter presents observations that illustrate some of the central ways in which the modern and late modern phenomena of philosophical hermeneutics relate to the ancient philosophical legacy. First, the roots of hermeneutics are traced to ancient views on linguistic, textual, and sacral interpretation. The chapter then looks at certain fundamentally unhermeneutic elements of the Platonic, Aristotelian, and Augustinian “logocentric” theory of meaning that philosophical hermeneutics and its heirs sought to call into question, reconsider, and deconstruct. Augustine's De doctrina christiana can be regarded as an epitome and culmination of the ancient protohermeneutic heritage, theological as well as philological. Finally, Aristotle's practical philosophy, particularly the notion of phronesis, “practical insight”, is designated as an implicit ancient prototype of hermeneutic thinking, the reappropriation of which lay at the core of the Heideggerian and Gadamerian philosophical projects.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Blackwell Companion to Hermeneutics
EditorsNiall Keane, Chris Lawn
Place of PublicationMalden
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781118529812
ISBN (Print)9781118529637
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes
Publication typeA3 Book chapter

Publication series

NameBlackwell Companions to Philosophy
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons


  • hermeneutics
  • philosophical hermeneutics
  • continental philosophy
  • ancient philosophy
  • history of philosophy
  • philosophy of language
  • Plato
  • Aristotle
  • Augustine of Hippo
  • Martin Heidegger
  • Hans-Georg Gadamer
  • interpretation


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