Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 63 (3):573-586 (2001)
|Abstract||One may have different objectives in interpreting texts. If a judge interprets a statute in order to obtain a satisfactory solution to a case, his aim may be called "applicative". But if a historian of science wants to reconstruct the meaning of obscure passages of Ptolemy's "Hypotheses planetarum", his objectives are purely historical and theoretical. The paper argues that these different aims, applicative and historical ones, require different methodologies of interpretation, and imply different criteria of success. In particular, the "principle of charity" according to which an interpretation is better to the extent that we agree more with what the text as interpreted says, is fitting for applicative interpretations, but not without further qualifications for historical ones. The paper argues further that we should apply the methodology of historical interpretation to the entire body of German texts now available, if we want to interpret Martin Heidegger's philosophical oeuvre, assess its philosophical value, and investigate its links to Nazism. These were the aims of Herman Philipse's book "Heidegger's Philosophy of Being. A Critical Interpretation" (Princeton University Press, 1998, 555 pp.). Criticisms of this book by Taylor Carman and others are often off target because they presuppose applicative interpretations that aim at making Heidegger say things the interpreter believes himself, instead of striving for historical adequacy, and that are based upon a small selection of translations instead of upon the entire corpus of extant German texts|
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