Hermeneneutics and the social sciences: A Gadamerian critique of Rorty

Inquiry 28 (1-4):339 – 357 (1985)
Richard Rorty challenges the traditional use of hermeneutic understanding to defend the methodological autonomy of the social sciences, claiming that hermeneutics is part of both social and natural science and, moreover, that it exposes the limits of ?epistemologically centered philosophy?. Hermeneutics is interested in edification rather than truth, in finding new ways of speaking rather than adjudicating knowledge claims or securing the grounds of rational consensus. Although Rorty refers to Gadamer's ?philosophical hermeneutics? as support for this position, Gadamer's own analysis points in a different direction. First, it distinguishes the social from the natural sciences as forms of practical, not theoretical, knowledge. As hermeneutic analyses, the social sciences participate in an on?going dialogue about values and forms of life. Second, the goal of this dialogue is cognitive and normative agreement. Indeed, hermeneutics is an act of integration which tries to expand consensus between different cultures and historical perspectives by mediating their claims to truth
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    Charles Taylor (1980). Understanding in Human Science. Review of Metaphysics 34 (1):25 - 38.
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