Review of Reivindicación del Prejuicio como Precomprensión by Alberto F. Roldan

  1. Nombre y apellido del alumno Bert Amsing
  2. Fecha May 20, 2016
  3. Título del texto leído Alberto F. Roldán

            Reivindicación del Prejuício como Precomprensión

  1. ¿De qué trata el artículo o capítulo leído?

Alberto F. Roldán in his paper, “Reivindicación del Prejuício como Precomprensión,” analyzes H.G. Gadamer´s contribution to the discussions and development of the Hermeneutical Circle.

  1. ¿Cuál es la idea central del autor?

Roldán shows that Gadamer’s contributions provide a form of justification of prejudice as a necessary pre-comprehension of the text.  This is in contrast to the earlier position of Schleiermacher and the “subjective interpretation” school of thought “que procura detectar la intención del autor (p. 25).”

  1. ¿De qué nos quiere convencer?

It isn’t clear what Roldán is trying to accomplish with this article but the positive analysis of Gadamer would suggest that he is in favor of his “middle road” where he “alcanzar el punto medio entre la objetividad de la distancia histórica y la pertenencia a una tradición (p. 29).”  Roldán would, apparently, even agree that this approach is normative for exegetes of Scripture when he agrees with Gadamer’s statement that “este punto medio es el verdadero topos de la hermenéutica (p. 29).”  By “topos,” Roldán/Gadamer mean “a standardized method of constructing or treating an argument (i.e. normative).”

  1. ¿Cuáles son los puntos fuertes y los puntos débiles del texto?

The topic that Gadamer treats is very interesting and goes in the direction of an Evangelical understanding of Hermeneutics but there are still problems with his overall approach.  On the one hand, the two critiques mentioned in the text are interesting in so far as they go.   On the other hand, there are presuppositions underlying the entire discussion of the Hermeneutical Circle that is problematic from an Evangelical point of view.
Paul Ricoeur’s comment that Gadamer´s analysis of “del concepto heideggeriano de verdad con el concept diltheyano sobre el método” is one of confrontation is interesting but not conclusive.  At the very least, it must be said that Gadamer himself doesn’t see it that way.  He called his book Truth and Method, not Truth or Method for a reason.  Roldán explains that for Gadamer “la hermenéutica no es un método, como lo es el recurso de la ciencia como tal.  Se trata de la búsqueda de verdad en el que el pasado y el presente se encuentran en continua mediación (p. 25).”  Obviously, “la búsqueda de verdad” is also a method, otherwise it could not be “el verdadero topos de la hermenéutica (p. 29).”  Roldán has it right when he qualifies the concept of method “como los es el recurso de la ciencia como tal (p. 25).”  Exactly.  Previously, there was no clarification of the differences in the form and structure of the Hermeneutic task in terms of the nature of the sources being studied and/or the kind of questions being asked.
In fact, in the opinion of the present author, Gadamer doesn’t go far enough.  Even this distinction is only the first step and further distinctions need to be made.  On the one hand, the nature of the questions being asked will certainly affect the form and structure of the Hermeneutical dialogue.  If Paul Tillich is correct and the questions that we are asking are existential ones, that will change the way the Hermeneutical task is done.  On the other hand, if the questions that we are asking are methodological and historical/literary, it changes the form and structure of the Hermeneutical task significantly.  Both of these approaches in turn represent certain presuppositions and pre-conceived notions about the text and how one should approach it.
Further, there is an approach that may work for all other texts but may have to be modified for the biblical text if the exegete determines on the basis of tradition and personal experience/commitment that there is a supernatural element to the source material that needs to be taken into consideration.  Both positions are useful and should be fully explored and explained since the “dialogue” between the two sides of the debate (classical and new) certainly may learn from each other without violating their respective starting points (in faith/tradition and reason).  The role of the Evangelical philosopher/theologian is not to deny his fundamental presuppositions but to clarify them and extrapolate the distinctive nature of his approach to the Hermeneutic task.
The second critique mentioned in Roldán’s article is also of interest.  He says, “otra cuestión critica radica en saber si efectivamente Gadamer ha podido superar el punto de partida romántico de la hermenéutica moderna (p. 28).”  The question begs the answer in the sense that the question itself assumes that Gadamer (and everyone else) ought to “superar el punto de partida romántica.”  Why?  It is assumed that there is something wrong with their insistence on “nature, myth and tradition.”  Roldán describes why Romanticism must be left behind.  He says, “el romanticismo implica cambios: ya no hay una búsqueda de perfección y liberación de toda forma de superstición, del prejuicio del pasado y, por otra parte, adquieren preeminencia el mundo mitico, la vida en una “sociedad natural”, el mundo de la cabelleria cristiana, aspectos que alcanzan un “hechizo romántico”m8MP. 22).”
Certainly there are aspects of “romanticism” (especially in its German form) that must be questioned, but there is an aspect of it that may also be on the right track (even if for the wrong reason).  Even the term “romanticism” is unfortunate since it places it over and against reason in a negative light.  Perhaps it is deserved, but perhaps, also, the irrationality of “knowing” in the context of relationships (which even today we call “romanticism”) can be salvaged and married to the Reformed Epistemological advances to our understanding of faith as a “way of knowing.”  Taking this approach into our Hermeneutical task may reveal new forms and structures that would contribute to an Evangelical approach to the Hermeneutical task.
Now it’s time to look at the presuppositions underlying the entire discussion of the Hermeneutical Circle and to identify why they are problematic from an Evangelical point of view.  The concept of the hermeneutic circle is “new” and stands over and against the “classical” view of hermeneutics.  Whether we talk about the original concept of Schleiermacher or the modifications and changes of other philosophers such as Dilthey, Heidegger or, even, Gadamer, the foundations of the concept is suspect from an Evangelical point of view.  Roldán points out, for instance, that “la crítica de la Ilustración se dirige primordialmente contra la tradición religiosa del cristianismo y, particularmente, la Sagrada Escritura (p. 22).”  Of course, Gadamer makes some much needed corrections with regards to the concept of “tradition” in the Hermeneutical Circle but even he confuses the tradition of the dogma/doctrine of the church with the Word of God itself.  The position of the Evangelical exegete is that even the tradition of the church stands under the Word of God and is constantly judged by it even as it is honored as the interpretation of the saints who have gone before us.
But there are other problems as well.  Perhaps we should begin with the initial premise of Heidegger that the classical approach represents a “vicious circle” and that we are in need of a “new” manner of doing hermeneutics but that isn’t the focus of this article by Roldán.
Perhaps we should take the opportunity to point out that Schleiermacher “procuró desligar la comprensión del texto bíblico de los condicionamientos doctrinales que, en términos actuales, significan la “clausura del texto” (p. 25).”  Gadamer doesn’t disagree with this analysis, although he invites the reader to go further than Schleiermacher’s “interpretación subjetiva” and find a role for tradition as a source of truth.
Furthermore, Gadamer still admits that “la oposición entre la fe en la autoridad y el uso de la razón, instaurada por la Ilustración, tenía su razón de ser…(p. 24).”  Perhaps the word “oposición” is too strong and the dichotomy between faith and reason too black and white for most Evangelical exegetes.  In addition, it needs to be pointed out that our faith isn’t, first and foremost, in the tradition but in the Word of God that we believe the tradition faithfully reflects.  In addition, not everything in the tradition of the community of believers is accepted as a faithful reflection of the Word of God.
Since these philosophers lump the tradition together with the actual Word of God (since they deny the supernatural nature of the Word of God and, therefore, it is all, to one degree or another, human interpretations of reality and mankind), it isn’t surprising that they fail to make these crucial distinctions.
Finally, when Roldán uses Luther as an example of someone who overthrew the “prejuicios por respeto humano” ó “prejuicios de autoridad (p. 23),” he fails to make a distinction between the authority of a tradition that does not faithfully reflect scripture and one that does.  Luther, and especially Calvin, systematically wrote down a faithful interpretation of Scripture that became the “new” tradition of the church by going back to the “old/original” message.  All of these inaccuracies are not helpful to the Evangelical exegete even though it is understandable that the main referent is the Roman Catholic church (which has a stronger view of tradition as a source of truth).
In conclusion, the pre-disposition of these philosophers against the distinctive, supernatural nature of the Word of God as over and against any other text (a statement of faith arising out of the biblical text itself), their belief that tradition limits rather than reveals the truth of the Scriptures, and the lack of understanding of the true role of tradition in relation to the Scriptures, reflects the fact that these philosophers do not approach the question of Hermeneutics from the position of “reason within the bounds of faith” but rather faith and reason in opposition.  It is understandable, of course, given where they are coming from and what their presuppositions are, but it makes their entire project of limited value for a hermeneutic based on Evangelical traditions and beliefs.

  1. ¿Qué aspectos no entendí?

One thing that I found confusing was the purpose that the author had in writing this article.  On the one hand, it is a solid piece of investigation and accurately describes the justification of certain types of prejudice rooted in a tradition as a pre-comprehension of the biblical text.  So far, so good.  And this particular “openness” to tradition as part of the hermeneutical task is welcome in Evangelical circles.  But where is Roldán?  Where is his opinion?  Where is his analysis from an Evangelical point of view?  As an Evangelical philosopher/theologian, one could wonder whether it would not have been beneficial to have an evaluation of this entire discussion based on Evangelical premises.  Since neutrality is neither possible nor desired, an Evangelical philosopher/theologian would be welcome to use his analytical skills and theological grounding to provide some guidance from the “tradition” of the community of believers for the new generation of students faced with the challenge of liberalism and secularism invading the task of hermeneutics.  Sometimes their literary analysis and epistemological insights are helpful but it takes great wisdom and care to distinguish between the helpful elements and the dangerous ones.  Wisdom and guidance are always welcome.

  1. ¿Cómo se puede aplicar el contenido a la tarea hermenéutica?

I found very little to apply to the hermeneutical task that we don’t already do (and much better) in the Evangelical world with respect to the role of tradition.  In fact, it doesn’t go far enough.  If Gadamer (or Roldán) would have made better distinctions between the tradition and the Word of God and the relationship between them, that would have been interesting and helpful.
One area of further study is the comment by Paul Ricoeur on the concept of the “sujeto herido” (p. 27) “que ya no posee la capacidad para aprehender la verdad y hacerse dueño de ella sino que muestra, siempre, su propia limitación y temporalidad.”  The connection with the Evangelical concept of the “noetic effects of sin” is a tantalizing and interesting connection to pursue.