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D. Z. Phillips

Religion and the Hermeneutics of Contemplation

D.Z. Phillips:
Religion and the hermeneutics of contemplation.
Cambridge – New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
344 pages
ISBN 0-521-00846-8
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The idea of a ›hermeneutics of contemplation‹ refers to Phillips particular proposal as a method in the philosophy of religion. It is a philosophical alternative to the ›hermeneutics of suspicion‹, initiated by Freud, Nietzsche, and Marx – according to Paul Ricoeur – and also to Ricoeur's own ›hermeneutics of recollection‹.

A ›hermeneutics of suspicion‹ is a philosophical interpretation that assumes the falsehood and/or unauthenticity of a thesis and proceed to reveal its allegedly true and authentic foundations. On the contrary, a ›hermeneutics of recollection‹ assumes the truthfulness and/or legitimacy of a thesis and attempts to prove its sense and validity against the ›suspicion‹ of its critics. Thus, a hermeneutics of recollection implies a ›suspicion about suspicion‹ bringing us back to a forgotten or concealed meaning that suspicion alone overlooks or bypasses.

Phillip's hermeneutics of contemplation stands as a ›third way‹ in the middle of the hermeneutics of suspicion and the hermeneutics of recollection, although the author recognizes that his proposal may be seen as a hermeneutics of recollection ›in disguise‹, for its positive consideration of religion, in contrast to the negative one offered by the hermeneutics of suspicion. However, the author attempts to show ›conceptual justice‹ to the claims of both interpretations, without necessarily professing, believing, or defending either one. That is the reason he qualifies his stand as ›contemplative‹, in accord to the philosophical tradition. In this sense, Phillips appeals to Wittgenstein's thought of certain ›coolness‹ that philosophy posseses, by which one can »contemplate the world without meddling with it« (318).

Through its chapters, Religion and the Hermeneutics of Contemplation takes an historical approach to the subject. It starts off with an analysis of ancient Greek religion by Bernard Williams, then turns to Hume, Feuerbach, Marx, Durkheim, and Levy-Bruhl, and ends with Winch's perspective on understanding other cultures, which was strongly influenced by Wittgenstein.

Ruling Barragán Yañez

polylog: Forum for Intercultural Philosophy 4 (2003).
Online: http://lit.polylog.org/4/spdbr-en.htm
ISSN 1616-2943
Author: Ruling Barragán Yañez, Panama City (Panama)
© 2003 Author & polylog e.V.
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