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Orientation and Judgment in Hermeneutics

This book provides an innovative approach to meeting the challenges faced by philosophical hermeneutics in interpreting an ever-changing and multicultural world. Rudolf A. Makkreel proposes an orientational and reflective conception of interpretation in which judgment plays a central role. Moving beyond the dialogical approaches found in much of contemporary hermeneutics, he focuses instead on the diagnostic use of reflective judgment, not only to discern the differentiating features of the phenomena to be understood, but also to orient us to the various meaning contexts that can frame their interpretation.

Makkreel develops overlooked resources of Kant’s transcendental thought in order to reconceive hermeneutics as a critical inquiry into the appropriate contextual conditions of understanding and interpretation. He shows that a crucial task of hermeneutical critique is to establish priorities among the contexts that may be brought to bear on the interpretation of history and culture. The final chapter turns to the contemporary art scene and explores how orientational contexts can be reconfigured to respond to the ways in which media of communication are being transformed by digital technology. Altogether, Makkreel offers a promising way of thinking about the shifting contexts that we bring to bear on interpretations of all kinds, whether of texts, art works, or the world.

Author Information

Rudolf A. Makkreel is the Charles Howard Candler Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Emory University. He is the author of Dilthey: Philosopher of the Human Studies and Imagination and Interpretation in Kant, the latter published by the University of Chicago Press, and coeditor of Dilthey’s Selected Works.


Orientation and Judgment in Hermeneuticsis a momentous and significant book, not only for the philosophical discipline of hermeneutics but also, because of its impeccable clarity, for a much larger audience. It is, above all, a synthetic work, Makkreel’s own original contribution to hermeneutics in the global world of the twenty-first century.”
— Rodolphe Gasché, University at Buffalo, State University of New York

“In this insightful inquiry, seasoned scholar Makkreel reassesses and refines Dilthey’s conception of the human sciences—but also Kant’s hermeneutically relevant theory of reflective judgment—in order to develop an orientational and reflective form of hermeneutics that addresses the new challenges of interpretation in our multicultural and digital age.”
— Jean Grondin, Université de Montréal

“In this book, Makkreel offers fresh and new insights into the problems of philosophical hermeneutics. What we need today more than ever is ‘orientation’ in our judgments on an increasingly complex and differentiated world. On the basis of his long-standing hermeneutic work on philosophy’s classics, he takes us on an unprecedented backwards journey through texts of Gadamer, Heidegger, Dilthey, Hegel, and Kant.”
— Angelica Nuzzo, Graduate Center and Brooklyn College, CUNY

“Makkreel is already well known as one of the leading scholars of the history of hermeneutics, but in addition he has always been an original thinker of hermeneutics as such.This bookdraws together Makkreel’s own hermeneutical thinking as developed over many years, and does so in a way that provides both a unified vision of hermeneutics in its philosophical context and of hermeneutics in its historical development. . . . While Makkreel’sOrientation and Judgment in Hermeneuticsis indeed a valuable and significant work in its own right, providing an intriguing and innovative elaboration of hermeneutics from a Kantian-Diltheyan perspective, what is perhaps most interesting about it is precisely the topological direction that it opens up, but only partly begins to explore. Makkreel’s work, like Figal’s, thus provokes a set of further questions concerning, not only hermeneutics, but the very relation betweenhermeneueinandtopos. Could it be, for instance, that hermeneutics is essentially topology–and what would that mean?”
— Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

“Makkreel’s book is full of interesting exegetical and philosophical discussion of major themes in the development of philosophical hermeneutics since Kant. . . . A new account that can better address the complex problems of interpretation and understanding in our own time. This book is a welcome step in that direction.”
— Journal of the History of Philosophy

Orientation and Judgment in Hermeneuticsstands out as one of the most insightful and provocative books of its kind in recent years. . . . With remarkable lucidity, Makkreel re-inscribes the Kantian power of critique and self-criticism within the interpretive dynamic of a contextualized understanding.”
— Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology

"Discerning and thought-provoking....Makkreel unfolds in Orientation and Judgment in Hermeneutics a significant alternative conception of hermeneutics that reconceives its universal-contextual, ontological-ontic, and philosophical character. As such, this work will be essential reading for anyone trying to come to grips with the scope and limits of interpretation within our contemporary hermeneutical situation, and it will need to be seriously considered by exponents of other interpretations of hermeneutics."
— Research in Phenomenology

" Orientation and Judgment in Hermeneutics is a particularly thought-provoking contribution to the literature of hermeneutics....It will continue to generate extensive, widespread and welcome discussion."
— Continental Philosophy Review

Audience: Professional and scholarly;