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Balkan Journal of Philosophy

Volume 3, Issue 1, 2011

The Dialogue between Analytic and Continental Philosophy

Scott O'Leary
Pages 111-122

Reconsidering Authorial Intention - Perspectives From Continental And Analytic Tradition

Paul Ricoeur’s narrative and critical hermeneutics provides the conceptual resources to accommodate Barthes’ and similar critiques of subjectivity while positing a revised form of authorial intention similar to the “postulated author” of Alexander Nehamas and the “creative process” of Richard Wollheim. Though influenced by Barthian critiques, all three thinkers retain a notion of authorial intent*one distinct from the intentions of the historical author*necessary for the understanding of meaning in the philosophy of literature. Yet, the implications of this allow us to reverse the Ricoeurian insight of understanding human action as a text, and show how human action provides clarification on authorial intention. Using Ricoeur and Nehamas, I would like to revisit the issue of authorial intention in order to show the insights this offers for hermeneutics and philosophy of literature. If authorial intention is properly reestablished as distinct from the intentions of the historical writer, we can turn to a minimalistic version of the analytic philosophy of action based on Ricoeur and Carlos Moya to provide a useful heuristic conceptual framework to look at both authorial and ‘readerly’ intention. In employing the philosophy of action, this conceptual framework will be used instrumentally in aid of interpreting the text and providing further analysis and conceptual clarity to the notion of authorial intention. Further, analyzing ‘writerly’ and ‘readerly’ intention as action*communicative action*sidesteps the philosophical issue of the ‘artistic process’ which had absorbed the attention of aesthetics since Plato, without sidestepping the issues of authorial intention and readerly intention.1 I will argue that in using variants of the philosophy of action, we can ignore psychological issues and instead focus on the broader issues of meaning-expression at the heart of both readerly and writerly intention. I will then demonstrate this heuristic framework using Hölderlin’s epic poetry and Blanchot’s The Writing of the Disaster.

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