International Philosophical Quarterly


published on May 14, 2022

Matthew McWhorter

Interpreting Aquinas: Resources from Gadamer’s Hermeneutics

Certain teachings found in Gadamer’s hermeneutics (especially as presented in his major work Truth and Method) are examined in order to help cultivate the historically-minded theological methodology proposed by Thomistic thinker Benedict Ashley. Consideration is given to four Gadamerian themes mentioned in Ashley’s introduction to Theologies of the Body: (1) Interpretation is an intellectual inquiry that can be enriched by adopting hermeneutic reflection where such reflection is understood as a kind of a contemplative meta-praxis. (2) Interpretation as the search for understanding involves a heuristic process. (3) Hermeneutic reflection facilitates an interpreter becoming aware that the work of interpretation itself occurs within a historical context. (4) The process of interpretation is incomplete without the contemporary application of what is understood. With respect to each of these four themes, Ashley’s work is considered first and then the same topics are considered as found in the writings of Gadamer.