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American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 78, Issue 4, Fall 2004

John Arthos
Pages 581-608

“The Word is not Reflexive”
Mind and World in Aquinas and Gadamer

Hans-Georg Gadamer’s appropriation of Augustine’s analogy of the inner word, the verbum interius, is by now a well-known theme in philosophical hermeneutics. But what has received scarcely any attention is the Thomist side of Gadamer’s appropriation. Two thirds of Gadamer’s analysis of the verbum interius in his magnum opus, Truth and Method, is devoted to Aquinas, who employs Augustine’s verbum in developing a theory of the mind. In particular, Gadamer gives great emphasis to the Thomist insistence on the “non-reflective” character of the inner word. Both Gadamer and Aquinas in their different historical contexts needed to combat subjectivism, which is what Aquinas is doing by insisting on the non-reflective character of the inner word. In this paper I examine this point of convergence to understand why their anti-subjectivism created such a deep common accord, and how this relates their projects to each other. How is the Scholastic involvement of the mind in the world analogous to the circular relation between language and understanding in hermeneutics, and where is the diff erence?