Volume 19, 2019
On Conflict and Violence
Hermeneutic Violence and Interpretive Conflict
Heidegger vs. Cassirer on Kant
The paper aims to rectify the reception of Heidegger’s so-called “hermeneutic violence,” by addressing the under-investigated issue of its actual target and rationale. Since the publication of Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, some of Heidegger’s contemporary readers, such as Cassirer, as well as more recent commentators, accused Heidegger of doing violence to Kant’s and other philosophers’ texts. I show how the rationale of Heidegger’s self-acknowledged violence becomes tenable in light of his personal notes on his Kant book, and of several hermeneutic tenets from Being and Time. The violence at stake turns out to be a genuine method, involving the appropriation (Zueignen) and the elaboration (Ausarbeiten) of an interpreted text. Its target, I argue, is not the text itself, as it was often assumed, but its reception by a community or tradition. Thus, that violence may well instill interpretive conflict, yet its purpose is to salvage a text from a conventional and ossified reception, namely, from what Heidegger regards as the authoritarianism of idle talk (Gerede) in a philosophical milieu.