Volume 30, 2018
Hermeneutics and Epistemological Contextualism
The paper analyzes the hermeneutic reflection of Heidegger and Gadamer in the light of contemporary versions of epistemological contextualism, and the departing from a distinction between attributor contextualism and inferential or issue contextualism. According to attributor contextualism, the truth-conditions of knowledge-ascriptions depend on the attributor’s context and its epistemic standards, which can be more or less demanding. In contrast to this position, inferential or issue contextualism claims that epistemic standards depend on the inferential structure of the subject’s context, and there is not a linear hierarchy of contexts ranging from low to high-standards contexts. This latter form of contextualism is congenial to hermeneutics and is discussed on the basis of Wittgenstein’s later philosophy and the work of Michael Williams. In order to illustrate the contextualist implications of hermeneutics, the paper focuses on the following points: the hermeneutic circle; Heidegger’s phenomenology of everydayness; the Gadamerian analysis of the epistemological role of prejudice and tradition; and the account of understanding as a fusion of horizons.