DOI: 10.1177/09526951231194192 ISSN:

Horizons of Passion: Hermeneutics as fusion or as fracture

David Liakos
  • History and Philosophy of Science
  • History

How can a post-Christian, secular audience understand the devoutly Christian, sacred music of Johann Sebastian Bach's St. Matthew Passion? This article addresses this question with reference to the hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer and Hans Blumenberg. Their confrontation reveals broad implications for the theory of humanistic interpretation at large. Gadamer celebrates Bach as a ‘classical’ touchstone of Western culture whom we may productively interpret through a ‘fusion of horizons’. Blumenberg, by contrast, cautions that our relation to Bach's Passion is fractured because it is impossible to ‘pace off the horizon’. Blumenberg emphasizes the first-person experience of the diminution of historical meaning, a position this article calls ‘shattered hermeneutics’. The article concludes that Blumenberg's interpretation of Bach and his critique of Gadamer thereby usefully and plausibly deepen and radicalize hermeneutics.

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