Spirituality, fruit of walking, by Angelo Cannata

7 Hermeneutics and spirituality

Hermeneutics is a fruitful method for spirituality

As explained in the previous article, let’s get better in spirituality from a semantic point of view, that is of its meanings, as an alternative to what we have seen so far, that is its structures. As a completion of what we already said, we add that a key way to pay attention to the meanings is hermeneutics. “Hermeneutics” means “reading key”, which is used to interpret, so it can also mean right “interpretation”. In other words, it means choosing a meaning and adopting it to examine other meanings. To be clear, let’s keep in mind that the vocabulary is the book of meanings: there I look for a word and I am given the meaning. I can make a game with the vocabulary: I choose a word and I use it to highlight certain aspects of the meaning of other words. For example, I can take the word “politics” and use it to highlight particular shades of meaning of other words. If I find, for example, the word “food”, then I will notice that the search for food involves political struggles. By doing this, I have used the word “politics” as a hermeneutic to interpret other words. “Hermeneutics” can also be understood as a “search for sense” or senses. In the previous example, it risults that an important sense of food is to function not only to feed, but also to give birth to political movements.

By generalizing this approach, I can decide to approach to spirituality from an hermeneutic point of view, that is trying to investigate its sense or its senses. Obviously this work will be a child of the one already made by philosophers throughout the whole history of philosophy. In the history of philosophy they have already worked a lot on search for sense and senses. The present result of this work consists in the knowledge that the sense must be searched taking into account the limits of subjectivity of this search and, consequently, its pluralism. To clarify this, let’s go back to the previous example, in which I had chosen the word “politics” as hermeneutics. Faced with this choice, one may ask: but why choose just politics as hermeneutics? It is obvious that behind the choice of a hermeneutic we have the personal feeling of the doer, the feelings of his time and of the place in which he lives, etc. These are the limits of subjectivity. It follows from here that other people might prefer other words as hermeneutics: this is pluralism.

By applying all this to spirituality, it follows that it will be interpreted taking into account that we are not talking about “the” sense of spirituality, but about one of its senses. In other words, we must always be alert to the temptation of using the definite article (the), when it can be closer to the human condition, in which we are in this world, to use the indefinite article (a, an, etc.).



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This post was published on 8 May 2016
Last update: 8 May 2016.