The Life of Understanding

The Life of Understanding

A Contemporary Hermeneutics
James Risser
Distribution: World
Publication date: 7/4/2012
Format: cloth 154 pages
6 x 9
ISBN: 978-0-253-00214-3
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In Gadamer’s hermeneutics, interpretation is inseparable from the broader concern of making one’s way in life. In this book, James Risser builds on this insight about the juxtaposition of human living and the act of understanding by tracing hermeneutics back to the basic experience of philosophy as defined by Plato. For Risser, Plato provides resources for new directions in hermeneutics and new possibilities for “the life of understanding” and “the understanding of life.” Risser places Gadamer in dialogue with Plato, with the issue of memory as a conceptual focus. He develops themes pertaining to hermeneutics such as retrieval as a matter of convalescence, exile as a venture into the foreign, formation with respect to oneself and to life with others, the experience of language in hermeneutics, and the relationship between speaking and writing.

Author Bio

James Risser is Professor of Philosophy at Seattle University. He is the author of Hermeneutics and the Voice of the Other: Re-reading Gadamer's Philosophical Hermeneutics and editor of Heidegger Toward the Turn: Essays on the Work of the 1930s. He is editor (with Walter Brogan) of American Continental Philosophy: A Reader (IUP, 2000).


"More than enriching or clarifying issues in current debates, James Risser's work pushes hermeneutics toward a genuinely new stage of development." —Theodore George, Texas A&M University

"The brevity of the book as a whole and the shortness of each piece . . . and the fact that they are only loosely connected is one of its great strengths. . . . Each piece is a real hermeneutic treat with rich, suggestive, and non-reductive analyses that in their content and methodology resist the simple summary that is of necessity, unfortunately, called for in a review.

" —Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"Risser's style is clear and engaging without falling into the jargon of the theorists with whom he is working. . . . Recommended." —Choice

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Table of Contents

Platonic Gestures
1. Memory and Life: Hermeneutics as Convalescence
2. Distressed Memory: Hermeneutics and the Venture of the Foreign
3. Beyond Distress: Toward a Community of Memory
4. The Fabric of Life: Dialectics, Discourse, and the Art of Weaving
5. Severed Threads: The Incapacity of Language
6. Reading beyond the Letter: On Memory and Writing
7. The Flash of Beauty