Rowman and Littlefield International

Homo Interpretans

Towards a Transformation of Hermeneutics

By Johann Michel, David Pellauer, and Hans Joas

7 Reviews

Leading contemporary philosopher Johann Michel offers an innovative reflection on the human being. The book presents an interdisciplinary study that engages philosophy, sociology and anthropology, offering a systematic analysis of the phenomenon of interpretation.

Hardback ISBN: 9781786608826 Release date: Apr 2019
£90.00 €126.00 $135.00
Paperback ISBN: 9781786608833 Release date: Apr 2019
£29.95 €41.95 $44.95
Ebook ISBN: 9781786608840 Release date: Apr 2019
£29.95 €41.95 $42.50

Pages: 316


When do we interpret? That is the question at the heart of this important new work by Johann Michel. The human being does not spend his time interpreting in everyday life. We interpret when we are confronted with a blurred, confused, problematic sense. Such is the originality of the author's perspective which removes the anthropological interdict that has hampered hermeneutics since Heidegger. Michel proposes an anthropology of homo interpretans as the first and founding principle of fundamental ontology (relating to the meaning of being) as well as of the theory of knowledge (relating to interpretation in the human sciences). He argues that the root of hermeneutics lies in ordinary interpretative techniques (explication, clarification, unveiling), rather than as a set of learned technologies applied to specific fields (texts, symbols, actions).

Acknowledgements / Introduction / Part I: The Ordinary Disclosure of the World / 1. The Problem of Meaning and the Opening to the World / 2. The Lifeworld and the Mirror of Meaning / 3. The Production of Meaning and the Transformation of the World / Part II: The Scholarly Deciphering of Signs / 4. The Infinite and the Relative / 5. Being and Method / 6. The Text and Action / Index

Johann Michel is Professor at the University of Poitiers and is affiliated with the EHESS in Paris. He is member of the scientific council of the Fonds Ricoeur and member of the Institut Universitaire de France. Specialist of hermeneutics and social theory, he is author of many books in French, translated into several languages, including Ricoeur and the Post-Structuralists.

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7 Reviews

Homo Interpretans is a most significant contribution to the theory of interpretation that at the same time rather uniquely demonstrates this theory’s practical contemporary import and ongoing implications for daily life. The emphases that interpretation is not individual but social and also creative and enabling are additional signal assets. The book deserves separate commendation for its interdisciplinarity.

George H. Taylor, Professor of Law, University of Pittsburgh

This book is the most ambitious and most comprehensive new approach in the area of hermeneutics.

Hans Joas, Ernst Troeltsch Professor for the Sociology of Religion at the Humboldt University of Berlin

This well-researched and carefully argued book provides an ambitiously comprehensive and multi-leveled account of interpretation. Drawing on a wide variety of philosophical sources and on multiple disciplines of the natural and social sciences, Johann Michel renews the hermeneutic tradition by showing its relevance to an impressive range of contemporary practices.

Richard Shusterman, Author of Surface and Depth: Dialectics of Criticism and Culture

This book courageously defends a philosophical anthropology that heralds the specificity of the human condition in its multifaceted capacity of interpretation and thus renews for the 21st century the universal scope of hermeneutics.

Jean Grondin, Professor of Philosophy, Université de Montréal

Johann Michel makes an ambitious bid to claim interpretation as a fundamental competence of being itself, pushing the scope of interpretation beyond Western, beyond textual, beyond even human perspectives into interpretive regions not yet accounted for. Although anchored in an anthropological perspective, Michel opens wide the trans- and interdisciplinary frontiers to bring hermeneutic inquiry into the era of postlinguistic, posthumanist learning. Although known primarily for his work on Paul Ricoeur, Michel makes a case for the universality of interpretation beyond textual hermeneutics. This is not a work of secondary scholarship, but a paradigm argument, a programmatic case for interpretation as one of the basic competencies of organic life and a primary approach for the human sciences. David Pellauer’s English translation is, as usual, graceful, vigorous, and clear.

John Arthos, Associate Professor of English, Indiana University

This book revives the hermeneutical question through the impressive mobilization of both its history and positive knowledge by developing an authentic interpretive anthropology. Man, placed in a world that surprises him, interprets because he seeks to know him, to give him meaning and to act within interpreting communities. An original synthesis and an opening on an authentic philosophy of interpretation.

Christian Berner, Professeur des Universités, Université Paris Nanterre

It is important to emphasize that this book is a genuine and rich treasure trove of discussions in anthropology and the sciences in which interpretation and meta-interpretation are assigned their proper place. At many places in the book, the reader is confronted with illuminating and insightful ideas that call for further


Gert-Jan van der Heiden, professor of Metaphysics, Radboud University Nijmegen

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