Bedeutsamkeit. Über einen verkannten Grundbegriff religionsphilosophischer Hermeneutik und seine systematische Neufassung bei Paul Ricoeur

Mit dem Begriff „Bedeutsamkeit“ wird eine vage Bedeutung assoziiert, der aber ein besonderer Wert, eine besondere Tiefe, Wichtigkeit oder Tragweite zugesprochen wird, die über das qualitative Bewusstsein gefühlt oder erahnt wird. Daher sah man in der Bedeutsamkeit lange Zeit etwas bloß Subjektives o...

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Bibliographic Details
Main Author: Trusheim, Jens
Contributors: Korsch, Dietrich (Prof. Dr. ) (Thesis advisor)
Format: Doctoral Thesis
Language:German
Published: Philipps-Universität Marburg 2021
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The term “Bedeutsamkeit“ (significance) is (obviously) related to the term “Bedeutung” (meaning) but in contrast to this, its meaning seems to be both vaguer (significance as meaningfulness) and more important (momentousness). It does not denote the meaning of something but rather expresses what it means to somebody. Therefore it can be translated as significance, importance, or remarkableness. Something significant may be vague in its meaning but it seems to have a special value or importance, a “deeper” meaning or scope that is felt, anticipated, intuited, suspected, or evaluated by “qualitative thought” (J. Dewey). Therefore, and because it expresses what something means to somebody, significance was often seen as something merely subjective or psychological, while meaning was considered to be determinable in an objective way. Early analytical philosophy asserted an insurmountable contradiction between objective facts and mere subjective feelings. But since the demise of logical positivism, the turn towards pragmaticism and ordinary language, and the critique of an alleged “view from nowhere” (Th. Nagel) this has changed considerably. Regarding the history of the concept, the term can be seen in aesthetics and historical studies, which is why A. Schopenhauer differentiates between the “inner” (or “inward”), aesthetic significance of a work of art (as “contentfulness”) and the “outer” (or “outward”) significance, when consequences can be observed in history (as momentous). In theories of symbol and myth (Fr. Creuzer, H. Blumenberg), significance is often understood according to Kant's definition of an aesthetic idea, by which he understands “a presentation of the imagination which prompts much thought, but to which no determinate thought whatsoever, i.e., no [determinate] concept can be adequate, so that no language can express it completely and allow us to grasp it” (Kant, Critique of Judgement, § 49). P. Ricœur also follows this path in his famous phrase: “the symbol gives rise to thought”. Something significant arouses interest, provokes thoughts and ideas. The concept receives influential attention in the works of W. Dilthey who emphasizes the connection to the concept of “Erleben” or “Erlebnis”, which refers to qualitative experiences from a first-person perspective. In contrast to third-person experiences (“Erfahrung”), these qualitative experiences have to be articulated in expressions that can only be adequate to a certain degree but can never express their whole significance. Dilthey sees a second dimension of the concept in the hermeneutic circle of a whole and its parts. A part, e.g. a chapter, word or expression is significant when it has the capacity to disclose, reveal or establish a new totality or thematic interconnections or horizons. Since expressions can be articulated in art or in action, these can be interpreted as expressions of a view of life as a whole. In contrast, M. Heidegger does not see B. as something that is remarkable, something that is emphasized or stands out existentially. On the contrary, for him, significance is a quality of everyday life. It denotes an implicit pragmatic knowledge of how things have to be treated or used. R. Brandom shows the intersubjective-linguistic background that this kind of pre-cognitive knowledge has in Heidegger. This knowledge of the self-evident everyday lifeworld (Lebenswelt) is the permanent basis of all cognition and knowledge on a "higher” level. When we are confronted with information (e.g. scientific results) we have to find out what their significance, what they “mean” to us, what kind of consequences they have to everyday life. In the case of P. Ricœur, of course, the German term does not play any role, but the correlating problem is all the more important. The early Ricœur analyzes (also from the point of view of Freudian psycho-analysis) above all symbols and myths in which a “language of meaning” is connected to a “language of power”. They are understood and justified by the way in which they are constituted and schematized. Therefore, in this first model, significance is the result of an “aesthetics of production”: it expresses and reveals subjectivity, the unconscious, or even the essence of “being”. In contrast, in his theories of metaphor and narrative, the later Ricœur concentrates on the astonishing but decisive fact that we can understand linguistic expressions even if their meaning cannot be based on the constitution of their components or derived from them: even two randomly combined words can sometimes be understood as metaphors and do not need to be justified either from their linguistic elements or from transcendental or psycho-analytical schemes. This is the reason why it is in turn also possible for experiences, worldviews, and self-concepts to be “figurated” linguistically or from mimetic text structures; a narrative constitution of identity thus becomes possible. In this second model, significance is an effect of reception and conditioned by situation and context and not the result of the way the meaning of symbols and myths is constituted. Both models bear witness to a “surplus of meaning” and complement each other. The concept of significance is indispensable for understanding religion because religious experiences are just as significant as religious symbols or texts. This seems to contradict a theory of religion that understands religion as a construed “interpretation of life” (Lebensdeutung) in a constructionist way. In the sense of a post-Kantian, critical epistemology, it refers to the fact that all religious ideas are brought about by a transcendental subject. Epistemological constructivism is right in pointing to the fact that religious interpretations and worldviews are cultural products just as any other interpretation. But we must not forget that they interpret significant experiences which are not merely constructed. Secondly, even though a pre-reflective self-consciousness must always be presupposed and cannot be derived from communicative intersubjectivity, it is only fully realized by significant experiences and interactions. This is why religions do not understand themselves as merely human but as divine revelations. We call experiences, symbolic expressions, and texts significant when they clarify and deepen subjectivity and the understanding of life and world. Thirdly, significant expressions such as biblical texts or religious songs and rituals have to prove themselves to be significant in everyday practice and in understanding life and world.