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David W. Congdon @dwcongdon
, 10 tweets, 2 min read Read on Twitter
1. Time for a rant thread. There are few things I loathe more than the claim that an interpretation of some beloved classical thinker or text is "biased" or "eisegesis." There's a lot going on in such claims that needs unpacking.
2. First of all, these claims assume the illusion of an unbiased interpretation, as if there is the "real" text or person lying "out there" for everyone to objectively see and admire. This doesn't exist and never has. As Barth says, "there is no exegesis without eisegesis."
3. These charges often falsely appeal to authorial intention ("that author/person wouldn't have authorized this reading"). First, meaning is not exhausted by an author's intentions. Second, attempts to claim what that author would say now are speculative projections.
4. Within theology such charges tend to arise when the interpretation is explicitly political, because of the assumed bifurcation between the spiritual and the material. Something is edifying so long as it appears apolitical, even though nothing is actually apolitical.
5. More accurately, these charges of "bias" and "distortion" appear when the interpretation is politically leftist or leans left. If it remains on the right, then it's still edifying. Why? Because the spiritual or conservative interpretation maintains the status quo.
6. Never mind whether the thinker or text in question has politically left possibilities. A conservative/spiritualized reading can largely appear apolitical since it affirms the dominant social structures, which are invisible unless named and scrutinized.
7. To take just one example, when Friedrich-Wilhelm Marquardt interpreted Barth as a socialist whose politics we should follow today, his Habilitationsschrift was rejected and he had to change universities.
8. Is Marquardt's reading the "true" or "real" Barth? Is the apocalyptic Paul the "real" Paul of Tarsus? Is the apophatic Kierkegaard the "real" Kierkegaard? To even ask these questions seriously is to make a hermeneutical error.
9. Interpretation is the art of the possible. We venture into the life and work of another and emerge with a creation that is neither wholly theirs nor yours but lives in the dynamic interstice between the two.
10. We all disagree with certain interpretations. It's the job of scholars to debate these matters, and we must. But let's not impugn the integrity of others by calling their work eisegesis as if there's any other kind of interpretation. END RANT
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