Mist&CloudsInHomer'sIliad 2001.pdf

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Published in Existentia, a journal of classical and hermeneutical studies, vol. XI, pp. 277-296, 2001

Praxis Hermeneutika
A Study in the Obscuring of the Divine:
Mists and Clouds in Homer's Iliad.
D. Wyatt Aiken
It is a daunting task to challenge intellectual traditions in the Academe. To rethink, even in the most
modest fashion, the great texts of our western intellectual heritage would seem at once to bring into
question the ongoing appropriateness and/or correctness of the interpretive traditions accompanying
those texts, and, even more arrogantly and unforgiveably, tantamount to casting an interrogating
glance into the integrity of the philosophical assumptions weaving their web behind the various
hermeneutical methodologies.
The first step in extracting significance from an historical text is to lay-out [aus-legen] the
text, to listen first to its original voice, and then in a second, perhaps more pedagogical step, to
interpret the text in and to different cultural circumstances. The question of history, or History,1
certainly encloses a methodological tension, which reveals itself not so much in the practical
examination of specific texts, but rather in the general philosophical assumptions the historical
hermeneut brings with him to the text. This speculative Ausgangspunkt, “which already sanctions
prior to any actual historical consideration a philosophical distinction between acceptable (rational)
and unacceptable (ir-rational) experiences of the world, shall also actively influence the process of
historical re-membering, and thus History itself as the final product of that process.” (Aiken
Now although it may certainly become an element of a later hermeneutical Ausgangspunkt,
an historical inference is initially a posteriori in nature, for it derives from a corpus of evidence. A
philosophical premise, on the other hand, which the hermeneut brings with him to the text, is per
force a priori. Yet in practice philosophical premises seem inevitably to stand alone in determining
the confines of intellectually plausible experiences of the world, and such premises will of course
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