Towards a hermeneutical foundation for liberalism
McLeod, Neal Garnet
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In this thesis, Towards a Hermeneutical Foundation for Liberalism, I want to formulate a theory of liberalism which has a strong theoretical foundation by drawing on hermeneutics to stress pluralism and "embodied" experience. At the same time, I hold that narratives are constrained by objective reality. In both the Greek and modern Enlightenments, there was an apparent paradox, that of objectivity and pluralism, and my thesis attempts to resolve it. In the first chapter, "The Greek Enlightenment, Hermeneutics and a New Foundation for Liberalism," I use Dilthey's idealistic hermeneutics to examine the Greek Enlightenment, arguing that it was essentially a revolution of ideas. Dilthey examined this process of narrative deconstruction / reconstruction to point out the inherent plurality of interpretations of reality. In the second chapter, "Rights, History and Nationhood: Towards a Transhistorical Understanding of Liberalism," I wish to show the idealistic limitations of Dilthey's brand of hermeneutics by arguing that certain interpretations of the Good, such as those found in traditional aboriginal narratives, point to a need material support for the communities concerned. While Kymlicka's (1992) arguments for group rights are persuasive, I limit the case for group rights to nations. The final chapter, "The Limits of Reason: Towards an Open-Ended Conception of Rationality," deals with the limits of Enlightenment rationality, both in the human and natural sciences. I argue for a fusion of horizons between the natural sciences and other narratives to move beyond the intersubjective limitations of liberalism (pluralism) and instrumental rationality (objectivity) and towards a new environmental ethic.