The Very Act of Reading is Philosophical

Behind the various theories and practices of textual interpretation lurk larger philosophical issues. Indeed, implicit in the question of meaning are questions about the nature of reality, the possibility of knowledge, and the criteria for morality. It may not be at all obvious that one is taking a position on these issues when one picks up a book and begins to read, but I will argue that that is indeed the case. Whether there is something really “there” in the text is a question of the “metaphysics” of meaning. Similarly, reading implies some beliefs about whether it is possible to understand a text, and if so, how. Whether there is something to be known in texts is a question of the “epistemology” of meaning. Lastly, reading raises questions about what obligations, if any, impinge on the reader of Scripture or any other text. What readers do with what is in the text gives rise to questions concerning the “ethics” of meaning. Together, these three issues give rise to a related question, “What is it to be human, an agent of meaning?”

Vanhoozer, Kevin. Is There a Meaning in This Text?, p. 19. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998.

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