School of Historical and Philosophical Studies - Theses

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    Interpretation and practical reason : an examination of Charles Taylor's concept of interpretation as part of his project of practical rationality
    Imberger, Horst Rainer ( 1996)
    This thesis presents a study of Taylor's interpretive project and its conceptually related view of practical rationality as a post-representational, transformative and realist account. The post-representational character of the project reflects the overcoming of epistemology and the consequent affirmation of a mode of practical rationality. This mode represents an ontological and transformative standpoint, and calls for a realist conception of philosophy which is holistic, expressive and non-a priori in nature. Basic to a realist conception of interpretive reason is an ontological framework of human being, its hypergoods, evaluative distinctions, and the moral space that defines the agent's conception of the good as the personal narrative of his becoming. This moral perspective formulates a structural conception of interpretative explanation which allows the ontological unification of all explanation in human science within the terms of the perspective. The principle of the best available account is a central part of this perspective and is seen to be important in providing the conditions for determining what constitutes distinctively human characteristics and in evaluating interpretative accounts. Constitutive of the moral and interpretive project is an expressive conception of language that can focus on the articulation of feelings and conduct as irreducibly expressive phenomena of first-person accounts. Interpretation must, therefore, be understood as part of an expressive-constitutive framework of language. The structural perspective of interpretative explanation and practical reason is formulated and explored in a metatheory of Taylor's conception of self-interpretation, social and political science, and anthropology. His views of anthropological explanation lead to the development of a notion of a language of perspicuous contrast and a concept of human constant. This language, and the constants involved in its use, are the most basic features of Taylor's project of interpretive reason. They provide a realist and critical standpoint in terms of which rival interpretations can be rationally adjudicated without the interference of ethnocentric factors. The availability and operation of the human constants makes this possible. The critical function of the language seines to formulate and rationally arbitrate all forms of hermeneutic conflict. The significance of the human constants is that they reflect central aspects of the human life form as a constitutive part of the ontology of the morally-engaged human agent oriented to the good that gives significance to his quest in life. It is this conception that underpins the structural unity of all explanation and combines the principle of the best available account with the subject-related properties that characterise the unique and distinctive nature of human being.
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