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Abstract to "Propriety and Impropriety: A Study of an Argumentative Topos":
This project systematically and historically examines an argumentation-mode to which I refer as the topos of propriety. This argumentation-mode begins with the assumption that an interpretation should be 'appropriate' to the text to which it refers, and that this mode can often be found in philological-methodological discourses. Analysing this topos can clarify not only the differences between various methods of interpretation, it can also clarify the interrelation between object and method. This analysis will focus on eighteenth and nineteenth century hermeneutical theories of thinkers such as Chladenius, Schleiermacher, F. Schlegel, F. Wolf, Boeckh and Dilthey. Each of these theories tries to explain what 'understanding' is, as well as the manner by which understanding is produced. Since 'understanding' does not stand for itself but always implicates an object (ie., understanding something), each of these theories presupposes a specific concept of what its object is. The history of hermeneutics is often represented as a succession of answers to a meta-historical question about the nature of understanding. Accordingly, the interrelation between object and method is concealed. I claim, however, that understanding a text depends on what this text essentially 'is', together with (or, as well as) the questions that can reasonably be posed about such an object.