Research on Carnal Hermeneutics 

  • organised conversation note with Professor Tie from Department of Philosophy, School of Politics and Public Administration, Qufu Normal University

Richard Kearney points out that our bodies understand and interpret the world through our senses. Since Plato’s distinction between sense and reason, the mainstream view of traditional philosophy has honored reason and devalued sense, and sensation has become something inferior. However, unlike the traditional mainstream view, carnal hermeneutics incorporates the senses into the scope of hermeneutics and emphasizes the important role of the senses in understanding and explaining the world. In carnal hermeneutics, the senses of smell, taste and touch are closer to the body and are the most typical embodiment of corporeal sensations. Although these three senses are primordial senses, they are not primary, inferior, or crude senses, but primary senses. These primordial senses are the deepest understanding and interpretation. Before there was language, we were already understanding and expressing, and our senses had already become sensual, and we were already using them to understand and interpret the world.

The most fundamental basis for Richard Kearney’s proposal of carnal hermeneutics is that the body has interpretive properties, i.e., the body can also be understood and interpreted. He argues that the incarnation is the birthplace of understanding and interpretation. We, as human beings, are living beings, and as living beings, we are, first of all, incarnate beings. Without the existence of the incarnation, our thoughts, our actions, everything is impossible to talk about. And the vitality lies in the touch and taste of the body, and we understand and interpret the world in the touch and taste of the body. Therefore, hermeneutics begins with the incarnation, and existence is hermeneutic through and through.

To sum up, Richard Kearney’s carnal hermeneutics has opened up a new direction for the development of contemporary hermeneutics. By re-examining the deep and complex relationship between sensation and interpretation, carnal hermeneutics refers to hermeneutic “perception”, which is directly extended from the traditional meaning of “deciphering mysterious information” to the most original incarnational form of identification and recognition. It can be said that carnal hermeneutics does not abandon the traditional hermeneutics, but complements and enriches its connotation with the practical analyzing of hearing, touching and smelling.


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