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Hermeneutics and the Authority of Theology: Fusing the Horizons of Hermeneutics and Polanyian Personal Knowledge

Mulherin, Chris (2011) Hermeneutics and the Authority of Theology: Fusing the Horizons of Hermeneutics and Polanyian Personal Knowledge. In: Hermeneutics and the authority of scripture. ATF Press, Adelaide, pp. 21-27. ISBN 9781921817151


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The apologetic issue the Church faces as it commends its truth claims to a secular world is not so much that of biblical authority as that of theological authority. In what sense can a secular world dominated by science take theological knowledge claims seriously? After all, science is about knowledge, truth and reality, while theology is about faith, belief and what can at best be described as subjective truth. Or perhaps not.

This chapter outlines the epistemology of Michael Polanyi and highlights how his work complements hermeneutical theory. Polanyi turned to philosophy from a distinguished career as a scientist, publishing over 200 papers. Of his magnum opus, Personal Knowledge Polanyi says: "The principal purpose of this book is to achieve a frame of mind in which I may hold firmly to what I believe to be true, even though I know that it might conceivably be false." For Polanyi, objective knowledge, understood as impersonally detached and foolproof, is a contradiction in terms. As human agents we are inescapably committed to acting in faith upon sincere beliefs that we hold to be universally true. This we can do with confidence only when we have seen the error of equating knowledge with impersonal objectivism.

This chapter outlines Polanyi’s view of knowledge and reality and then suggests that Polanyi’s ‘personal knowledge’ bridges the gap between faith and science, and between hermeneutic understanding and scientific explanation. While science and theology study different aspects of reality they do so in remarkably similar ways, both resulting in ‘personal knowledge’.

Item Type: Book Chapters
Repository Version: Proofs
Keywords: Hermeneutics, Gadamer, Polanyi
Fields of Research: 22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2203 Philosophy > 220304 Epistemology
22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2203 Philosophy > 220307 Hermeneutic and Critical Theory
22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2204 Religion and Religious Studies > 220401 Christian Studies (incl. Biblical Studies and Church History)
Socio-Economic Objective: E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970122 Expanding Knowledge in Philosophy and Religious Studies
Type of Activity: Pure Basic Research
Subjects: A - Philosophy
College/Association with University of Divinity: CTC: Catholic Theological College
Depositing User: Rev Chris Mulherin
Date Deposited: 24 Apr 2012 04:51
Last Modified: 18 Nov 2014 00:45
URI: http://repository.divinity.edu.au/id/eprint/1068

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