Public Reason and the Normative Character of Interpretation

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.3, 2018


Public Reason and the Normative Character of Interpretation



Han Donghui


Philosophical hermeneutics plays an important role in progress towards the idea of public reason. Its understanding of rationality focuses on commonality, practicality and normativity, with a stress on the normative dimension highlighted in historical culture and social practice. Philosophical hermeneutics’ critique of reason represents the enrichment and expansion of reason. However, it faces the problem of curtailing the excessive expansion of pure reason without falling into the swamp of relativism. This requires that we grasp the hermeneutic situation in terms of context, facts, rules and perspectives, which allows us to escape from the dilemma of perspectivism. Public hermeneutics based on public reason offers a promising pathway, founded as it is on the interaction between philosophical hermeneutics and rational self-criticism. It is based on the activity of public reason; consequently, its commonality is opened up and its normative nature clarified. Public hermeneutics should have a clear expressive form, true cognitive meaning, and the value of self-reflective understanding. The substantive combination of commonality and normativity enables public hermeneutics to fully demonstrate the spirit and force of the argumentation and truth-telling of public reason.