The aesthetic hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer and Hans Urs von Balthasar: A comparative analysis

Jason Paul Bourgeois, Marquette University


This dissertation compares the aesthetics and hermeneutics of Gadamer and Balthasar. It argues that both thinkers reject an autonomous, neutral, distanced starting point for interpretation, and instead advocate a dialogical model in which interpreters allow themselves to be engaged by the truth of the text or artwork at hand. Both thinkers use aesthetic categories to describe this model of interpretation, such as the neo-Platonic category of radiance, and both also reflect a disclosure-concealment theory of truth (suggesting the influence of Heidegger). Both thinkers also recognize that interpreters are part of an unfolding history and that the examination of the past cannot be done from a neutral standpoint. Instead, both recognize that the past continues to exert an influence upon us and that we must enter into dialogue with the truths of the past. Significantly, Balthasar incorporates these aesthetic and historical-hermeneutical categories into an explicitly Trinitarian salvation-history framework, which is absent in Gadamer's thought. The dissertation concludes with the implications of an aesthetic hermeneutics for contemporary Roman Catholic theology and its dialogue with various schools of thought (philosophical and religious), arguing that the concrete particular forms of Christianity as expressed in Roman Catholicism cannot be bracketed or evacuated by Catholic theologians in the interest of achieving consensus in religious matters, since it is precisely in these forms that we believe that God's revelation takes place.

Recommended Citation

Bourgeois, Jason Paul, "The aesthetic hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer and Hans Urs von Balthasar: A comparative analysis" (2001). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI3049926.