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The fourth critique

Ruthrof, H. (2004) The fourth critique. New Literary History, 35 (2). pp. 233-258.

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The paper asks whether interpretive practice today could be said to rival the revolutionary moment of Kant's Critique of Judgment, at the centre of which stands the functional relation between of the heuristic stipulation of a shifting frame and its hermeneutically dependent detail. After all, the paper argues, the evolution of interpretation from Kant to postmodern writings has endowed us with a rich repertoire of tools to bring to the task of reading. However, the paper insists, there are two conditions which, if violated, result in the abandonment of interpretation: (1) contrary to talk of 'empty' or 'mere' signifiers, we cannot let go of the signified and (2) contrary to claims to radical interpretive freedom we cannot abandon heuristic coherence. Coherence phobia and the dream of a signifier without conceptuality are discussed against the background of notions of indeterminacy and infinite regress. The paper concludes that neither of the two constraints, insistence on the signified and heuristic coherence, should be regarded as metaphysically nostalgic but rather as grounded in the 'material' conditions of the autopoietic facts of human-scale perception and hence our organic bodies.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
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