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This report is taken from PN Review 11, Volume 6 Number 3, January - February 1980.

Nihilism Ten Years Later Stanley Rosen

I AM grateful to the editors of POETRY NATION REVIEW for the invitation to comment further on the topic of nihilism (see PNR 10, p. 9, "Reflections on Nihilism"). If one wishes not to contribute to this unhappy condition, it is important to avoid two closely related faults: excessive generality and asurfeit of technical detail. Indeed, if I were restricted to a onesentence account of "the latest developments" (to employ an appropriately nihilistic phrase) in nihilism, I should say that they boil down to the union of technical virtuosity and spiritual superficiality. There is no end to technical progress, and unending progress is inevitably the steady cancellation of value of each of its stages. In the following pages, I should like to discuss one aspect of self-vitiating technical progress: the rise to high fashion during the past decade, in England and the United States, of something called hermeneutics. I suspect that hermeneutics has been both the cause and the effect of the continuing doubt in the western world concerning the objective intelligibility of spiritual work. As we find ourselves more and more "alienated" from the products of the human soul, we turn to ever more complex methodological devices, whether to recapture a lost significance or to accentuate the pleasures of decadence. Each of these goals has its representatives among contemporary hermeneuticists. Before I turn to these two groups, however, one or two introductory remarks are in order.

The very name "hermeneutics" is ambiguous and requires a good ...

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