It is very likely that the present study is the first one consciously published as a work of what is called processual hermeneutics. Processual hermeneutics is a philosophical discipline that despite having its historical roots in continental Europe, would never have developed with its rigorous scientific standards without the great contribution of scientists and thinkers from the Anglo-Saxon world. Therefore, processual hermeneutics is strictly speaking a transatlantic or, better said, global discipline. This is largely due to its strong interdisciplinary approach.
As I emphasize in the introduction to this book, processual hermeneutics brings together several disciplines of the human sciences, of which I would like to mention only developmental psychology at this point. Developmental psychology plays an important role for the hermeneutics at work here because it has realized in a most productive way the ontogenetic turn pioneered by Jean Piaget (1896–1980), thus providing processual hermeneutics with one of its fundaments of scientific rigor regarding the laws governing the early cognitive development of thinking and the specific forms it is able to adopt.
Wilhelm Dilthey (1833–1911) would have given everything to have at his disposal the high scientific and experimental standards that developmental psychology has reached in the last four decades in the United States and in the Anglo-Saxon world in general. How much would the theory of the ontogenetic development of the subject and of subjectivity developed by the American psychiatrist Daniel Stern (1934–2012) have influenced Dilthey’s hermeneutical approach, if the latter had read him beforehand in the second half of the nineteenth century? Dilthey invested much of his philosophical efforts in elaborating a theory of understanding (Verstehen), based on the idea of re-experiencing or reliving the experiences of a subject as the author of the phenomenon which we seek to understand. However, Stern’s work has not only been fundamental for the present study, but also an inspiration for many other alternative works, such as those of Michael Tomasello, who adopts the concept of joint attention and the idea of the gesture of pointing in interactive communication as indicative of joint attention, which have been previously thematized and elaborated by Daniel Stern (see, e.g., Stern, 1985, 128–30). Tomasello relies on these core concepts as the basis for most of his theoretical efforts (see, e.g., Tomasello 1999, 56–93; Tomasello 2014, 33–49; Tomasello 2019, 53–64).
Processual hermeneutics as here developed maintains some continuity with existential hermeneutics (Heidegger), but above all with the linguistic hermeneutics elaborated by Hans-Georg Gadamer (1900–2002) in Germany. Specifically, it takes up the historical aspects implied in the concept of the hermeneutic circle (hermeneutischer Zirkel) and of tradition (Überlieferung) in the interpretative process, as well as its effective history (Wirkungsgeschichte). Processual hermeneutics assumes all these aspects from a new global perspective under the concepts of the consciousness of historicity, as well as the consciousness of the constructiveness of the social lived world (Lebenswelt) and its convergence with the human being (Mensch).
Fundamental to the processual hermeneutics elaborated here is the historical and systematic differentiation of the two evolved enarrative forms of thinking, namely the linear form and the processual form of thinking. This differentiation is one of the fundamental criteria for understanding how the different explanatory narratives are constructed and why they follow a particular structure or pattern.
Considering the entire history of humanity from an evolutionary and anthropological perspective, processual hermeneutics seeks to understand how processes occur in the symbolically mediated stratum, adopting a secular perspective that does not permit either subjectivist or absolutist presuppositions, and thus to describe how – not why – these processes have been made possible. In other words, processual hermeneutics seeks to account for the conditions of possibility of the specific human cognitive and spiritual (geistige) processes, which are understood as processes mediated by the intertwined abilities of acting, thinking, and speaking. The processual aspect of this new hermeneutics thus means that it must understand everything that is found and occurs in the universe linked to a systemic-relational framework of conditions. It is because every phenomenon must find its orienting description (the “how”) from this systemic nexus of conditions that there is no room either in the present study or in processual hermeneutics in general for abstract suppositions or metaphysical credos.
But innovative projects that do not fall within the parameters of over-research (Überforschung) are always difficult to carry out, especially because they require a learning and accommodation process from the author, his readers, and supporters. It is extremely uncomfortable to assimilate something new, original, and, to top it all, complex and complicated to understand. It requires a great deal of patience, scientific curiosity, and open-mindedness. If this work has reached this point, it is because it has found very special people who decided to overcome this natural inhibition to novelty. This work, whose pristine beginnings date back to 2011, would not have been possible without the help, support, and guidance of several people and institutions.
First, I owe my heartfelt thanks to Professor Peter McLaughlin, Chair of Philosophy of Science at Heidelberg University. Professor McLaughlin was enthusiastic about this project from the very beginning. He did not content himself with cordially inviting me to his research group and to participate in his various Colloquia “Research on Science” (Wissenschaftsforschung), but even offered me a job as assistant professor at Heidelberg University. I thank my colleagues and the graduate students at the Heidelberg Colloquium “Research on Science” for the rich exchanges, as well as the very respectful scholarly debates on many of the topics I address in this book. Also at Heidelberg University, Professor Peter König very kindly supported my work, inviting me to his Colloquium for graduate students and examination candidates. It was in the context of his constructive criticism that I decided to write the results of my investigations in English rather than in German, because he convinced me of the great potential of addressing my ideas to an international audience with broader cultural backgrounds and academic experiences. For this, and his genuine interest in my work, I am very grateful to him and his research group. The years from 2012 to 2016 under the tutelage of Professor McLaughlin at Heidelberg University’s Department of Philosophy marked my life as a lecturer and researcher in a positively unforgettable way.
From 2016 to 2020, I had the great opportunity to continue my research in the Institute of Philosophy at the University of Leipzig under the academic supervision of Professor Pirmin Stekeler-Weithofer, Chair of Theoretical Philosophy, and Professor Kristina Musholt, Chair of Cognitive Anthropology. It was in Leipzig that I was finally able to complete the research, the results of which I present here, obtaining my Habilitation (a sort of higher doctorate which also includes the examination of pedagogical skills) and the academic title of Privatdozent. My warmest thanks to Professor Kristina Musholt and Professor Nikolaos Psarros who also cordially invited me to present some results of my investigations in their Colloquia “Cognitive Anthropology” and “Philosophy of Science” respectively. The doctoral students and colleagues at the Leipzig Colloquia also inspired my research with their constructive critical thinking. I am very thankful for that. I also gratefully bring to mind the offer of Professor Sebastian Rödl, Chair of Practical Philosophy and Director of the Institute of Philosophy, to teach at the University of Leipzig, which considerably helped me to complete the pedagogical part of the habilitation procedure (the so-called Venia Legendi). I would like to express my gratitude in particular to Professor Musholt and Professor Stekeler-Weithofer for supervising my Habilitation thesis and giving me rigorous critical comments and philosophical advice that encouraged me to improve some important aspects, as well as central notions in the present book.
During my time in Heidelberg, I had the fortune to meet a colleague from Ireland, with whom I shared my office. I had to gladly show him what a good coffee with a traditional Italian roast is. Apart from this, it was me who learned a lot from him. Our collegial relationship grew into a great friendship. He read the entire manuscript of this book several times at different stages and made corrections and suggestions of utmost importance that allowed me to cultivate a clear language for these complex topics, making the text much more accessible. This individual not only supported me in a myriad of teaching aspects and aspects of Ancient Philosophy in general, but also offered me a friendly shoulder in hard times. For all this, I lack words of thanks that can adequately match my deep sense of gratitude to him. That is why whenever I see him, I say nothing or very little about my gratitude and just give him a big, warm Puerto Rican hug. The name of this colleague and, above all, friend is Dr. Carl Sean O’Brien.
I thank Professor Günter Dux and his wife, Rosemarie Dux, for their help, assistance, and encouragement throughout this journey. What started with a scientific interest on December 2009 has turned into a beautiful and lasting friendship.
I also owe my warmest thanks to the acquisitions editor of Brill/Mentis Imprint from Brill Deutschland, Dr. Stephan Kopsieker, for his kind treatment and high editorial professionalism. If I had known in advance that Dr. Kopsieker and his team at Brill Deutschland work so quickly and efficiently, I would have contacted them much earlier. For there is no more ideal collaborator for an author to have than a publisher who will support him with editorial assistance and the necessary resources in publishing his book as soon as possible.
I thank from the bottom of my heart my family in Puerto Rico and in the United States, my family in Albania and my family in Italy for always supporting me in everything I undertake. Their love and appreciation always give me strength and inspire me to reach my goals. I also owe thanks to my chosen family, that family that embraces me as a brother or as a son without being one genetically. Today I remember with gratitude my academic father, Professor Fernando Picó Bauermeister, who passed away on June 27, 2017. His death has been an irreparable loss for me. I also deeply thank my non-genetic brothers for always cheering me on in the pursuit of my dreams: the Cuban Dr. Luis R. Carrera, and the Boricuas Dr. Melvin Torres Llanos and Dr. Omar Rodríguez Carrasquillo.
This book would never have been possible, literally, without the love, respect, support, and kindness of a woman who, when she loves, offers her whole life. I have been blessed in marrying her. My wife Alketa, my girlfriend, my tango and salsa partner, my right hand in all aspects of my life, I thank her for unconditionally backing and encouraging me in this long-term project. It is to her that I dedicate this book for her complicity and camaraderie. In this sense, she is as guilty as I am of this “philosophical crime”.
Finally, I thank God for so many blessings, as well as for His amazing grace. Although there is no room in any rigorously scientific book to refer to what I call God, I still hold on to the vital and existential hope that It is there. For Its benevolence towards my person and Its providence in my life are quite more than just evident. Though, I confess that this feeling is anchored, by all means, to a subjectivist-absolutist pattern of reasoning, as we shall also see in the present opus.