The Hidden Source of Hermeneutics: The Art of Reading in Hugh of St. Victor


  • Emmanuel Falque Institut Catholique Paris



Hugh of St. Victor, hermeneutics, reading, carnal hermeneutics


It might be surprising to find in a journal of contemporary philosophy a text that is mostly about Hugh of St. Victor (1096-1141). The hermeneutic question, however, did not begin only yesterday. While this question has its actual sources in Origen (concerning the meaning of Scripture) and Saint Augustine (the firmament of Scripture), it is in the Didascalicon or The Art of Reading by Hugh of St. Victor that it first finds its clearest formulation and its most methodical development. This “hidden source of hermeneutics” allows for a questioning of the foundations of the hermeneutics of the text from its outset (in weighing the short route versus the long route), and also for a return of hermeneutics, or better to turn it, to its primordial origin: a hermeneutics of the “world” or of “creation” [liber mundi], rather than of the “text” and of “Scripture” [liber Scripturae]. A “Catholic” hermeneutics of “the body and the voice” should, in my opinion, take the place of the “Protestant” hermeneutics of “the meaning of the text” (Ricœur) and the “Jewish” hermeneutics of the “body of the letter” (Levinas). This thesis, which is stated and developed in my book Crossing the Rubicon, has its roots and justification in this historical essay on Hugh of St. Victor.