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Friedrich Christoph Oetinger on Sensus communis - Dictionary of Arguments

Gadamer I 32
Sensus communis/Pietism/Oetinger/Gadamer: [in 18th century in Germany] one understood
under >sensus communis only a theoretical capacity, the theoretical power of judgement, which came next to moral consciousness (conscience) and taste. Thus it was classified as a scholasticism of the basic forces, whose criticism was then carried out by Herder (...).
But there is one significant exception: pietism. Not only a man of the world such as Shaftesbury had to be concerned with limiting the demands of science, i.e. demonstratio, and to invoke the sensus communis, but also the preacher who wants to reach the heart of his congregation.
The Swabian pietist Oettinger, for example, has expressly taken his cue from Shaftesbury's defence of the sensus communis. For sensus communis we find the translation "heart" and the following description: The sensus communis goes... ...with all the things that all people see in front of them every day,
Gadamer I 33
holding together a whole society, which concern truths and sentences, as well as institutions and forms of formulating sentences(...)(1). Oetinger's concern is to show that it is not only the clarity of the terms that matters - it is "not enough for vivid insight".
Rather, "certain previous perceptions and inclinations" must be present. "Without proof, fathers are already moved to care for their children: love does not demonstrate, but often tears the heart against reason against the beloved reproach."(1)
Gadamer: Oetinger's reference to the sensus communis against the rationalism of the "school" is now particularly interesting for us because it is encountered in his explicit hermeneutical application. The prelate Oetinger is concerned with the understanding of Holy Scripture. Since the mathematical-demonstrative method fails here, he demands another, the "generative method", i.e. the "planting scripture so that justice could be planted like a plant". >Sensus communis/Gadamer, >Humanities/Gadamer.
Gadamer I 35
Apparently also otherwise pietist theologians in the same sense as Oetinger put the applicatio in the foreground in relation to the ruling rationalism, as the example of Rambach teaches, whose at that time very influential hermeneutics also deals with the application. But the suppression of pietistic tendencies in the later 18th century reduced the hermeneutical function of the sensus communis to a mere corrective: Whatever contradicts the consensus in feelings, judgments and conclusions, i.e. the sensus communis, cannot be right(2). In comparison to the significance that Shaftesbury ascribes to the sensus communis for society and the state, this negative function of the sensus communis reveals the emptying and intellectualization of content that the term experienced during the German Enlightenment. >Judgement/"Urteilskraft"/Gadamer.


1. I quote from: »Die Wahrheit des sensus communis Oder des allgemeinen Sinnes, in
den nach dem Grundtext erklärten Sprüchen und Prediger Salomo Oder das beste Haus-
und Sittenbuch für Gelehrte und Ungelehrte« von M. Friedrich Christoph Oetinger (neu
herausgegeben von Ehman, 1861).
2. I am referring to Morus, Hermeneutica, 1, 11, 11, XXIII.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Oetinger, Friedrich Christoph
Gadamer I
Hans-Georg Gadamer
Wahrheit und Methode. Grundzüge einer philosophischen Hermeneutik 7. durchgesehene Auflage Tübingen 1960/2010

Gadamer II
H. G. Gadamer
The Relevance of the Beautiful, London 1986
German Edition:
Die Aktualität des Schönen: Kunst als Spiel, Symbol und Fest Stuttgart 1977


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2021-02-25
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