Beyond Metaphysics: Gianni Vattimo and the meaning of hermeneutics for political theory

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This paper examines Gianni Vattimo’s contribution to the recent turn to ontology in political theory. Drawing on Nietzsche and Heidegger, Vattimo offers a ‘philosophy of history’ in which strong metaphysical claims are presented as gradually being weakened, but in which the irrationalism he thinks characteristic of many anti-foundationalist theorists is also avoided. This philosophy is said to provide for new understandings of ethical and political life which have the acceptance of pluralism as their aim. The paper argues that Vattimo’s attempt to identify a position beyond metaphysics on the one hand and relativism on the other is unsuccessful, and that he ought to join in with the thoroughgoing anti-foundationalism that marks the work of writers such as Rorty and Derrida. It suggests further that awareness of our historical situation need not weaken the confidence with which our beliefs are held, and does not support any particular political programme.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)763–776
Number of pages14
JournalPhilosophy and Social Criticism
Issue number8
Early online date27 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • Gianni Vattimo
  • the ontological turn
  • metaphysics,
  • pluralism
  • democracy
  • hermeneutics
  • anti-foundationalism
  • Richard Rorty

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