The Art of Understanding According to Schleiermacher


The Art of Understanding is a term declared by Schleiermacher in his hermeneutics. He saw hermeneutics as the “Art of Understanding”. Understanding is of course different from knowing. Those who know have not come to understand.

Understanding is the activity of capturing meaning. While knowing is nothing more than the act of gathering data. Data can be known by something, for example: genes, neurons and computers, while meaning can only be understood by someone. What does it mean to “understand” and why is this activity considered an “art”? We will find the answer in the philosophical ideas promoted by Schleiermacher.

A Glimpse of Schleiermacher’s Life

This time I would like to invite readers to philosophize with Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher (1768–1834). Schleiermacher is known as a philosopher and founder of modern Protestant theology who lived in the Romantic era. Romanticism is nothing but a movement critical of the enlightenment of the 18th century.

Romantic thinkers saw the progress of Europe’s science, industry and technology at that time as a decline rather than progress of civilization. On that basis, romantic thinkers were more interested in myths, traditions and religion as objects of interpretation studies. They try to explore the meaning behind this ancient wisdom and then live it anew. Schleiermacher was deeply influenced by the Romantic movement.

Schleiermacher was born on November 21, 1768 in Breslau, Silesia in what is now Poland. He grew up in a Protestant family. His parents even planned that Schleiermacher would be prepared as early as possible to become a preacher.

Schleiermacher then entered into a seminary in Barby/Elbe. At the seminary, Schleiermacher became acquainted with philosophical literature, theology and non-religious romances. This made him confused, between becoming a preacher or a scientist.

This hesitation prompted Schleiermacher to pursue philosophy, theology and philology at the University of Halle. There, he even – for the first time – became acquainted with Kant’s critical philosophy. From the time Schleiermacher taught at Halle in 1805, he began to concern himself with hermeneutics. He died in Berlin on February 6, 1834. Since then, Schleiermacher is known as the founding father of Modern Hermeneutics.

About Hermeneutics

Budi Hardiman in his book entitled “The Art of Understanding: From Schleiermacher to Derrida”, emphasizes that the term “Hermeneutics” is actually not a term that has just appeared in modern times. This term can even be traced in the religious culture of ancient Greece. Hermeneutics etymology is related to the figure of Hermes, who mediates between gods/goddesses and humans.

In Greek mythology, Hermes served as the party that conveyed the messages of the goddesses to humans. However, before Hermes delivered the message, he first understood or interpreted the message for himself. After he understands the intent of the message, then he articulates the intent of the message in a language understood by humans. The gap between the sender of the message, the sender of the message and the recipient of the message must be bridged by this activity called “hermeneutics”.

Hermeneutics in English is called “Hermeneutics”. This term is derived from the Greek word, namely: “hermeneuein” which means “to translate” or “to act as an interpreter”. The activity of translating one language into another is actually nothing but what we call “Hermeneutics”.

The activity of translating is actually not just exchanging a foreign language into our own. More than that, translating is interpreting so that it can be articulated in the taste of our language. In other words, translating is the activity of capturing meaning according to the author’s intent in a language that readers understand.

It should be noted that early hermeneutics was nothing more than an activity carried out by clergy in order to interpret sacred texts, such as holy books. This activity aims to reveal the meaning of Divine Revelation written in sacred texts. The different ways or methods of interpreting then give birth to different and even contradictory interpretations.

This happened in the early development of Christianity. Since its inception, Christianity has been peppered with hermeneutical polemics. The Christian congregation in the city of Alexandria has a way of interpreting the scriptures that is different from the Christian congregation in Antioch.

The divisions that occurred in western Christianity, namely: between the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Reformers were rooted in different ways of interpreting Scripture.

So, since when did hermeneutics become a philosophical problem? We should be grateful to the thinkers of the renaissance in the 18th century who brought out hermeneutical activities from the medieval religious cage. If the medieval clergy limited hermeneutics to the interpretation of scriptures, the Enlightenment thinkers extended the field of interpretation to profane texts. Enlightenment thinkers even looked at the scriptures the same as other profane texts. In the minds of enlightened thinkers, sacred texts are no more special than other texts.

Enlightenment thinkers uprooted the sacredness of the books considered sacred by medieval clergy. Enlightenment thinkers wanted to go beyond radical medieval ways of interpreting a text. In other words, they use rationality – without being driven to strengthen their faith – in order to grasp the meaning behind the sacred texts. That’s what Schleiermacher will do.

The Art of Understanding a la Schleiermacher

We first understand what Schleiermacher meant by the term “understand” (verstehen). According to Schleiermacher, understanding is nothing but the activity of capturing understanding (verständis). While understanding is the result of the process of understanding. The object of understanding activity a la Schleiermacher is none other than language. However, please note that

What is captured from the language is not words as far as words or sentences as far as sentences. In everyday life we often try to catch the meaning behind the words of people who are talking to us. Because for Schleiermacher, the spoken word is never separated from the thoughts of the speaker.

He further emphasized that humans do not think about the same thing, even though they use the same word. A philosopher and a doctor both use the word “human” but their perspectives on this one word are of course different and even contradictory.

Understanding in Schleiermacher is thus the activity of capturing what is thought rather than the grammatical meaning of the language being spoken by the speaker. Therefore, we need to distinguish between “understanding what is said in the context of language with its possibilities” and “understanding (what is said) as a fact in the mind of the speaker”.

Hermeneutics a la Schleiermacher actually tries to capture what the speaker understands by the word he is saying. In everyday life, we often encounter discrepancies between the text and the intent of the text, between the words and the thoughts of the speakers, and between the text and the author’s intent. This gap tends to give rise to misunderstandings.

Misunderstanding then has the potential to cause racial, social, religious conflict and so on.

Then why is understanding a la Schleiermacher considered an art (Kunst)? In order to understand this term, we first need to distinguish between two types of understanding, namely: “understanding spontaneously and understanding with effort”. Understanding spontaneously can be felt in our lives every day. We will easily understand the words of our parents, because we are born and live in the same social, cultural and religious environment. In this context, we understand each other spontaneously.

However, Schleiermacher did not develop such a hermeneutic. The starting point of hermeneutics a la Schleiermacher is nothing but a misunderstanding or lack of mutual understanding. For Schleiermacher, misunderstanding characterizes modern society. Modernity, which is characterized by a plurality of ways of thinking, ways of life, religious beliefs, philosophical beliefs and ideological pluralism, is prone to misunderstandings. Or in Schleiermacher’s words, “in modern times, misunderstandings are inevitable”.

Misconception has become an indisputable fact, in modern times.

Schleiermacher further emphasized that misunderstandings are often caused by prejudice (Vorurteil). Prejudice occurs when readers or listeners feel their perspective is superior to the intent of the author or speaker of the word.

Therefore, understanding in this case can be said to be an art for two reasons: First, because efforts to overcome common misunderstandings are always using “sophisticated” methods and not just spontaneously. Second, because overcoming common misunderstandings is always done with certain rules. Art, in this case is defined as ‘smartness’. This is the same as when a music artist produces beautiful harmonic tones.

The art of understanding is thus the activity of capturing meaning (with sophisticated methods) to overcome common misunderstandings. What you are looking for is the thinking behind a

Expression. In this sense, hermeneutics is nothing but the art of listening rather than the art of speaking, the art of reading rather than the art of writing. Schleiermacher asserted that hermeneutics is nothing but the art of thinking and therefore is philosophical in nature.

With that way of thinking, Schleiermacher made hermeneutics a method in order to capture the meaning behind speech or writing. The use of hermeneutics methodology is not limited to specific texts. For him, all texts, whether spoken or written, can be interpreted in the same way. In fact, interpretation has become an ability possessed by every human being.

Schleiermacher’s art of understanding is nothing but an attempt to capture the meaning of text (written or spoken) both from a grammatical point of view and the objective condition of the writer or speaker. If the writer expresses his thoughts through writing in the form of sentences, then the interpreter tries to use the language (sentences) to understand the mental objective condition of the writer or speaker.

Thus, the interpreter is able to understand every writing and utterance based on the perspective of the writer or speaker. According to Schleiermacher, this kind of hermeneutical methodology is effective in overcoming misunderstandings in modern social, cultural and religious life.

Benefits of Studying Philosophy

Benefits of Studying Philosophy

Philosophy is knowledge and intellectual investigation of all phenomena in depth. In studying philosophy, one is required to have the courage to learn various unusual terms and to understand various long and complicated reasonings. When deciding to study philosophy, you must be able to think logically and openly.

It should be noted that reading philosophy books contextually is still difficult for ordinary people to understand. Therefore, to study philosophy through text, it is necessary to study the basics of logic first so that you are trained to think logically and systematically. If you are used to it, studying philosophy will be fun.

Think Critically and Logically

Teaches to Think Critically and Logically

Studying philosophy certainly has various benefits. One of the most commonly known benefits is teaching them to think critically and logically. Philosophy itself is a means of testing scientific reasoning, so as to make a person critical and careful in his field of knowledge.

Critical thinking will prevent someone from being solipsistic and thinking that his opinion is the most correct. In addition, by thinking critically and logically, it will be easier to filter fake news. The mind is also more open, thus avoiding intolerance.

Find Value in Life

Helps Find Value in Life

The next benefit of studying philosophy is that it helps discover the value of life. It’s no secret that someone often asks what is the meaning of life and what do we live for. By studying philosophy, such questions will be easier to answer.

Philosophy is able to provide understanding and views about life and the world. This is what makes it a source of inspiration and a guide for life in various aspects. By finding the values of life, a person will become wiser in dealing with all the problems that are being faced.

Developing Science and Technology

Developing Science and Technology

Studying philosophy apparently also plays a role in the development of science and technology. Please note that the philosophy of science provides the foundations for life as well as other sciences. Therefore, the philosophy of science is useful in developing science and technology whose existence is able to make life better.

Philosophy of science apparently is not only useful for neutralizing various findings of knowledge but also thinking about how this knowledge is useful in life. Thus, science and technology are not only present for the benefit of humans, but also for the benefit of nature. Studying philosophy makes a person able to understand science as a whole and use it as a basis for learning.

Various Flows in Philosophy that Need to be Known



It should be noted that in philosophy there are various schools that need to be known. One of them is the flow of rationalism which adheres to reason. This school prioritizes reason as the only reliable source of knowledge because reason is the most important tool in acquiring and testing knowledge.

Reason has the ability to solve various life problems. Rational understanding argues that truth is in accordance with evidence-based on facts, not from experience alone. The purpose of reason here is logical thinking, so that all logical things can be confirmed to be true.



The next stream that needs to be known is idealism. Idealism is a school of philosophy that prioritizes the soul. You could say that idealism is the opposite of the flow of rationalism. Because in the flow of idealism assumes that knowledge where psychological processes are subjective.

One of the philosophers with the flow of idealism is Plato. According to him, the mind is the original image of a spiritual nature and the soul lies between the original image and the image of the world that is captured by the five senses. It is this view that makes idealism often seen as the opposite of realism.



Empiricism is the next philosophical stream that needs to be known. This flow emphasizes the role of experience and downplays the role of reason in acquiring knowledge. Unlike rationalism, which only relies on reason, empiricism requires sensory evidence to determine truth.

The flow of empiricism is guided by the experience that has been passed. According to this flow, knowledge can be obtained through experience with the intermediary of the senses. It should be noted that this truth based on experience has succeeded in having an impact on the field of law and human rights.



The next current in philosophy is materialism. It does not require grandiose and abstract propositions, the flow of materialism adheres to facts that are clear and easy to understand. Materialism holds that something that is stated as a fact is a material.

The material itself can be interpreted as materials, objects, and everything that appears. Material-oriented people are called materialists. A materialist is more concerned with material things and leaves aside everything that transcends the senses.



Positivism is the next trend in philosophy that needs to be known. This flow is a perspective based on science or oriented to natural science. So it can be said that positivism focuses on real facts and overrides things that are outside reality.

It can be said that positivism is close to empiricism because they both believe that knowledge is based on experience based on the senses. The figures of the positivism school argue that humans will never know anything more than what they have seen and found based on real facts.

Learn Philosophy by Reading Philosophy Books

Reading Philosophy Books

Understanding philosophy is not only for students majoring in philosophy. Those of you who are interested in various aspects of life can explore it through various philosophy books.

Therefore, on this occasion, we have some recommendations for philosophy books that can be a reference for you.

Many say philosophy courses are difficult and complicated. Apparently, philosophy teaches you how to seek truth, ideas, and knowledge in this life. By studying various philosophical studies, many insights will open up and of course, you can also write down ideas, discuss and then debate them with your friends or lecturers.

You have to start reading philosophical works, not just reading one work of a philosopher. But must explore the thoughts of various philosophers.

There are several books in the form of novels that can bring you closer to philosophy. Both for beginners and for professionals who want to deepen their philosophy.

Getting to Know Famous Philosophers

Famous Philosophers Aristotle


The first philosopher who is impossible to miss for those of you who want to study philosophy is Aristotle. Aristotle has contributed so much thought to science, including religion. So many religions in the world harmonize their religious teachings with Aristotle’s thoughts.

One of his thoughts that is widely used today is the theory of the syllogism, namely the method of drawing conclusions from two premises containing facts. Not only that, but Aristotle has also studied and contributed a lot of knowledge in various fields of science. Among them are art, literature, government, economics, society, and others.

Famous Philosophers Plato


Plato was one of the three great philosophers from Greece, along with his partner Socrates and his student, Aristotle. Plato’s most famous thought is the Trias Politica. According to Plato, to achieve a good government, it means that there are three things that a state needs to have, namely the executive, legislative, and judicial bodies. This is stated in his book entitled Republic.

Plato’s thinking was finally used by every country that upholds democracy to date. Apart from writing about government, Plato also wrote about metaphysics, ethics, and education. All of his thought contributions provide additional knowledge for education today.
Paul of Tarsus

For Christians, the name Paul means a prophet or apostle. His name is Paul of Tarsus. Tarsus itself is a region in Turkey at the mouth of the river Tarsus Çay in the Mediterranean Sea. Paul was a loyal follower of Jesus from Nazareth. Paul’s meeting with Jesus occurred when Jesus was on his way to Damascus.

Paul wrote the story of his journey and thoughts based on the life of Jesus Christ. Until now, many of his thoughts have survived and are used by world Christians.

Famous Philosophers Rene Descartes

Rene Descartes

Turning to France, there is the name Rene Descartes. The great name of this philosopher is due to the contribution of his thoughts which are so great. Descartes’ name is also called the founder of modern philosophy and of course also known as the father of modern mathematics. Descartes’ first work entitled “Regulae ad Directionem Ingeni” was his unfinished work.

In late 1968, he had a disagreement with Chandoux, another well-known philosopher of the era. Descartes’ concept of science is very different from Chandoux’s. Because, according to Chandoux, science can or can only be built from various possibilities. However, for Descartes, knowledge can only be built based on facts or strong reasons.

As a result, there is a lot of knowledge that is present, thanks to Chandoux’s previous thoughts which have begun to be doubted by many parties. Descartes’ thought is what is called rationalism.

Famous Philosophers Confucius


In China, there was a thinker who was considered the Great Teacher named Confucius. His teachings about morals and goodness teach his adherents to always live harmonious life. Confucius was known as someone who loved to learn. Even Western thinkers like Leibniz and Voltaire were also inspired by Confucius’ thoughts.

Confucius’ teachings became a “religion” for people in China and East Asia called Confucianism. In China itself, Confucianism is called Confucianism. Therefore, for followers of the Confucian religion, Confucius is considered a prophet.

Confucius’ teachings are so strong and influential in East Asia such as Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and throughout the world.

7 Ancient Greek Philosophers

filsuf yunani kuno

A philosopher is a thinker who produces an idea, ideas, and new thoughts that are wise and useful for civilization and human life. There are so many philosophers or philosophers in this world. It’s just that the famous ones are from Greece, such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Therefore, world civilizations often quote the results of their thoughts for a wiser life.

Read Now: Spinoza Ethics

1. Aristoteles (385-323 SM)

Aristotle was a Greek philosopher student of Plato. Of the many students of Plato, Aristotle was the most influential in world civilization. When human knowledge is still too general and broad, he divides it into different categories of subjects, such as physics, metaphysics, poetry, biology, mathematics, rhetoric, to politics. Aristotle is indeed a figure in Greek philosophy whose influence is felt to this day.

2. Socrates (469-399 SM)

The Greek philosopher Socrates is a thinker who is very influential in the Western philosophical tradition because of the results / fruits of his thinking. One of his most phenomenal ideas is the Socratic method, which is a form of philosophical study by exploring the implications of the interlocutor’s position to stimulate the emergence of rational thinking and new ideas. Until finally Socrates was executed for destroying the youth’s belief in the gods.

3. Plato (427-347 SM)

Plato was a Greek philosopher student of Socrates who had the same philosophical views as his teacher. However, Plato was a more systematic thinker than his teacher. One of the results of Plato’s thinking is about the idea which according to him is a reality that can actually be recognized by the five senses if from everything that exists. Plato was also the founder of the Platonic Academy in Athens, the first high school in the Western world. In the view of physics, Plato agrees with the thoughts of Pythagoras. Plato always thought it was important for human beings to do physical exercise, mostly if they had purpose of becoming a well known leader of society. Physical exercise or now called sports are also good for health, especially football which turns out to be the most popular sports based on a media that specifically talk about football thoroughly.

4. Zeno Citium (490-430 SM)

Zeno is an ancient philosopher who is slightly different from other philosophers. While many philosophers use reason and knowledge to interpret nature, Zeno spends his time thinking about the paradox of motion and plurality. Zeno also has many self-initiated paradoxes, such as the concept of infinity which was later debated by later generations of philosophers.

5. Thales (620-546 SM)

Thales was a philosopher who produced many ideas, one of which he stated that water is the basic principle (in Greek arche) of all things. Water is the base, principal, and basis of everything that exists in the universe. Thales has also been named the Father of Ancient Philosophy by historians.

6. Pythagoras (570-495 SM)

Pythagoras was a classical Greek philosopher and founder of Pythagoreanism. He was also a mathematician who succeeded in creating the Pythagorean Theorem, one of the key calculations in geometry. Many of Pythagoras’ ideas have influenced modern philosophy. According to the Athens Insiders report, Pythagoras was the first to teach that the shape of the earth was round.

7. Anaxagoras (500-428 SM)

Ancient Greek

Ancient Greek

is a civilization in Greek history starting from the Archaic Greek period in the 8th to 6th centuries BC, until the end of the Ancient Age and the beginning of the Early Middle Ages. This civilization reached its peak in the Classical Greek period, which began to develop in the 5th-4th centuries BC. In this classical period Greece was ruled by the city-state of Athens and successfully repelled the attacks of the Persian Empire. Athens’ golden age resulted in the conquest of Athens to Sparta in the Peloponnesian War in 404 BC. With the conquests of Alexander the Great, Greek culture, known as the Hellenistic civilization, expanded from Central Asia to the western tip of the Mediterranean Sea.

The term “Ancient Greece” was applied to an area that spoke Greek in Antiquity. Its territory was not only limited to the peninsula of modern Greece, but also included other territories inhabited by the Greeks, including Cyprus and the Aegean Islands, the coast of Anatolia (then Ionia), Sicily and southern Italy (known as the Greater Greece), and other Greek settlements scattered along the coast of Colchis, Illyria, Thrace, Egypt, Cyrenaica, southern Gaul, the eastern and northeastern Iberian Peninsula, Iberia, and Taurica.

By most historians, this civilization is considered the foundation for Western Civilization. Greek cultural norms had a strong influence on the Roman Empire, which in turn passed its version on to other parts of Europe. Ancient Greek civilization also greatly influenced language, politics, educational systems, philosophy, science, and the arts, driving the Renaissance in Western Europe, and a resurgence during the Neo-Classical revival of the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe and America.

5th Century BC

Athens and Sparta allied themselves to face a powerful and dangerous foreign threat, the Persian Empire. After suppressing the Ionian Revolt, Emperor Darius I of Persia, Emperor of the Achaemenid Empire decided to conquer Greece. The Persian offensive in 490 BC ended with the Athenian victory at the Battle of Marathon under Miltiades the Younger.

Xerxes I, son and heir of Darius I, tried to conquer Greece again 10 years later. However, a large Persian army suffered heavy casualties at the Battle of Thermopylae, and the Greeks were victorious in the Battles of Slamis and the Battle of Plataia. The Greco-Persian Wars continued until 449 BC, led by Athens and its Delian League, by this time Macedonia, Thrace, and the Aegean and Ionian Islands were all free from Persian influence.

The dominant position of the Athenian maritime empire threatened the position of Sparta with its Peloponnesian League, which covered the cities of mainland Greece. This inevitable conflict culminated in the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC). Despite repeated success in stopping the war, Athens was repeatedly pushed back. The Plague The plague that hit Athens in 430 BC and the failure of a military expedition to Sicily greatly weakened Athens. It is thought that a third of Athenians died, including Pericles, their leader.

Sparta succeeded in provoking the revolt of the Athenian allies, and as a result crippled Athens’ military power. An important event occurred in 405 BC when Sparta succeeded in cutting off Athens’ food supply from the Hellespont. Forced to attack, the crippled Athenian naval fleet was crushed by Spartan forces under Lysandros in the Battle of Aigospotami. In 404 BC Athens appealed for peace, and Sparta determined the terms; Athens had to lose its city walls (including the Long Wall), its navy, and all its colonies overseas.

4th Century BC

Greece entered the 4th century BC under Spartan hegemony, but it was clear from the start that Sparta had weaknesses. The demographic crisis caused Sparta’s power to be too broad while its ability to manage it was limited. In 395 BC Athens, Argos, Thebes, and Corinth felt capable of challenging Spartan domination, which led to the Battle of Corinth (395-387 BC). This war ended with the status quo, with Persian intervention interspersed on behalf of Sparta.

Sparta’s hegemony continued for 16 years after this event, until Sparta tried to impose its will on the citizens of Thebes, Sparta was defeated at the Battle of Leuktra in 371 BC. The Theban general Epaminondas led the Theban troops into the Peloponnesian peninsula, causing many city-states to cut ties with Sparta. The Theban troops succeeded in entering Messenia and liberating its people.

Deprived of land and colonized people, Sparta fell into a second-class power. The hegemony of Thebes continued to exist even though it was short-lived. In the Battle of Mantinea in 362 BC against Sparta and its allies, Thebes lost their important leader, Epamonides, although they were victorious. As a result of this defeat, both Thebes and Sparta suffered heavy losses so that neither of them nor their allies could gain dominance in Greece.

The weakening of the various city-states in the heart of Greece coincided with the rise of Macedonia, led by Philip II. Within twenty years, Philip had succeeded in unifying his kingdom, expanding it northward by cornering the Illyrian tribes, and subsequently conquering Thessaly and Thrace. His success was due to his innovations, which reformed the Macedonian army. Philippos repeatedly intervened in the political affairs of the southern city-states, leading to his invasion in 338 BC.

After decisively defeating the combined armies of Athens and Thebes at the Battle of Khaironeia in 338 BC, Philippos became the de facto hegemon of all of Greece, except Sparta. He forced the majority of Greek city-states to join the League of Corinth and ally with it, and prevented them from attacking each other. Philiposp began an attack on the Achaemenid Empire, but was killed by Pausanias of Orestis at the start of the conflict.

Alexander the Great, Philip’s son and heir, continued the war. Alexander defeated Darius III of Persia and completely destroyed the Achaemenid Empire, and incorporated it into the Macedonian Empire. Due to his prowess, he earned the title ‘Great’. When Alexander died in 323 BC, Greek power and influence was at its peak. There is a fundamental change in political, social and cultural norms; further away from the polis (city-state) and increasingly developed into a Hellenistic culture.