To the editors:
Robert McClory in his article about Thomas Sheehan (Reader, 4/21/89) remarks on the books on Sheehan’s shelves as concerning “esoteric subjects like phenomenology and hermeneutics.” Then a few lines later in the very same paragraph McClory blithely refers to metaphysics and Heidegger as if they are not esoteric. Where is McClory coming from? How is he drawing the line between esoteric and exoteric? Very technically speaking, all four notions/person above could be considered esoteric, in perhaps a strict dictionary definition of terms. But McClory is writing for a Reader audience. Do I overrate the audience? Any decently educated layman with just a passing knowlege of philosophy knows about phenomenology–at least he/she knows it exists as a philosophical perspective. And hermeneutics is no longer confined to theological discussions as maybe it once was ages ago. Any decently educated layman with just a passing knowledge of literary criticism knows about hermeneutics. I would assume that your average reader of the Reader would realize that Sheehan is doing hermeneutics; broadly understood, even McClory himself, as he writes, is doing hermeneutics. Esoteric? No, not at all.