This path established a link between phenomenology and contemporary analysis Hermeneutics was initially limited to exegesis, i.e. a discipline that aimed to. Ingrid Harris, Ph.D. Existential Phenomenology & Hermeneutics, Philosophy ( ) · Author The distinction between exegesis and hermeneutics is a thin line. Theory and Criticism and Its Relationship to Legal Study: Thoughts on the Relevance of. Continental Thought continental theories of phenomenology,I structuralism,1 4 and hermeneutics. . ). Valuable commentaries.
He sought to follow his own philosophical path: This philosopher made a significant contribution with an interpretation theory founded on the dialectics between explanation and understanding, regulated by interpretation; he follows a reflective method that creates a connection with that which is experienced. He considers grasping existence as important and, for this reason, seeks to "rediscover the authenticity of meaning" using the truth 5. In this perspective, this philosopher's trajectory is manifested as a continuous effort aiming to understand the dimension of the human being in his totality.
To do this, it was necessary to arouse one's will, which is the basis of every action and factuality, revealing the dialectics between them, without, however, distancing oneself from the concrete as a being in the world of life, imbued with historical and cultural conditions. For this reason, Ricoeur proposes a hermeneutic phenomenology with original thinking and innovative method, because it marks the world of life and seeks the polysemic truth of the phenomenon on the levels where understanding occurs 4.
This is founded on three levels: It invites us to clarify human existence by understanding the human being's symbolic behavior: He proposes the dialectics of complementarity to be able to resolve the question of dualism between explanation and understanding 5seeking a way to join the objectivity of the scientific discourse and the phenomenological one and emphasizing the subjectivity of reflection.
Thus, hermeneutics deals with a current that proposes reflections on the aesthetical experience and human language. It is the interpretation of the meaning of what is not said or shown when doing something. It is an attempt to specify the meaning, which is essential to describe the experience.
The aim is to achieve an interpretation theory of the being. For this reason, Paul Ricoeur seeks a "reflective method" that clarifies existence and elucidates "its meaning" 5. It should be pointed out that there is no revealing the phenomenon without discourse. Thus, the task of phenomenology is to emphasize the meaning of the phenomenon-discourse.
This is understood as meaning, because meaning is what the person wishes to make explicit. People talk to each other and something happens. Discourse appears as a way to individually overcome human being's loneliness 5. There is a shift from code linguistics to that of meaning, i. The basic unit of a language is the sign, in the same manner that the basic unit of the written discourse or text is the sentence 5.
In this way, hermeneutics analyzes the meaning of discourse and makes it explicit. This meaning has a primitive trace of distancing oneself, known as event and meaning dialectics. Hermeneutics is understood as the theory of the workings of understanding in relation to text interpretation, because to interpret is to try to reveal description itself, that is, to realize the meaning in human existence 5. The discourse is an event because it is carried out by the human being in a temporal situation in the present.
Language, on the other hand, is non-temporal and impersonal, whose signs only refer to other signs inside the same system, which ends in itself. The discourse employs signs to establish language and, through it, the human being opens himself to dialogue with the other.
Thus, in the discourse, there is an intentionality and meaning, revealed by language 5. In this sense, Ricoeur seeks, with his hermeneutics, to understand human existence from the discovery of the meaning of discourse. He searches for meaning behind the words, so that what is real is perceived in its totality.
Then, for the philosopher, to comprehend is to understand and to be based on an intention present in the text to be interpreted. Moreover, Ricoeur reveals that the analysis and interpretation of the hermeneutic discourse can be described in stages: The initial text reading aims to understand it in a superficial way, by perceiving the first meanings.
The reading must be carried out many times and without judgment, so that the researcher can grasp the meanings and organize them.
Critical reading occurs when the text is re-read in-depth, with the purpose of interpreting and understanding the possible meanings imbued in the text. Appropriation is when the apex is reached with the grasping and assimilation of the revealed message. With this understanding, at the moment the reader analyzes a text from a certain work, their interpretation may be completely different from the author's intention.
For this reason, it is possible to perceive the experience in an individual way, though it goes from one "sphere of life to another. This something is not the experience as experienced, but its meaning" 2. That is why the "experienced experience", as it is experienced, remains private, but its sense, its meaning, becomes public 5.
According to Ricoeur, as we are in the world, we are influenced by situations, from which we acquire understanding and feel the need to share this with others, i. The notion of the text uplifts the word, revives the discourse and enables it to speak. The discourse becomes complete when the reader reads it. It is important to emphasize that, in the spoken discourse, i.
However, the author is not present in the written discourse, because there are no actions and expressions of gestures and looks. The meaning of a text becomes open to several readers and, as a result, to many interpretations. Thus, writing, in relation to speaking, always shows a measure of distance and reveals something that, in speaking, is initial.
As Ricoeur states, writing "replaces speaking", because it seeks to fix the discourse. In this way, it is the discourse that must emerge in a visual manner, not only as grammar 2. The relationship between the event and the meaning that it brings forth is sought to be established.
From the philosopher's point of view, in order to observe the phenomenon as it is revealed, the paradigm of distancing oneself from communication is crucial, i. Given this view, to understand does not mean to simply repeat the discourse through the other, but rather to create a new event that begins with the text.
The interpretation, in contrast, is a special episode of understanding, applied to life's written expressions. Thus, interpretation involves explanation and understanding 5.
To obtain the study's descriptions of experience, recorded interviews were the choice, where the reality experienced and expressed in words by 19 professor-nurses was sought to be recorded.
These professor-nurses are members of the Department of Nursing permanent staff, of both sexes, involved with students in theoretical-practical disciplines in all course semesters, and who were willing to participate in the study.
It is important to emphasize that, in this methodology, the interview must be followed by the observation of the professor-nurses' actions, because, by doing this, it is possible to listen beyond their speech as a way to understand meanings. Language is inherent in the body and, in this sense, surpasses the subject-object dichotomy. Here, to observe implies to be present and with the other.
In this sense, the researcher can apprehend his subjectivity and establish a relationship of closeness with the other, because, by observing someone's movement, this is not seen as a mechanic movement, but rather as an expressive gesture which is never simply physical. The gesture speaks something and immediately refers to the subject's inner nature 7. The interview enables better interaction with the other and also personal approaches to observe one of the ways to recover what is real in the human being's experiences, because the researcher borrows the interviewee's descriptions of experiences and reflects upon them.
In the interview, one guiding question was presented: What does the sensibility to teach and learn to be and practice nursing mean to you? Interviews became an exercise of sensibly listening to interviewees' speech. Interviewees spoke freely about this issue, but, throughout the interview, other questions were asked to clarify understanding if necessary.
This approach enabled researchers to have a closer relationship and interaction with them and also a more open view of and closeness to the phenomenon researched, where the teaching of nursing occurs. Researchers managed to delve into the world experienced, permeated by meanings of actions, expressions of relationships and human interactions.
An individual is understood in himself by the experience of seeing him, touching him, listening to him and perceiving him 4. To guarantee anonymity, interviewees were identified by the river metaphor. A river is formed by water, which represents the words, the discourse, the text. The number of professor-nurses who comprised the significant individuals in this study was decided during data collection, according to the criterion of repetition of information, given the fact that this type of criterion is not based on quantity to guarantee its representativeness.
Thus, it is difficult to decide beforehand how many individuals will participate in the research. While the researcher is conducting the study, other individuals may be included 8. While carrying out the study, researchers tried to remain faithful to the methodology this study was founded upon, as they observed they could organize the description of experiences. To do this, it was necessary to review all empirical data, according to the experience acquired in the observations of the world lived by the study interviewer.
However, the challenge was to carry out this methodology creatively. Initially, two moments were considered: As regards the oral text construction, the professor-nurse-being is the awareness of a being-in-the-world who is routinely learning.
They observe, think, feel, learn and intentionally share with the other their experience in relation to the world they live in, as well as their way of existing. In this study, the dialogue was made possible by the interview, which enabled researchers to approach the other to find out about their experience in teaching and learning to be and practice nursing and the meanings of sensibility.
In addition to listening to the authentic speech of the professor-nurse-being, it is known that the phenomenon can be observed by their manifested actions in their gestures and expressions. It is important to point out that for the interview to flow, it was necessary to seek an environment that the other became familiar with, and where he felt welcome and comfortable.
The use of a recorder during the interview was indispensable, because this enabled the interviewer to feel free to observe, listen to, and, when necessary, make notes of observations. It is understood that the phenomenon is perceived in perspective and, for this reason, it is not possible to perceive it as a whole.
The shift from oral to written text makes the context disappear.
To prevent this shift from becoming impoverished, it was necessary to transcribe the interviews, one by one. In addition, at the end of the interviews and of each transcription, the observations made with the personal reflections were noted down. The text had to be subsequently read, while listening to the professor-nurse's speech, because gestures and expressions can always be remembered this way.
In the authors' conception, what happens is that the researcher becomes very close to the text, enabling them to reflect upon existential situations that emerged from the other's experience and, for this reason, to seek to understand and interpret what is hidden in their experience.
After turning the oral text into written text, the reading procedures, the identification of possible meanings and, finally, the manifested sensibility were carried out. Reading procedures After the construction of the written text, it is necessary to associate understanding with meanings. The first impressions can be assessed, changed and delved into, based on the text's objective structure. Thus, the text's possible meanings were interpreted by the researchers. However, it is important to remember that phenomenology is geared to the description of the interviewee's experiences, without the concern for finding an explanation for them.
The circle can also be put in terms of part-whole relations: An entity for which, as Being-in-the-world, its Being is itself an issue, has, ontologically, a circular structure. This conceptualization has been severely criticized as a fruitless attempt to immunize his conception from criticism by deliberately sheltering it under a mantle of apriorism Albert Others view the hermeneutic circle as a logical or methodological problem.
To begin with, it is clear that the hermeneutic circle is not a logical problem in a strict sense: He maintains that, in its most important variations, the circle is by no means a narrow epistemological problem of the humanities, but a problem to be confronted in all disciplines.
This is the case, for example, in what is known as the dilemma regarding the appropriate distinction between background knowledge and facts. It can only be solved if, through critical discussion the members of the relevant community of inquirers agree on what should count as fact and what as background knowledge in respect to the specific hypothesis tested.
They discuss a series of methodological issues that arise during the processes of understanding, and claim that they all appear in the context of the justification of an interpretation.
They distinguish four variations: Instead of viewing the hermeneutic circle as a methodological problem that emerges when testing an interpretative hypothesis, one can take it that the problem of the relationship between the meaningful whole and its elements emerges in the process of formulating a hypothesis.
In this case, the hermeneutic circle is an empirical phenomenon that arises when one does not manage to understand a linguistic expression or other signs immediately, i. It is then necessary to create interpretative hypotheses, and it is during this activity that one gets confronted with the problem of the meaningful whole and its elements.
Language processing is a complex skill which has become routinized once one has gained experience in all levels which are important when understanding expressions: If a difficulty arises in the language comprehension process, and if one cannot understand one or more linguistic expressions immediately, then cognitive resources in the form of attention are activated, and an interpretative hypothesis is generated.
In psycholinguistics this conscious process is often modeled as an interactive process of all relevant levels of information processing: There is enough evidence that supports the claim that the discourse on the hermeneutic circle can be appropriately viewed as the search process that is activated if the interpreter of a linguistic expression does not understand something immediately J.
The process of parsing during which the words in a linguistic expression are transformed into a mental representation with the combined meaning of the words, as studied by cognitive scientists, is especially relevant: Text Interpretation It is prima facie plausible to postulate that there is nothing beyond understanding a text, than understanding the sentences which compose it; and that there is nothing beyond understanding a sentence than understanding the words which compose it.
This widespread view is based on the belief in the validity of the principle of compositionality Szabo Gottlob Frege has famously declared in section 60 of his Grundlagen der Arithmetik that only within complete sentences do words have meaning. This different, but related principle to the principle of compositionality is usually referred to as the context principle.
It is enough if the sentence as whole has meaning; thereby also its parts obtain their meanings. There is a consensus in many contemporary theories that the semantic value of a sentence is a function of the semantic value of its constituents, insofar the principle of compositionality is applicable. However, the temptation to assume an analogous principle for texts should be resisted: Whereas a sentence may express a thought which is a plausible mental correlate, a text expresses a sequence of thoughts which cannot be grasped directly: Acknowledging the complexity of text comprehension as a process is the first step towards looking for models that can successfully come to grips with that complexity.
Such models have been proposed and discussed in cognitive psychology. A prominent example of such a model has been put forward by Kintsch and van Deijk and focuses on the information processing taking place once syntactic and semantic analysis have been undertaken. In other words, the focus of the model is directly on the comprehension of the whole text, after the initial set of propositions have been identified and after parsing processes have been applied to them.
A crucial factor is the capacity limit of the cognitive system, namely the number of propositions that can be kept active in working memory.
The consequence of this is that sets of propositions are cognitively processed in cycles, i. Thus, it becomes necessary to use criteria of relevance according to which propositions are kept active, so that the meaning of the entire text can be conveyed.
The suggested criteria are temporal proximity and the importance of the information conveyed. This is done under the presupposition that there is a hierarchical relationship between the propositions in the text. During this complex process, the interpreter actively construes the meaning of the whole text and grasps its meaning Kintsch Such models of text comprehension are empirically tested and amount to a significant step forward towards the formulation of an account of text interpretation based on solid empirical evidence.
However, a standard philosophical critique questions the possibility of providing testable models of text comprehension without appropriately acknowledging the normative presuppositions underlying all interpretative praxis. There are two lines of argument that have been influential in this context. In an imaginary situation, an interpreter is confronted with the verbal behavior of a human being, in an entirely alien culture, without any kind of knowledge about his or her beliefs, desires or the meanings of what he or she expresses.
The problem consists of getting to know the beliefs, desires and meanings of this person starting from scratch, i. In the context of this largely artificial problem, it is contended that one is inclined to or bound to adopt a general interpretative principle of a normative nature, which is supposed to be imperative for correct translation and interpretation.
According to Quine Charity in interpreting the words and thoughts of others is unavoidable in another direction as well: In fact, none of the principles proposed in this discussion is new. Hermeneutic equity aequitas hermeneutica is the tendency of the interpreter to hold that meaning for hermeneutically true that best comports with the flawlessness of the originator of the sign, until the opposite is shown.
It is important to stress that the principle of hermeneutic equity is explicitly formulated as a presumption: In the Anglo-Saxon discussion on radical interpretation referred to above, the general thrust of the argument is that these rules are constitutive for the practice of interpretation; they occupy a specific status that must accordingly be recognized as an important presupposition of all interpretation.
However, their apparent indispensability can simply be traced to the fact that they have been particularly well corroborated, as they have often been employed with success. Accordingly, it is only their greater corroboration that leads to a presumption that they are indispensable to every interpretation Mantzavinos The second line of argument regarding the normative presuppositions of interpretative praxis, centers around the indispensability of a rationality assumption in all interpretation Livingston According to this argument, it is possible to apprehend linguistic expressions only if it is assumed that speakers or authors manifest complex features that are appropriately conceptualized as rational.
- 2. The Hermeneutic Circle
- 1. Introduction
- Services on Demand
Most importantly, deductive rationality plays an important role: So, according to this view, rationality is constitutive of the beliefs of the author which give rise to his or her linguistic expressions and, thus, rationality is a or the normative presupposition which must underlie all interpretative praxis.
However, the rationality assumption is surely not an uncontested principle Mantzavinos Thus, the process of text interpretation which lies in the center of hermeneutics as the methodological discipline dealing with interpretation can and has been analyzed empirically with the help of testable models.
The question whether there are certain normative presuppositions of the interpretative praxis—like specific principles of interpretation that are constitutive of this praxis and indispensable rationality principles—is a focal issue of obvious philosophical importance Detel Regardless of the position that is assumed with respect to this issue, it is hardly possible to deny that the interpretative praxis can take on multiple forms and can take place according to diverse aims, an issue to which we turn next.
Aims of Text Interpretation We have seen that text interpretation goes beyond the interpretation of simple or complex sentences since it crucially includes a number of inferences that are necessary in order to glean the meaning of a text. Text interpretation as a goal-directed activity can assume different forms, but must be distinguished from highlighting the significance of a text. In fact, a series of serious misunderstandings and confusions can be easily avoided, if a clear distinction is made between interpretation as an activity directed at the appropriation of the meaning of a text and textual criticism as an activity that is concerned with the significance of a text with respect to different values.
Instead of seeming beautiful, profound, or brilliant, the work seemed misguided, trivial, and false, and its meaning was no longer one that the author wished to convey. However, these examples do not show that the meaning of the work had changed, but precisely the opposite. No doubt the significance of the work to the author had changed a great deal, but its meaning had not changed at all.
Significance, on the other hand, names a relationship between that meaning and a person, or a conception, or a situation, or indeed anything imaginable. Failure to consider this simple and essential distinction has been the source of enormous confusion in hermeneutic theory. Even if one acknowledges the difference between meaning and significance, and decides to honor the distinction between text interpretation and textual criticism, it is undisputable that interpretation can be directed at many different goals.What is Hermeneutics?
For a long time the discussion has centered around the appropriate objective of interpretation and a focal point has been the so-called intentional fallacy, influentially formulated by Wimsatt and Beardsley The crux of the matter in the debate has been whether grasping the intention of the author of a text is the only aim of interpretation or not and assuming that authorial intention is indeed the goal of interpretation, how exactly it can be tracked.
The essential question with which we are confronted in studying any given text, as Quentin Skinner It follows that the essential aim, in any attempt to understand the utterances themselves, must be to recover this complex intention on the part of the author.
And it follows from this that the appropriate methodology for the history of ideas must be concerned, first of all, to delineate the whole range of communications which could have been conventionally performed on the given occasion by the utterance of the given utterance, and, next, to trace the relations between the given utterance and this wider linguistic context as a means of decoding the actual intention of the given writer.
Whereas the notion of intention is certainly useful in providing a methodological account of interpretation, its use is surely part of a later development; and it has been largely imported into hermeneutic methodology from discussions in philosophy of mind and language that took place in the analytic tradition in the 20th century.
It was itself a reaction against two orthodoxies prevailing at the time. On the one hand, that interpretation should aim only at the concrete text itself; and on the other, that interpretation should aim at the social context which gave rise or caused the creation of the concrete text Skinner A nexus of meaning, connected with a specific linguistic expression or a specific text, is construed by the author against the background of his goals, beliefs, and other mental states while interacting with his natural and social environment: Text interpretation can be conceptualized as the activity directed at correctly identifying the meaning of a text by virtue of accurately reconstructing the nexus of meaning that has arisen in connection with that text.
One way to describe the nexus of meaning is by using the notion of intention—a legitimate but surely not an exclusive way. In other words, in reconstructing the nexus of meaning, it is not necessary to comply with a specific descriptive system: Since what is to be reconstructed is a whole nexus of meaning, a completely different descriptive system can be used. It is possible to use the intention of the author as well as to incorporate an analysis of the grammatical elements and other elements in order to produce an adequate reconstruction.
The notion of the nexus of meaning is central for the methodology of hermeneutics, mainly because it can accommodate the hermeneutic practices of a series of disciplines. It is obvious, then, that interpretation in the hermeneutic tradition is conceptualized as a process of reconstructing nexuses of meaning and represents a process diametrically opposite to the process of deconstruction as proposed for example by Derrida and his followers.
The crucial point, then, is that any text has an envisioning historical and cultural context and that the context of a text is itself not simply textual—not something that can be played out solely and wholly in the textual domain. This context of the texts that concern us constrains and limits the viable interpretations that these texts are able to bear.
Hermeneutics - Wikipedia
The process of deconstruction—of interpretatively dissolving any and every text into a plurality of supposedly merit-equivalent construction—can and should be offset by the process of reconstruction which calls for viewing texts within their larger contexts. After all, texts inevitably have a setting—historical, cultural, authorial—on which their actual meaning is critically dependent. Viewing interpretation as a process of reconstructing the nexus of meaning of a text does pay due attention to the context of the text, without assuming that the social and historical context had caused the production of the text.
This view also enables the reconciliation in a different facet of the age-old controversy regarding the aims of interpretation. We have seen that it has long been an object of fierce dispute whether capturing the intention of the author is the only legitimate objective of an interpretation or not.
However, this dispute can be successfully arbitrated if one bears in mind the character of hermeneutics as a technological discipline Albert Its technological character manifests itself in positively acknowledging the plurality of aims towards which interpretative activities can aim. These objectives need not necessarily be reduced to a common denominator nor do some of them need to be sacrificed for the sake of others. A critical discussion of the significance of the different aims of interpretation is, of course, possible, but it need not end up with definite results that are binding for everyone.
In fact, this will hardly ever be the case, since consensus on appropriate aims of interpretation will typically be of a provisional character: