Chapter Five: Interpretivism

The Way of Hermeneutics Foundations of Social Research Michael Crotty

The Foundations of Social Research
 Historically,

Hermeneutics comes from the science of biblical interpretation (17th Century)  How does one interpret the meaning of a holy text?  The actual explanation of what a biblical text means is exegesis

The Foundations of Social Research
 Hermeneutics:

exegesis  Grammar: language  Logic: reasoning  Hermeneutics expanded to texts beyond the bible, then to unwritten sources i.e., human practices, human events, human situations in an attempt to “read” these in ways that bring understanding.

The Foundations of Social Research
 Hermeneutics

reinforces notion that we are essentially languaged beings.  Language is pivotal to and shapes the situations in which we find ourselves enmeshed, the events which befall us, the practices we carry out and, in and through all of this, the understandings we are able to reach.

The Foundations of Social Research
 In

the old view of language, first came the “given reality,” then came perception, then came language.  In the linguistic turn, language and the way we “speak” shape what things we see and how we see them and it is those things shaped for us by language that constitute reality for us.

The Foundations of Social Research
 Ricouer
 The

Symbol gives rise to thought  The basic premise of hermeneutics  Hermeneutics is defined as a method for deciphering indirect meaning, a reflective practice of unmasking hidden meanings beneath apparent ones.

The Foundations of Social Research
 In

Ancient Greek mythology, Hermes, the divine messenger used to interpret the messages of the Gods to the humans. His job was to go from the familiar to the unfamiliar and back  Famous hermeneuticists: Heidegger, Dilthey, Gadamer, Ricouer  Even though hermeneutics was formalized as a discipline within the late renaissance, early enlightenment time of Christianity, it was also practiced by the Greeks and the Jews.

The Foundations of Social Research
 In

hermeneutics, texts are seen as alien, foreign, unfamiliar, distant. But there is also a paradoxical affinity/connection between text and reader  Additionally, hermeneutics is interested in the implications and applications of texts
 Ex.

Legal texts  Texts are very much situated in communities and contexts of negotiated meaning

The Foundations of Social Research
 Imbedded

in hermeneutics is the endeavor to reach beyond the author’s meanings and intentions. Indeed the text cannot be contained by the author alone.  What are the implications and potential pitfalls of this endeavor?

The Foundations of Social Research
 The
 In

Hermeneutic Circle

order to understand something, one needs to begin with ideas, and to use terms that presuppose a rudimentary understanding of what one is trying to understand. Understanding turns out to be a development of what is already understood, with the more developed understanding returning to illuminate and enlarge one’s starting point.

The Foundations of Social Research
 The

Hermeneutic Circle continued…  Also…  Understand the whole by looking at its parts. Understand the parts by looking at the whole  Also…  Start with the familiar, address the unfamiliar, add it to the familiar (Gadamer’s bordering frontiers concept)

The Foundations of Social Research
 Founders

of Modern Hermeneutics that moved it from the realm of the strictly biblical beyond…
 Friedrich

Ast  Friedrich Schleiermacher  1) Empathy in the speaker-listener interchange can be extended to the interpretation of texts  2) Attention to grammar situating and shaping literary context  3) Psychology-attention to intentions and assumptions of author

The Foundations of Social Research
 Dilthey’s

Objective Mind  Life and History are inextricably intertwined  Philosophy as science of the real, all the real without truncations  Human understanding can never exhaust the real though and there will always be mysteries and uncertainties.

The Foundations of Social Research
 Dilthey

continued  All life is historical life  All people live within history and nothing, therefore, is definitive  Study of the natural realm and the social realm requires different methods  Initially, Dilthey felt that through empathy, we could relive past events.  Later, he revised his position and accepted that people’s speech, writings, art and behavior were a product of their times.

The Foundations of Social Research
  

Dilthey continued The authors historical and social context is the prime source of understanding. The human context is an objectification or externalization —an ‘expression’ of human consciousness. This is the ‘objective mind.’ People’s lived experience is incarnate in language, literature, behavior, art, religion, law—in their every cultural institution and structure. In Dilthey’s hermeneutic circle, the interpreter moves from the text, to the historical and social circumstances of the author, and attempts to reconstruct the world in which the text came to be and to situate the text within it and back again.

The Foundations of Social Research
 Heidegger’s

Phenomenological Hermeneutics  Hermeneutics is the revelatory aspect of phenomenological seeing whereby existence (its structures) and being come into view  Heidegger’s focus is ontology? Review of chapter one…

The Foundations of Social Research
 Heidegger

continued  “Only as phenomenology is ontology possible” Philosophy is ontology, ontology is phenomenology.  Dasein: Phenomenology of human being  Forestructure of being: pre-understanding of being within all of us.  Hermeneutics is NOT a body of principles or rules for interpreting texts, nor is it a methodology for the human sciences,

The Foundations of Social Research
 Heidegger

continued  Heidegger’s hermeneutics starts with a phenomenological return to our being, which presents itself to us initially in a nebulous and undeveloped fashion, and then seeks to unfold that preunderstanding, make explicit what is implicit, and grasp the meaning of being itself.

The Foundations of Social Research
 Heidegger

continued  Also describes hermeneutics as a circular phenomena  In our quest for being, we begin with and from a pre-understanding of being. We then unfold the rudimentary understanding and render explicit and thematic what is at first implicit and unthematised.

The Foundations of Social Research
 Heidegger

continued  Explicating the implicit and unthematized leads us to grasp the structures of being that make human existence and behavior possible and then on to a grasping of being itself. Then we are more enlightened and we begin again (See figure 5, p. 98).  For insights on being, look to poetry and history

The Foundations of Social Research
 Gadamer’s

historical hermeneutics  People are thoroughly historical, ‘historically effected’ consciousnesses.  1) We stand in tradition  2) All tradition is wedded to language  The fusion of horizons that takes place in the understanding is actually the achievement of language.  His is a historical understanding that mediates past and present.

The Foundations of Social Research
 If

Heidegger finds meaning in poetry, Gadamer finds it in art.  He is interested in judging historical art, rather than contemporary art, why?  History does not belong to us, it is not a private enterprise, we belong to it.  For Gadamer, the starting point is not the self, but the tradition in which we stand and which we are meant to serve.  Consider the cultural tradition as a ‘given.’

The Foundations of Social Research
 The

Movement of understanding is from the whole to the part and back to the whole. Expand the unity of the understood meaning centrifigully i.e., extend the unity of understanding in everwidening circles by moving from whole to part and from part to whole.

The Foundations of Social Research
 Applications:

Theory and literary criticism  Continuum that privileges author or text at one end and reader at the other…  Eco: beware of overinterpretation, what is that?  Eco wants to establish dialectical link between intentio operis (intention of the work) and intentio lectoris (intention of the reader)  Eco believes texts have a certain unity and coherence and there are limits/boundaries to reasonable interpretations.

The Foundations of Social Research
 What

is the transactional reading of texts about?  How should you think about approaching texts then, given such an array of opinions and options?

The Foundations of Social Research
 Empathy  Interactive

approach  transactional