Thursday, 2 August 2012

Holism without Skepticism… Hermeneutic Circle

BOHMAN, J.F. (1991) Holism without Skepticism: Contexualism and the Limits of Interpretation. In: D.R. HILEY, J.F. BOHMAN, and R. SHUSTERMAN (Eds.) The Interpretive Turn. Cornell University Press. pp129-154

“The thesis of the ‘hermeneutic circle’ has formed the core of almost every holistic theory of interpretation since Friedrich Schleiermacher, both as an explication of the relation of parts to the wholes in interpretation and as a denial of the possibility of a separate metalanguage to discuss interpretations (because interpretation is circular, every treatment of an interpretation is itself an interpretation). If correct, it also means that interpretations cannot be independent of the standpoint of the interpreter, in that interpreters are embedded in their situation and hence their understanding remains partial and incomplete. The language of the interpreter is not some metalanguage outside the circle, but a fallible and partial understanding within it.” (p136)

The hermeneutic circle accepts that the language the individual applies in their interpretation is part of the phenomenological study itself. The interpreter is within their existence in which the thing to be interpreted also exists, and so is the phenomenologist wishing to make sense of the interpreter. They are embedded in the world and although they cannot truly see each other’s worlds directly, the phenomenologist must acknowledge and ‘bracket out’ their own experience to be objective in the use of a hermeneutic circle. As each interpreter’s interpretation will be partial and incomplete due to their individual powers of description and dissemination, the circle compares each interpretation to the others to extract the common elements in the experience that the interpretations share to come to some understanding as to what constitutes the phenomenon itself that is being studied. 

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