Thursday, 2 August 2012

The Aims of Interpretation… ars intelligendi and ars explicandi

HIRSCH, E.D. (1976) The Aims of Interpretation. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

“From very early times the idea of interpretation has combined and, to some extent, confused two functions, the understanding of meaning and the explication of meaning. One of the earliest distinctions in hermeneutics discriminated between these two functions: the ars intelligendi, the art of understanding, and the ars explicandi, the art of explaining. Obviously, an interpreter must first construe or understand a meaning before he explains it to others. Nevertheless, it is useful to stick to the broad term ‘interpretation,’ which fuses the two functions, since they do go together whenever any interpretation is explicated. To focus on the prior activity, one can simply use the term ‘understanding.’” (p19)
Interpretation fuses two functions together: the understanding of meaning with the explication of meaning. In hermeneutics this has been identified as ars intelligendi (understanding) and ars explicandi (explaining). The two functions can sometimes be confused and interchanged so Hirsh urges that when the person interprets they first are trying to match what they sense with what they already know in order to first understand before and interpretation and explanation can begin. A subtle difference between understanding and interpretation as the latter results in a conclusive outcome. In comparison understanding is more passive than active. 

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