Thursday, 2 August 2012

The Aims of Interpretation… Breaking the Hermeneutic Circle

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

“If one had, then, to choose a hermeneutical model it should hardly be one that entirely excluded the possibility of Husserl’s brackets. The brackets implied by the terms ‘meaning’ and ‘significance’ do in fact represent something that most of us believe we experience in verbal discourse, namely, an alien meaning, something meant by an implied author or speaker who is not ourselves. Whenever we have posited another person’s meaning, we have bracketed a region of our own experience as being that of another person. The paradox of self and other in verbal discourse is even easier to accept (because more widely experienced) than the paradox of part and whole in the hermeneutic circle. No doubt the paradoxical doubling of personality involved in the verbal intercourse is a bracketing experience for which some persons have greater talents than others, but it is nonetheless a widespread experience. The hermeneutic circle, on the other hand, as I shall point out at the end of the next chapter, has now been shown to be an inadequate model for what actually happens in the interpretation of speech. The magic circle is breakable.” (p6)

Hirsch believes that, in the context of interpretation of speech-based discourse at least, the hermeneutic circle breaks down. The premise is that within an individual’s interpretation there is a part of someone else’s thoughts. In Bohman’s holism this is a given part in the hermeneutic circle, but Hirsh sees this as a paradox where there exists at the same time an interpretation that is both a part and a whole. The notion of Husserl’s ‘bracketing of self’ to set aside any influences that are ‘other’ to the current experience of interpretation is one that Hirsh advocates if a hermeneutical model is to be chosen to understanding the act of interpretation. Heidegger prefers to present the concept of pre-understanding to correspond to, and challenge Husserl’s bracketing of an experience.  

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