Thursday, 2 August 2012

The Aims of Interpretation… Preunderstanding Parallels

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

“Hence, I think Heidegger was right to extend the range of hermeneutics beyond the limited domain of man-made representations, since the fundamental character of interpretation is the same in all our cognitive processes. What Heidegger called the priority of pre-understanding is described by developmental psychologists as the primacy of the genre; by cognitive theorists (particularly those concerned with scientific knowledge) as the primacy of the hypothesis. On this theory, all cognition is analogous to interpretation in being based upon corrigible schemata, a useful phrase I take from Piaget. The model of a corrigible schemata, which was exemplified in the description of Piaget’s experiments, is, I think, a more useful and accurate model than that of the so-called hermeneutic circle. Unlike one’s unalterable and inescapable pre-understanding in Heidegger’s account of the hermeneutic circle, a schema can be radically altered and corrected.” (p32)

Heidegger’s pre-understanding that comes with a person to any experience has parallels in both psychology and cognitive theory. Psychologists refer to the primacy of the genre, while cognitive theorists refer to the primacy of the hypothesis. Hirsch suggest that these are analogous, and that “cognition is analogous to interpretation” (p32). But unlike a hermeneutic circle, (s)he prefers a schemata than a circle. The argument and preference is that a schema is easier to be “radically altered and corrected” (ibid.). It needs to be remembered here that Hirsch is concerned not with interpreting the interaction of experience but only speech between more than one person (which is a specific subset within an interaction experience). 

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