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Heidegger's hermeneutic circle
The 'hermeneutic circle' that has been a central idea in previous hermeneutic thinking, and that had been viewed in terms of the interpretative interdependence, within any meaningful structure, between the parts of that structure and the whole,
was transformed by Heidegger, so that it was now seen as expressing the way in which all understanding was 'always already' given over to that which is to be understood (to 'the things themselves' - 'die Sachen selbst').
Thus, to take a simple example, if we wish to understand some particular artwork, we already need to have some prior understanding of that work (even if only as a set of paint marks on canvas), otherwise it cannot even be seen as something to be understood.
To put the point more generally, and in more basic ontological terms, if we are to understand anything at all, we must already find ourselves 'in' the world 'along with' that which is to be ///
The goal of Phenomenological Hermeneutics is to capture to the truth of the text as it is.
Phenomenological system of Interpretation
Hans Georg Gadamer (1900-2002) HIS MAGNUM OPUS TRUTH AND METHOD (1975)
He argued that TRUTH and METHOD were at odds with one another. He was critical of 2 approaches: on the one hand? Of those that modeled themselves on the natural sciences, which simply sought to ‘objectively’ observe and analyze texts and art, and, on the other hand, he took issue with the traditional German approaches to the humanities, who believed that meaning, as an object, could be found within a text. Instead, Gadamer argued meaning and understanding are not objects to be found through certain methods, but are inevitable phenomena. Hermeneutics isn’t a process in which an interpreter finds a particular meaning, but a philosophical effort to account for understanding as an ontological – the ontological – process of man. It’s an attempt to clarify the conditions in which understanding takes place. Among these conditions are crucially prejudices and fore meanings in the mind of the interpreter.
Gadamer “principle of effective history”
Understanding is always interpretation and it means to use one’s own preconceptions so that the meaning of the object can really be made to speak to us. Understanding is thus not a merely reproductive but a very productive process. The prejudices and fore meanings in the mind of the interpreter which make understanding possible are not at the free disposal of the interpreter but linked to a horizon and an effective history (Wirkungsheschichte). Understanding isn’t to be thought of so much as an action of one’s subjectivity but as the placing of oneself within a process of tradition in which past and present are constantly fused.
Develop a ‘historical’ self-awareness – ‘historically effected’ consciousness; ‘principle of effective history’.
Gadamer: fusion of horizons
- Both the text and the interpreter find themselves within a particular historical tradition, or ‘horizon’.
The horizon: an essential part of the ‘hermeneutic situation’ which limits our possibility of hermeneutical vision, or understanding. It includes everything that can be seen from a particular vantage point, and nothing more.
- “When reading a text it is understood not simply by making sense of the words on the page but by permitting the horizon of the text to fuse with the horizon of the reader in a way that the reader in a way that the reader is effected by the text.”
- “Understanding is always a fusion of horizons”
- Gadamer does not, however, argue that for historical understanding, ultimately, we need to place ourselves into the different horizon of a particular historical situation, because this would be an impossible and absurd task.
- We can neither leave our own horizon, nor would it be desirable. As the effective history of a continuing tradition depends on constantly new assimilations and interpretations.
- An anecdote told by Steven Kemper (1991:136)
may exemplify what Gadamer means:
“..restoring sacred places created a ‘fusion of horizons’ in quite a literal sense. I began to think about this fusion after visiting a relic mound with a Sinhala friend. When I asked him whether the place was ancient, he said ‘Yes, it was restored just last year ’.”
- “Tristan and Isolde” in the Ukrainian interpretation by V. Koptilov
«Трістан та Ізольда»: переспів-реконструкція
«Поставивши собі завдання відтворити українською мовою найдавніші давньофранцузькі поетичні варіанти легенди, сучасний перекладач напрапляє на серйозні труднощі. По-перше, всі тексти фрагментарні, по-друге, вони різностильні. Отже, перекладач має вибирати між близьким до тексту першотвору відображенням уривків назавжди втраченого поетичного цілого (але такий переклад може придатися хіба що фахівцям із зарубіжної літератури) і реконструкцією змісту й стилю цього поетичного цілого, що може зацікавити вже не лише фахівців, а, сказати б, і звичайних читачів. Саме другий шлях і обрав автор цих рядків» В. Коптілов
Fusion of horizons
Horizon - Horizon
Historical moment - Historical moment
Inner thought - Inner thought
…temporal distance is not something that must be overcome. This was, rather, the naïve assumption of historicism , namely that we must set ourselves within the spirit of the age, and think with its ideas and its thoughts, not with our own , and thus advance towards historical objectivity. In fact, the important thing is to recognize the distance in time as a positive and productive possibility of understanding. It is not a yawning abyss, but is filled with the continuity of custom and tradition , in the light of which all that is handed down presents itself to us. ( Gadamer)
Dialectal hermeneutics is not interested in capturing a single and unified meaning, but instead in an existential meaning, the meaning of the here and now.
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