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19 MAY 2013

Ways In and Out of the Hermeneutic Circle

"In this lecture, Professor Paul Fry examines acts of reading and interpretation by way of the theory of hermeneutics. The origins of hermeneutic thought are traced through Western literature. The mechanics of hermeneutics, including the idea of a hermeneutic circle, are explored in detail with reference to the works of Hans–George Gadamer, Martin Heidegger, and E. D. Hirsch. Particular attention is paid to the emergence of concepts of 'historicism' and 'historicality' and their relation to hermeneutic theory."

(Open Yale Courses, 22 January 2009)



2009 • Alexander Pope • Being and Time (1927) • Christian tradition • circularity • common ground • cult of genius • Eric Donald Hirsch • fore-having • fore-project • fore-structure • Friedrich Schleiermacher • Hans-Georg Gadamerhermeneutic circlehermeneutic horizonhermeneutic theory • hermeneutic thought • hermeneutics • historicality • historicism • history of hermeneutics • imagined whole • interpret meaningsinterpretation • interpretative engagement • Mark Akenside • Martin Heidegger • mechanics of hermeneutics • moving back and forth • Northrop Frye • Open Yale Courses • opinionpart • Paul Fry • preconception • prejudgment • prejudices (prior awareness) • preliminary conception • preliminary idea • prior judgment • Protestant ReformationProtestantismreligion • sacred scripture • Samuel Johnsonscripture • secular scripture • supposed whole • Talmudic scholarship • The Reformation • theory of hermeneutics • theory of literature • transparency of meaningviewpoint • Voruteil • Western literature • whole • Wilhelm Dilthey • William Kurtz Wimsatt • Yale University


Simon Perkins
06 JANUARY 2013

Hermeneutic Phenomenology and Phenomenology: A Comparison of Historical and Methodological Considerations

"a variety of research methodologies have grown in popularity including phenomenology, ethnography, grounded theory, and hermeneutic phenomenology (Denzin & Lincoln, 2000). As this has occurred, concern has risen about the use of qualitative methodologies without sufficient understanding of the rigor necessary to ethically utilize them (Maggs–Rapport, 2001). More specifically, phenomenology and hermeneutic phenomenology are often referred to interchangeably, without questioning any distinction between them. The purpose of this article is to discuss the early philosophical development of selected key issues related to phenomenology and hermeneutic phenomenology and support the position that differences and similarities exist. This exploration will begin with the phenomenology of Husserl and then move to explore heremeneutic phenomenology through Heidegger and Gadamer. Exploration will be given to how these different philosophical perspectives have an impact on the practice of phenomenology and hermeneutic phenomenology as research methodologies."

(Susann M. Laverty, 2003)

Laverty, S. M. (2003). "Hermeneutic phenomenology and phenomenology: A comparison of historical and methodological considerations". International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 2(3). Article 3. Retrieved 06 January 2013 from


conducting researchEdmund Husserlepistemologyethnography • form and nature of reality • Frances Maggs-Rapport • grounded theoryHans-Georg Gadamer • hermeneutic phenomenology • hermeneuticsInternational Journal of Qualitative MethodsMartin HeideggermethodologyNorman Denzinontological perspectiveontologyphenomenology • philosophical development • philosophical perspectives • qualitative methodologiesresearch methodologiesrigourYvonna Lincoln


Simon Perkins
13 JANUARY 2012

In praxis there can be no prior knowledge of the right means by which we realize the end in a particular situation

"In praxis there can be no prior knowledge of the right means by which we realize the end in a particular situation. For the end itself is only specified in deliberating about the means appropriate to a particular situation (Bernstein 1983: 147). As we think about what we want to achieve, we alter the way we might achieve that. As we think about the way we might go about something, we change what we might aim at. There is a continual interplay between ends and means. In just the same way there is a continual interplay between thought and action. This process involves interpretation, understanding and application in 'one unified process' (Gadamer 1979: 275). It is something we engage in as human beings and it is directed at other human beings."

(Mark K. Smith 1999, 2011)

Bernstein, R. J. (1983). Beyond Objectivism and Relativism: Science, hermeneutics and praxis. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Gadamer, H–G. (1979). Truth and Method. London: Sheed and Ward.

Smith, M. K. (1999, 2011). 'What is praxis?' in the encyclopaedia of informal education. [–praxis.htm. Retrieved: add date].


a particular situation • ends and means • Hans-Georg Gadamerhermeneutic horizonhermeneutical horizonhuman beingsinterpretation • particular situation • praxis • prior knowledge • realise the end • thought and action • understanding and application


Simon Perkins
08 NOVEMBER 2009

Art as action or art as object? the embodiment of knowledge in practice as research

"Philosophical hermeneutics suggests a possible basis for an alternative philosophical view. Hans–Georg Gadamer's (1989) discussion of the epistemological basis of the humanities, includes a discussion of art which emphasises its profound import and value in developing understanding. His concern is to reassert the distinctiveness of humanistic and artistic insight, via a forceful argument that 'art is knowledge and experiencing an artwork means sharing in that knowledge' (97). A key element in Gadamer's argument is the early chapters' painstaking archaeology of post–Enlightenment thought. This aims to show how deep–rooted concepts in the history of ideas in the modern West, such as the idea of a sensus communis, have become forgotten or distorted, thereby undermining the basis of the humanities' claim to truth. In the case of art, Gadamer argues that post–Kantian philosophical treatments have subjectivised the domain, to the point where artworks became mere objects of aesthetic experience or vehicles of communication for the artist as genius – their particular mode of being and its cognitive import dissolving in their reconfiguration as aspects of the individual subject's experience or activity. One consequence has been art's relegation to the status of an epistemologically suspect domain, a soft relation of 'hard' scientific enquiry. Within this tradition of thought, art's contribution to knowledge (along with that of other humanities disciplines) can increasingly only be characterised in negative or derivative terms

What is especially interesting about Gadamer's writings from the point of view of the argument here, is the way he links the cognitive value of art practice to an ontology of the artwork which highlights the latter's autonomy. For Gadamer, art is essentially play: but, even though it has implications for the nature of the spectator's engagement, 5 this characterisation is meant to emphasise 'neither the orientation nor even the state of mind of the creator or of those enjoying the work of art, nor the freedom of a subjectivity engaged in play, but the mode of being of the work of art itself' (1987, 101). The process of art making effects what Gadamer terms a 'transformation into structure' (ibid., 110) which detaches the work from the activity of the creative artist, to foreground the meaningfulness of the content that the artwork conveys. 6 That content consists essentially in the work's re–presentation of aspects of the world and of experience. In recognising the import of a work, the agents involved do not simply register its reference to something familiar; in understanding art, '[t]he joy of recognition is rather the joy of knowing more than is already familiar' (ibid., 114). From Gadamer's perspective, then, an artwork itself embodies new insight. That insight may be variously applied and integrated into the experiential horizons of different viewers and audiences, but this variability in interpretation is tempered by a common sense of the work's transformative power. As autonomous structures, artworks move us beyond a subjective reflection on themes by artist and viewer, and towards a common participation in the work's play–structure, which in itself has the potential to reconfigure perception and the world.

This cursory overview of Gadamer's account of art scarcely does justice to the depth and scope of his analysis, and probably raises more questions about the epistemological status of PAR [practice as research] than it resolves. For example, how can one distinguish PAR from art not governed by research–imperatives if all art has the kind of cognitive import that Gadamer suggests? The hermeneutic view would also need much more detailed elaboration to clarify its implications for the conduct, presentation and assessment of PAR. In particular, perhaps, the question looms of how an artwork might be judged to fail to embody knowledge, given that Gadamer's philosophy seems to indicate that it should by definition make new insight available. And yet without being able to question critically, or even deny, the epistemological value of some works, it is unclear whether one can positively identify the claim to knowledge of any. 7 Gadamer's work may suggest that an artwork stands or falls on its transformative power within the audience's experience, but how exactly can one tell whether a work has this power? The responses of individual viewers–including those responsible for assessing PAR projects–might give us some indication: but, as Gadamer himself points out, the subjectivisation of aesthetics has weakened our trust in the commonality of artistic experience to the extent that we doubt the wider resonance of individual response. The philosophical argument for the intersubjectivity of art experience would thus need fleshing out in much more detail to counter the weight of tradition and of the received views attendant upon it."

(Anna Pakes, 2004. Roehampton University of Surrey, England)

Pakes, A. (2004). "Art as action or art as object? the embodiment of knowledge in practice as research", Working Papers in Art and Design Vol 3 Retrieved from URL ISSN 1466–4917


2004 • Anna Pakes • artist • artistic insight • artworkembodiment of knowledgeepistemologyEuropean EnlightenmentHans-Georg Gadamerhermeneuticshistory of ideas • humanistic insight • humanitiesImmanuel KantknowledgeobjectPARpractice as research • scientific enquiry • sensus communis • UKWorking Papers in Art and Design


Simon Perkins
10 DECEMBER 2008

A Model of Collaborative Knowledge Building

"Martin Heidegger (1927/1996) (an important recent German philosopher) and Donald Schön (1983) (an influential American theoretician of design) argue that learning starts on the basis of tacit pre–understanding (Polanyi, 1962; Winograd & Flores, 1986) (see chapter 4). Some form of breakdown in planning or in our worldly activity renders elements of this tacit understanding problematic on occasion (Dewey & Bentley, 1949/1991). The network of meanings by which we make sense of our world is torn asunder and must be mended. The resolution of the problem proceeds through a gnawing awareness of the problematic nature of some piece of our understanding. We may be able to repair our understanding by explicating the implications of that understanding and resolving conflicts or filling in gaps–by reinterpreting our meaning structures–to arrive at a new comprehension. This typically involves some feedback from the world: from our experience with artifacts such as our tools and symbolic representations. For instance, we might learn a new sense of some word or a new application of a familiar tool–more ambitiously, our understanding might undergo a fundamental conceptual change. If we are successful and the problem disappears, this new comprehension gradually settles in to become our new tacit understanding and to provide the starting point for future understanding and further learning.
The process of interpretation that seems to be carried out at the level of the individual mind is already an essentially social process. The network of 'personal' meanings ultimately has its origin in interpersonal language and culture. Interpretation takes place within language (Wittgenstein, 1953), history (Gadamer, 1960/1988), culture (Bourdieu, 1972/1995; Bruner, 1990; Cole, 1996), social structures (Giddens, 1984b) and politics (Habermas, 1981/1984). Our 'internal' thought process capabilities and structures themselves have origins in our previous social interactions (Mead, 1934/1962; Vygotsky, 1930/1978). Our personal interpretive perspective or voice is a consolidation of many perspectives and voices or genres of others we have known (Bakhtin, 1986b; Boland & Tenkasi, 1995)."
(Gerry Stahl)

Stahl, G. (2006). Group cognition: Computer support for building collaborative knowledge. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


2006Anthony Giddens • Arthur Bentley • constellationscultural signalsdialogicDonald SchonengagementFernando Flores • George Mead • Gerry StahlHans-Georg Gadamerindividualinformation in contextintegrationJohn DeweyLev VygotskyLudwig WittgensteinMartin HeideggermetaphorMichael PolanyiMikhail Bakhtinmodelnetwork • network of meanings • ontologyPierre Bourdieu • Ramkrishnan Tenkasi • Richard Boland • shared languagesocial constructionismtacitTerry Winograd


Simon Perkins

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