"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)
"Interpretation in our own time, however, is even more complex. For the contemporary zeal for the project of interpretation is often prompted not by piety toward the troublesome text (which may conceal an aggression), but by an open aggressiveness, an overt contempt for appearances. The old style of interpretation was insistent, but respectful; it erected another meaning on top of the literal one. The modern style of interpretation excavates, and as it excavates, destroys; it digs 'behind' the text, to find a sub-text which is the true one. The most celebrated and influential modern doctrines, those of Marx and Freud, actually amount to elaborate systems of hermeneutics, aggressive and impious theories of interpretation. All observable phenomena are bracketed, in Freud's phrase, as manifest content. This manifest content must be probed and pushed aside to find the true meaning -the latent content -beneath. For Marx, social events like revolutions and wars; for Freud, the events of individual lives (like neurotic symptoms and slips of the tongue) as well as texts (like a dream or a work of art) -all are treated as occasions for interpretation. According to Marx and Freud, these events only seem to be intelligible. Actually, they have no meaning without interpretation. To understand is to interpret. And to interpret is to restate the phenomenon, in effect to find an equivalent for it.
Thus, interpretation is not (as most people assume) an absolute value, a gesture of mind situated in some timeless realm of capabilities. Interpretation must itself be evaluated, within a historical view of human consciousness. In some cultural contexts, interpretation is a liberating act. It is a means of revising, of transvaluing, of escaping the dead past. In other cultural contexts, it is reactionary, impertinent, cowardly, stifling."
(Susan Sontag, 1966)
Susan Sontag (1966). "Against Interpretation: And Other Essays". Farrar, Strauss & Giroux.
"Social constructivism (often combined with interpretivism; see Mertens, 1998) is such a perspective, and it is typically seen as an approach to qualitative research. The ideas came from Mannheim and from works such as Berger and Luekmann's (1967) The Social Construction of Reality and Lincoln and Guba's (1985) Naturalistic Inquiry. More recent writers who have summarized this position are Lincoln and Guba (2000), Schwandt (2007), Neuman (2000), and Crotty (1998), among others. Social constructivists hold assumptions that individuals seek understanding of the world in which they live and work. Individuals develop subjective meanings of their experiences - meanings directed toward certain objects or things. These meanings are varied and multiple, leading the researcher to look for the complexity of views rather than narrowing meanings into a few categories or ideas. The goal of the research is to rely as much as possible on the participants' views of the situation being studied. The questions become broad and general so that the participants can construct the meaning of a situation, typically forged in discussions or interactions with other persons. The more open-ended the questioning, the better, as the researcher listens carefully to what people say or do in their life settings. Often these subjective meanings are negotiated socially and historically. They are not simply imprinted on individuals but are formed through interaction with others (hence social constructivism) and through historical and cultural norms that operate in individuals' lives. Thus, constructivist researchers often address the processes of interaction among individuals. They also focus on the specific contexts in which people live and work, in order to understand the historical and cultural settings of the participants. Researchers recognize that their own backgrounds shape their interpretation, and they position themselves in the research to acknowledge how their interpretation flows from their personal, cultural, and historical experiences. The researcher's intent is to make sense of (or interpret) the meanings others have about the world. Rather than starting with a theory (as in postpostivism), inquirers generate or inductively develop a theory or pattern of meaning."
(John Creswell, 2003)
John Creswell (2003). "Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches". (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publication.
"Archaeology is what archaeologists do. This answer is not a tautology. It refers us to the practices of archaeology. And to the conditions under which archaeologists work - the institutions and infrastructures, the politics and pragmatics of getting archaeological work done.
Archaeologists work on what is left of the past. Archaeology is about relationships - between past and present, between archaeologist and traces and remains. Archaeology is a set of mediating practices - working on remains to translate, to turn them into something sensible - inventory, account, narrative, explanation, whatever.
Archaeology is a way of acting and thinking - about what is left of the past, about the temporality of remainder, about material and temporal processes to which people and their goods are subject, about the processes of order and entropy, of making, consuming and discarding at the heart of human experience.
'Archaeological Sensibility' and 'Archaeological Imagination' are terms to summarize components of these mediating and transformative practices. Sensibility refers us to the perceptual components of how we engage with the remains of the past. Imagination refers us to the creative component - to the transforming work that is done on what is left over."
"Hermeneutic theory is a member of the social subjectivist paradigm where meaning is inter-subjectively created, in contrast to the empirical universe of assumed scientific realism (Berthon et al. 2002). Other approaches within this paradigm are social phenomenology and ethnography. As part of the interpretative research family, hermeneutics focuses on the significance that an aspect of reality takes on for the people under study. Hermeneutics focuses on defining shared linguistic meaning for a representation or symbol.
In order to reach shared understanding as proposed in hermeneutic theory, subjects must have access to shared linguistic and interpretative resources (Marshall et al. 2001). However, hermeneutic theory also posits that linguistic meaning is likely open to infinite interpretation and reinterpretation due to the interpretative ambiguity coming from presuppositions, to the conditions of usage different from authorial intention, and to the evolution of words (Marshall et al. 2001).
Due to its interpretive nature, hermeneutics cannot be approached using a pre-determined set of criteria that is applied in a mechanical fashion (Klein et al. 1999). However, a meta-principal [sic], known as the hermeneutic circle, guides the hermeneutic approach where the process of understanding moves from parts of a whole to a global understanding of the whole and back to individual parts in an iterative manner (Klein et al. 1999). This meta-principal allows the development of a complex whole of shared meanings between subjects, or between researchers and their subjects (Klein et al. 1999).
Other co-existing principles that may help assure rigorous interpretive analysis involve: a) understanding the subject according to its social and historical context, b) assessing the historical social construction between the researcher and the subject, c) relating ideographic details to general theoretical concepts through abstraction and generalization, d) being sensitive to potential pre-conceptual theoretical contradictions between research design and actual findings, e) being aware of possible multiple interpretations among participants for a given sequence of events, and f) being conscious of potential biases or systematic distortions in the subject's narratives (Klein et al. 1999)."
(IS Theory, 15 November 2011, Information Systems PhD Preparation Program of the Marriott School of Management of Brigham Young University)