My understanding of Gadamer
As far as I can make out the point that hermeneutics is trying to make is that the "object" "subject relationship exists due to a need to understand. Now, one can have either try and understand what the author (authorial intent) meant when the text was written or one can try and understand what the text itself communicates.
In the first instance the subject and object is separate and the meaning lies within the authors mind and therefore is embedded in the text. As the interpreter want to gain access to this meaning he/she must suspend his/her own meaning and "read" (or interpret) the text objectively.
In the second instance the starting point is the recognition that the objectivity needed to understand the author's intent is impossible to attain. Meaning in this sense exists in the interpreter's mind and the interaction between object and subject leads to that meaning being created. The process is subjective in nature.
My problem is with the feeling that in some way the topic of the text do not seem to feature. I mean with this that the interpretation seems "blind" about what the "interpretation" might be after the text was interpreted. So, I am wondering what happens if a motive lies behind my seeking the meaning of a text. For example if I am reading a text so that I might understand something better (yes! This suggests learning) I then approach the text with a) a preset understanding and b) a desire or intent. My reading of the text then takes on a different flavour. See figure 1 for a conceptual map.
I want to learn/understand something more about a topic (this is my motive). I already have some measure of understanding about that topic (call this the existing knowledge) but want to know more. That desire is my motive. The understanding I will gain by interpreting the text will either deepen (make more) the existing knowledge or it won't. (Note! The text may simply do neither; I might just end up confused). To cover the range of more or less I refer to the text (or probably more correctly the interpretation) confirming or disconfirming the knowledge I have.
If the knowledge I have is on the level of something that I suspect but do not know then the text fulfils an instructive role. Interpretation now becomes an instruction opportunity (see here is the learning). I allow the text to instruct me (note! I dare not force it; I must be open-minded). To facilitate this instruction I need questions to put to the text and for that purpose I need to make my assumptions and suspicions clear. This is an interaction between the motive and the existing knowledge and leads to an examining question (I could call this a framing question?). i believe this is a process of setting up Gadamer's "horizon".3.1 The process of setting the horizon3.1.1 Setting the horizonTo do this I will examine a suspicion that I have about a topic (say Enterprise Architecture). This suspicion is informed by what I already know about my topic. The result of this process is a list of questions that I can put to the text. Driving this process is the examining question (or examining suspicion) stated as a thesis of sorts. An important part of this step is to make my assumptions and preconceived ideas visible.3.1.2 Question the textDuring this step the questions from the previous step will be put to the text and the answers listed. The result of this process is a secondary text that indicates the answers of the text that itself might question the assumptions and preconceived ideas that was made visible.3.1.3 ReflectionThe third step is to reflect on the secondary text to come to an understanding of whether the secondary text confirms or disconfirms the examining question and by implication the examining thesis.3.1.4 Critique In this last step the process is reflection on and examined critically. [more work needed here; Habermas?]3.2 ReflectionPersonally I think the key elements in my approach are as follows:a) Constructivist: since the concept I want to examine (Enterprise Architecture) is in essence a human creation, I take the position that as such it is not an artefact but an idea (or conception).b) Hermeneutically inspired: hermeneutics gives me access to a way to come to an interpretive understanding of the concept that I am examining. In particular the work of Gadamer provides dialectical hermeneutics to aid me in my task.c) Hermeneutic cycle: this is central to hermeneutics...d) Examining statement: I will create another term for this but it captures the desire to know and is a way to direct and focus the dialectical process (but! Keep Habermas and critical hermeneutics in mind).e) Pre-knowledge: the making visible of what is already known by me in order to inform the examining statement.f) Other...
The end goal is to come to a clearer understanding of the concept of my topic (EA). At this moment I do not know what lesson should be learned from the process.My concern is that I am in a way "forcing the issue" and might need to read Habermas to examine my work in a critical way, finally; who on earth can tell me if I am not simply smoking my socks!??4 Some notes on GadamerWho is Gadamer and why am I talking about him?
Hans-Georg Gadamer (LIFESPAN) developed the implications of Heidegger's contribution to hermeneutics into a systematic work on philosophical hermeneutics(Palmer 1969). Garret (1978) explains Gadamer's horizon of understanding as technical term based on metaphor to indicate the limits placed on an interpreter by time and culture. Furthermore this horizon is defined in terms of the prejudgments of the interpreter as it is at present(Garrett 1978). Figure 2 is a simplified illustration of this concept, the rectangle represents the interpreter with his/her prejudgments and the circle is the horizon of understanding. This horizon corresponds to the interpreter's knowledge of a particular topic at a time in history and is subject to constant change(Garrett 1978).
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