Hermeneutics (/hɜːrməˈnjuːtɪks/) is the theory and
methodology of interpretation, especially the interpretation of
biblical texts, wisdom literature, and philosophical texts.
Modern hermeneutics includes both verbal and non-verbal
communication as well as semiotics, presuppositions, and
Hermeneutics has been broadly applied in the
humanities, especially in law, history and theology.
Hermeneutics was initially applied to the interpretation, or exegesis,
of scripture, and has been later broadened to questions of general
interpretation. The terms "hermeneutics" and "exegesis" are
sometimes used interchangeably.
Hermeneutics is a wider discipline
which includes written, verbal, and non-verbal communication.
Exegesis focuses primarily upon the word and grammar of texts.
Hermeneutic, as a singular noun, refers to some particular method of
interpretation (see, in contrast, double hermeneutic).
1.1 Folk etymology
2 In religious traditions
2.1 Mesopotamian hermeneutics
2.2 Talmudic hermeneutics
2.3 Vedic hermeneutics
2.4 Buddhist hermeneutics
2.5 Biblical hermeneutics
3 Philosophical hermeneutics
3.1 Ancient and medieval hermeneutics
3.2 Modern hermeneutics
3.2.1 Schleiermacher (1768–1834)
3.2.2 Dilthey (1833–1911)
Gadamer (1900–2002) et al.
3.2.5 New hermeneutic
3.2.6 Marxist hermeneutics
3.2.7 Objective hermeneutics
4.4 International relations
4.6 Political philosophy
4.9 Religion and theology
4.10 Safety science
6 See also
6.1 Notable precursors
9 External links
Hermeneutics is derived from the Greek word ἑρμηνεύω
(hermeneuō, "translate, interpret"), from ἑρμηνεύς
(hermeneus, "translator, interpreter"), of uncertain etymology (R. S.
P. Beekes (2009) suggests a
Pre-Greek origin). The technical term
ἑρμηνεία (hermeneia, "interpretation, explanation") was
introduced into philosophy mainly through the title of Aristotle's
work Περὶ Ἑρμηνείας ("Peri Hermeneias"), commonly
referred to by its Latin title De Interpretatione and translated
in English as On Interpretation. It is one of the earliest
(c. 360 B.C.) extant philosophical works in the Western
tradition to deal with the relationship between language and logic in
a comprehensive, explicit and formal way.
The early usage of "hermeneutics" places it within the boundaries of
the sacred. A divine message must be received with implicit
uncertainty regarding its truth. This ambiguity is an irrationality;
it is a sort of madness that is inflicted upon the receiver of the
message. Only one who possesses a rational method of interpretation
(i.e., a hermeneutic) could determine the truth or falsity of the
Hermes, messenger of the gods.
Folk etymology places its origin with Hermes, the mythological Greek
deity who was the 'messenger of the gods'. Besides being a
mediator between the gods and between the gods and men, he led souls
to the underworld upon death.
Hermes was also considered to be the inventor of language and speech,
an interpreter, a liar, a thief and a trickster. These multiple
Hermes an ideal representative figure for hermeneutics. As
Socrates noted, words have the power to reveal or conceal and can
deliver messages in an ambiguous way. The Greek view of language
as consisting of signs that could lead to truth or to falsehood was
the essence of Hermes, who was said to relish the uneasiness of those
who received the messages he delivered.
In religious traditions
Exegesis § Mesopotamian Commentaries
Main article: Talmudic hermeneutics
See also: Judaism § Rabbinic hermeneutics
Summaries of the principles by which Torah can be interpreted date
back to, at least, Hillel the Elder, although the thirteen principles
set forth in the
Baraita of Rabbi Ishmael
Baraita of Rabbi Ishmael are perhaps the best known.
These principles ranged from standard rules of logic (e.g., a fortiori
argument [known in
Hebrew as קל וחומר — kal
v'chomer]) to more expansive ones, such as the rule that a passage
could be interpreted by reference to another passage in which the same
word appears (Gezerah Shavah). The rabbis did not ascribe equal
persuasive power to the various principles.
Traditional Jewish hermeneutics differed from the Greek method in that
the rabbis considered the
Tanakh (the Jewish bibilical canon) to be
without error. Any apparent inconsistencies had to be understood by
means of careful examination of a given text within the context of
other texts. There were different levels of interpretation: some were
used to arrive at the plain meaning of the text, some expounded the
law given in the text, and others found secret or mystical levels of
Main article: Mimamsa
Vedic hermeneutics involves the exegesis of the Vedas, the earliest
holy texts of Hinduism. The
Mimamsa was the leading hermeneutic school
and their primary purpose was understanding what
living) involved by a detailed hermeneutic study of the Vedas. They
also derived the rules for the various rituals that had to be
The foundational text is the
Mimamsa Sutra of
Jaimini (ca. 3rd to 1st
century BCE) with a major commentary by
Śabara (ca. the 5th or 6th
century CE). The
Mimamsa sutra summed up the basic rules for Vedic
Main article: Buddhist hermeneutics
Buddhist hermeneutics deals with the interpretation of the vast
Buddhist literature, particularly those texts which are said to be
spoken by the
Buddha (Buddhavacana) and other enlightened beings.
Buddhist hermeneutics is deeply tied to Buddhist spiritual practice
and its ultimate aim is to extract skillful means of reaching
spiritual enlightenment or nirvana. A central question in Buddhist
hermeneutics is which Buddhist teachings are explicit, representing
ultimate truth, and which teachings are merely conventional or
Main article: Biblical hermeneutics
Biblical hermeneutics is the study of the principles of interpretation
of the Bible. While Jewish and Christian biblical hermeneutics have
some overlap, they have distinctly different interpretive traditions.
The early patristic traditions of biblical exegesis had few unifying
characteristics in the beginning but tended toward unification in
later schools of biblical hermeneutics.
Augustine offers hermeneutics and homiletics in his De doctrina
christiana. He stresses the importance of humility in the study of
Scripture. He also regards the duplex commandment of love in Matthew
22 as the heart of Christian faith. In Augustine’s hermeneutics,
sign has an important role. God can communicate with the believer
through the signs of the Scriptures. Thus, humility, love, and the
knowledge of signs are an essential hermeneutical presupposition for a
sound interpretation of the Scriptures. Although Augustine endorses
some teaching of the
Platonism of his time, he corrects and recasts it
according to a theocentric doctrine of the Bible. Similarly, in a
practical discipline, he modifies the classical theory of oratory in a
Christian way. He underscores the meaning of diligent study of the
Bible and prayer as more than mere human knowledge and oratory skills.
As a concluding remark, Augustine encourages the interpreter and
preacher of the Bible to seek a good manner of life and, most of all,
to love God and neighbor.
There are traditionally fourfold sense of biblical hermeneutics:
literal, moral, allegorical (spiritual), and anagogical.
Encyclopædia Britannica states that literal analysis means “a
biblical text is to be deciphered according to the ‘plain meaning’
expressed by its linguistic construction and historical context.”
The intention of the authors is believed to correspond to the literal
meaning. Literal hermeneutics is often associated with the verbal
inspiration of the Bible.
Moral interpretation searches for moral lessons which can be
understood from writings within the Bible. Allegories are often placed
in this category.
Allegorical interpretation states that biblical narratives have a
second level of reference that is more than the people, events and
things that are explicitly mentioned. One type of allegorical
interpretation is known as typological, where the key figures, events,
and establishments of the Old Testament are viewed as “types”
(patterns). In the New Testament this can also include foreshadowing
of people, objects, and events. According to this theory, readings
like Noah’s Ark could be understood by using the Ark as a “type”
of the Christian church that God designed from the start.
This type of interpretation is more often known as mystical
interpretation. It purports to explain the events of the Bible and how
they relate to or predict what the future holds. This is evident in
the Jewish Kabbalah, which attempts to reveal the mystical
significance of the numerical values of
Hebrew words and letters.
In Judaism, anagogical interpretation is also evident in the medieval
Zohar. In Christianity, it can be seen in Mariology.
Ancient and medieval hermeneutics
Main article: History of hermeneutics
The discipline of hermeneutics emerged with the new humanist education
of the 15th century as a historical and critical methodology for
analyzing texts. In a triumph of early modern hermeneutics, the
Lorenzo Valla proved in 1440 that the Donation of
Constantine was a forgery. This was done through intrinsic evidence of
the text itself. Thus hermeneutics expanded from its medieval role of
explaining the true meaning of the Bible.
However, biblical hermeneutics did not die off. For example, the
Protestant Reformation brought about a renewed interest in the
interpretation of the Bible, which took a step away from the
interpretive tradition developed during the
Middle Ages back to the
Martin Luther and
John Calvin emphasized scriptura
sui ipsius interpres (scripture interprets itself). Calvin used
brevitas et facilitas as an aspect of theological hermeneutics.
The rationalist Enlightenment led hermeneutists, especially Protestant
exegetists, to view Scriptural texts as secular classical texts. They
interpreted Scripture as responses to historical or social forces so
that, for example, apparent contradictions and difficult passages in
the New Testament might be clarified by comparing their possible
meanings with contemporary Christian practices.
19th- and 20th-century hermeneutics emerged as a theory of
understanding (Verstehen) through the work of Friedrich Schleiermacher
(Romantic hermeneutics and methodological hermeneutics),
August Böckh (methodological hermeneutics), Wilhelm Dilthey
Martin Heidegger (ontological
hermeneutics, hermeneutic phenomenology, and
transcendental hermeneutic phenomenology), Hans-Georg Gadamer
Leo Strauss (Straussian
Paul Ricœur (hermeneutic phenomenology),
Walter Benjamin (Marxist hermeneutics),
Ernst Bloch (Marxist
Jacques Derrida (radical hermeneutics, namely
Richard Kearney (diacritical hermeneutics),
Fredric Jameson (Marxist hermeneutics), and John Thompson
Regarding the relation of hermeneutics with problems of analytic
philosophy, there has been, particularly among analytic Heideggerians
and those working on Heidegger’s philosophy of science, an attempt
to try and situate Heidegger's hermeneutic project in debates
concerning realism and anti-realism: arguments have been presented
both for Heidegger's hermeneutic idealism (the thesis that meaning
determines reference or, equivalently, that our understanding of the
being of entities is what determines entities as entities) and for
Heidegger's hermeneutic realism (the thesis that (a) there is a
nature in itself and science can give us an explanation of how that
nature works, and (b) that (a) is compatible with the ontological
implications of our everyday practices).
Analytic philosophers influenced by the hermeneutic tradition include
Charles Taylor and Dagfinn Føllesdal.
Friedrich Schleiermacher explored the nature of understanding in
relation not just to the problem of deciphering sacred texts but to
all human texts and modes of communication.
The interpretation of a text must proceed by framing its content in
terms of the overall organization of the work. Schleiermacher
distinguished between grammatical interpretation and psychological
interpretation. The former studies how a work is composed from general
ideas; the latter studies the peculiar combinations that characterize
the work as a whole. He said that every problem of interpretation is a
problem of understanding and even defined hermeneutics as the art of
avoiding misunderstanding. Misunderstanding was to be avoided by means
of knowledge of grammatical and psychological laws.
During Schleiermacher's time, a fundamental shift occurred from
understanding not merely the exact words and their objective meaning,
to an understanding of the writer's distinctive character and point of
Wilhelm Dilthey broadened hermeneutics even more by relating
interpretation to historical objectification. Understanding moves from
the outer manifestations of human action and productivity to the
exploration of their inner meaning. In his last important essay, "The
Understanding of Other Persons and Their Manifestations of Life"
(1910), Dilthey made clear that this move from outer to inner, from
expression to what is expressed, is not based on empathy. Empathy
involves a direct identification with the Other. Interpretation
involves an indirect or mediated understanding that can only be
attained by placing human expressions in their historical context.
Thus, understanding is not a process of reconstructing the state of
mind of the author, but one of articulating what is expressed in his
Dilthey divided sciences of the mind (human sciences) into three
structural levels: experience, expression, and comprehension.
Experience means to feel a situation or thing personally. Dilthey
suggested that we can always grasp the meaning of unknown thought when
we try to experience it. His understanding of experience is very
similar to that of phenomenologist Edmund Husserl.
Expression converts experience into meaning because the discourse has
an appeal to someone outside of oneself. Every saying is an
expression. Dilthey suggested that one can always return to an
expression, especially to its written form, and this practice has the
same objective value as an experiment in science. The possibility of
returning makes scientific analysis possible, and therefore the
humanities may be labeled as science. Moreover, he assumed that an
expression may be "saying" more than the speaker intends because the
expression brings forward meanings which the individual consciousness
may not fully understand.
The last structural level of the science of the mind, according to
Dilthey, is comprehension, which is a level that contains both
comprehension and incomprehension. Incomprehension means, more or
less, wrong understanding. He assumed that comprehension produces
coexistence: "he who understands, understands others; he who does not
understand stays alone."
In the 20th century, Martin Heidegger's philosophical
hermeneutics shifted the focus from interpretation to existential
understanding as rooted in fundamental ontology, which was treated
more as a direct — and thus more authentic — way of
being-in-the-world (In-der-Welt-sein) than merely as "a way of
knowing." For example, he called for a "special hermeneutic of
empathy" to dissolve the classic philosophic issue of "other minds" by
putting the issue in the context of the being-with of human
Heidegger himself did not complete this inquiry.)
Advocates of this approach claim that some texts, and the people who
produce them, cannot be studied by means of using the same scientific
methods that are used in the natural sciences, thus drawing upon
arguments similar to those of antipositivism. Moreover, they claim
that such texts are conventionalized expressions of the experience of
the author. Thus, the interpretation of such texts will reveal
something about the social context in which they were formed, and,
more significantly, will provide the reader with a means of sharing
the experiences of the author.
The reciprocity between text and context is part of what Heidegger
called the hermeneutic circle. Among the key thinkers who elaborated
this idea was the sociologist Max Weber.
Gadamer (1900–2002) et al.
Hans-Georg Gadamer's hermeneutics is a development of the hermeneutics
of his teacher, Heidegger.
Gadamer asserted that methodical
contemplation is opposite to experience and reflection. We can reach
the truth only by understanding or mastering our experience. According
to Gadamer, our understanding is not fixed but rather is changing and
always indicating new perspectives. The most important thing is to
unfold the nature of individual understanding.
Gadamer pointed out that prejudice is an element of our understanding
and is not per se without value. Indeed, prejudices, in the sense of
pre-judgements of the thing we want to understand, are unavoidable.
Being alien to a particular tradition is a condition of our
understanding. He said that we can never step outside of our tradition
— all we can do is try to understand it. This further elaborates the
idea of the hermeneutic circle.
Bernard Lonergan's (1904–1984) hermeneutics is less well known, but
a case for considering his work as the culmination of the postmodern
hermeneutical revolution that began with
Heidegger was made in several
articles by Lonergan specialist Frederick G. Lawrence.
Paul Ricœur (1913–2005) developed a hermeneutics that is based upon
Heidegger's concepts. His work differs in many ways from that of
Karl-Otto Apel (b. 1922) elaborated a hermeneutics based on American
semiotics. He applied his model to discourse ethics with political
motivations akin to those of critical theory.
Jürgen Habermas (b. 1929) criticized the conservatism of previous
hermeneutists, especially Gadamer, because their focus on tradition
seemed to undermine possibilities for social criticism and
transformation. He also criticized
Marxism and previous members of the
Frankfurt School for missing the hermeneutical dimension of critical
Habermas incorporated the notion of the lifeworld and emphasized the
importance for social theory of interaction, communication, labor, and
production. He viewed hermeneutics as a dimension of critical social
Andrés Ortiz-Osés (b. 1943) has developed his symbolic hermeneutics
as the Mediterranean response to Northern European hermeneutics. His
main statement regarding symbolic understanding of the world is that
meaning is a symbolic healing of injury.
Two other important hermeneutic scholars are
Jean Grondin (b. 1955)
Maurizio Ferraris (b. 1956).
Mauricio Beuchot coined the term and discipline of analogic
hermeneutics, which is a type of hermeneutics that is based upon
interpretation and takes into account the plurality of aspects of
meaning. He drew categories both from analytic and continental
philosophy, as well as from the history of thought.
Two scholars who have published criticism of Gadamer's hermeneutics
are the Italian jurist
Emilio Betti and the American literary theorist
E. D. Hirsch.
New hermeneutic the theory and methodology of interpretation to
understand Biblical texts through existentialism. The essence of new
hermeneutic emphasizes not only the existence of language but also the
fact that language is eventualized in the history of individual
life. This is called the event of language. Ernst Fuchs,
Gerhard Ebeling, and
James M. Robinson are the scholars who represent
the new hermeneutics.
The method of Marxist hermeneutics has been developed by the work of,
Walter Benjamin and Fredric Jameson. Benjamin outlines his
theory of the allegory in his study Ursprung des deutschen
Trauerspiel ("Trauerspiel" literally means "mourning play" but is
often translated as "tragic drama").
Fredric Jameson draws on
Biblical hermeneutics, Ernst Bloch, and the work of Northrop Frye,
to advance his theory of Marxist hermeneutics in his influential The
Political Unconscious. Jameson's Marxist hermeneutics is outlined in
the first chapter of the book, titled "On Interpretation" Jameson
re-interprets (and secularizes) the fourfold system (or four levels)
of Biblical exegesis (literal; moral; allegorical; anagogical) to
relate interpretation to the Mode of Production, and eventually,
Karl Popper first used the term "objective hermeneutics" in his
Objective Knowledge (1972).
In 1992, the Association for Objective
Hermeneutics (AGOH) was founded
Frankfurt am Main
Frankfurt am Main by scholars of various disciplines in the
humanities and social sciences. Its goal is to provide all scholars
who use the methodology of objective hermeneutics with a means of
In one of the few translated texts of this German school of
hermeneutics, its founders declared:
Our approach has grown out of the empirical study of family
interactions as well as reflection upon the procedures of
interpretation employed in our research. For the time being we shall
refer to it as objective hermeneutics in order to distinguish it
clearly from traditional hermeneutic techniques and orientations. The
general significance for sociological analysis of objective
hermeneutics issues from the fact that, in the social sciences,
interpretive methods constitute the fundamental procedures of
measurement and of the generation of research data relevant to theory.
From our perspective, the standard, nonhermeneutic methods of
quantitative social research can only be justified because they permit
a shortcut in generating data (and research "economy" comes about
under specific conditions). Whereas the conventional methodological
attitude in the social sciences justifies qualitative approaches as
exploratory or preparatory activities, to be succeeded by standardized
approaches and techniques as the actual scientific procedures
(assuring precision, validity, and objectivity), we regard hermeneutic
procedures as the basic method for gaining precise and valid knowledge
in the social sciences. However, we do not simply reject alternative
approaches dogmatically. They are in fact useful wherever the loss in
precision and objectivity necessitated by the requirement of research
economy can be condoned and tolerated in the light of prior
hermeneutically elucidated research experiences.
The neutrality of this section is disputed. Relevant discussion may be
found on the talk page. Please do not remove this message until
conditions to do so are met. (July 2016) (Learn how and when to remove
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In archaeology, hermeneutics means the interpretation and
understanding of material through analysis of possible meanings and
Proponents argue that interpretation of artifacts is unavoidably
hermeneutic because we cannot know for certain the meaning behind
them. We can only apply modern values when interpreting. This is most
commonly seen in stone tools, where descriptions such as "scraper" can
be highly subjective and actually unproven until the development of
microwear analysis some thirty years ago.
Opponents argue that a hermeneutic approach is too relativist and that
their own interpretations are based on common-sense evaluation.
There are several traditions of architectural scholarship that draw
upon the hermeneutics of
Heidegger and Gadamer, such as Christian
Nader El-Bizri in the circles of phenomenology.
Lindsay Jones examines the way architecture is received and how that
reception changes with time and context (e.g., how a building is
interpreted by critics, users, and historians). Dalibor Vesely
situates hermeneutics within a critique of the application of overly
scientific thinking to architecture. This tradition fits within a
critique of the Enlightenment and has also informed design-studio
Adrian Snodgrass sees the study of history and Asian
cultures by architects as a hermeneutical encounter with
otherness. He also deploys arguments from hermeneutics to explain
design as a process of interpretation. Along with Richard Coyne,
he extends the argument to the nature of architectural education and
Environmental hermeneutics applies hermeneutics to environmental
issues conceived broadly to subjects including "nature" and
"wilderness" (both terms are matters of hermeneutical contention),
landscapes, ecosystems, built environments (where it overlaps
architectural hermeneutics ), inter-species relationships, the
relationship of the body to the world, and more.
Insofar as hermeneutics is a basis of both critical theory and
constitutive theory (both of which have made important inroads into
the postpositivist branch of international relations theory and
political science), it has been applied to international relations.
Steve Smith refers to hermeneutics as the principal way of grounding a
foundationalist yet postpositivist theory of international relations.
Radical postmodernism is an example of a postpositivist yet
anti-foundationalist paradigm of international relations.
Jurisprudence and Law
Some scholars argue that law and theology are particular forms of
hermeneutics because of their need to interpret legal tradition or
scriptural texts. Moreover, the problem of interpretation has been
central to legal theory since at least the 11th century.
Middle Ages and Italian Renaissance, the schools of
glossatores, commentatores, and usus modernus distinguished themselves
by their approach to the interpretation of "laws" (mainly Justinian's
Corpus Juris Civilis). The
University of Bologna
University of Bologna gave birth to a
"legal Renaissance" in the 11th century, when the Corpus Juris
Civilis was rediscovered and systematically studied by men such as
Irnerius and Johannes Gratian. It was an interpretative Renaissance.
Subsequently, these were fully developed by
Thomas Aquinas and
Since then, interpretation has always been at the center of legal
Friedrich Carl von Savigny
Friedrich Carl von Savigny and Emilio Betti, among others,
made significant contributions to general hermeneutics. Legal
interpretivism, most famously Ronald Dworkin's, may be seen as a
branch of philosophical hermeneutics.
Gianni Vattimo and Spanish philosopher Santiago
Zabala in their book Hermeneutic Communism, when discussing
contemporary capitalist regimes, stated that, "A politics of
descriptions does not impose power in order to dominate as a
philosophy; rather, it is functional for the continued existence of a
society of dominion, which pursues truth in the form of imposition
(violence), conservation (realism), and triumph (history)."
Vattimo and Zabala also stated that they view interpretation as
anarchy and affirmed that "existence is interpretation" and that
"hermeneutics is weak thought."
See also: Freud and Philosophy
Psychoanalysts have made ample use of hermeneutics since Sigmund Freud
first gave birth to their discipline. In 1900 Freud wrote that the
title he chose for
The Interpretation of Dreams
The Interpretation of Dreams 'makes plain which of
the traditional approaches to the problem of dreams I am inclined to
follow...[i.e.] "interpreting" a dream implies assigning a "meaning"
The French psychoanalyst
Jacques Lacan later extended Freudian
hermeneutics into other psychical realms. His early work from the
1930s–50s is particularly influenced by Heidegger, and Maurice
Merleau-Ponty's hermeneutical phenomenology.
See also: Postcognitivism
Psychologists and computer scientists have recently become interested
in hermeneutics, especially as an alternative to cognitivism.
Hubert Dreyfus's critique of conventional artificial intelligence has
been influential among psychologists who are interested in hermeneutic
approaches to meaning and interpretation, as discussed by philosophers
Martin Heidegger (cf. Embodied cognition) and Ludwig
Wittgenstein (cf. Discursive psychology).
Hermeneutics is also influential in humanistic psychology.
Religion and theology
See also: Exegesis, Biblical hermeneutics, Talmudical hermeneutics,
and Quranic hermeneutics
The understanding of a theological text depends upon the reader's
particular hermeneutical viewpoint. Some theorists, such as Paul
Ricœur, have applied modern philosophical hermeneutics to theological
texts (in Ricœur's case, the Bible).
Mircea Eliade, as a hermeneutist, understands religion as 'experience
of the sacred', and interprets the sacred in relation to the
profane. The Romanian scholar underlines that the relation between
the sacred and the profane is not of opposition, but of
complementarity, having interpreted the profane as a hierophany.
The hermeneutics of the myth is a part of the hermeneutics of
religion. Myth should not be interpreted as an illusion or a lie,
because there is truth in myth to be rediscovered. Myth is
Mircea Eliade as 'sacred history'. He introduces the
concept of 'total hermeneutics'.
In the field of safety science, and especially in the study of human
reliability, scientists have become increasingly interested in
It has been proposed by ergonomist Donald Taylor that mechanist models
of human behaviour will only take us so far in terms of accident
reduction, and that safety science must look at the meaning of
accidents for human beings.
Other scholars in the field have attempted to create safety taxonomies
that make use of hermeneutic concepts in terms of their categorisation
of qualitative data.
In sociology, hermeneutics is the interpretation and understanding of
social events through analysis of their meanings for the human
participants in the events. It enjoyed prominence during the 1960s and
1970s, and differs from other interpretive schools of sociology in
that it emphasizes the importance of both context and form within
any given social behaviour.
The central principle of sociological hermeneutics is that it is only
possible to know the meaning of an act or statement within the context
of the discourse or world view from which it originates. Context is
critical to comprehension; an action or event that carries substantial
weight to one person or culture may be viewed as meaningless or
entirely different to another. For example, giving the "thumbs-up"
gesture is widely accepted as a sign of a job well done in the United
States, while other cultures view it as an insult. Similarly,
putting a piece of paper into a box might be considered a meaningless
act unless it is put into the context of democratic elections (the act
of putting a ballot paper into a box).
Friedrich Schleiermacher, widely regarded as the father of
sociological hermeneutics believed that, in order for an interpreter
to understand the work of another author, they must familiarize
themselves with the historical context in which the author published
their thoughts. His work led to the inspiration of Heidegger's
"hermeneutic circle" a frequently referenced model that claims one's
understanding of individual parts of a text is based on their
understanding of the whole text, while the understanding of the whole
text is dependent on the understanding of each individual part.
Hermeneutics in sociology was also heavily influenced by German
philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer.
Jürgen Habermas criticizes Gadamer's hermeneutics as being unsuitable
for understanding society because it is unable to account for
questions of social reality, like labor and domination.
Murray Rothbard and Hans Hermann-Hoppe, both economists of the
Austrian school, have criticized the hermeneutical approach to
Allegorical interpretations of Plato
Biblical law in Christianity
Hermeneutics of suspicion
Johann August Ernesti
Johann Gottfried Herder
Friedrich August Wolf
Georg Anton Friedrich Ast
^ Random House Unabridged Dictionary
^ American Heritage Dictionary
^ Merriam-Webster Dictionary
^ Audi, Robert (1999). The Cambridge Dictionary of
ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 377.
^ Reese, William L. (1980). Dictionary of
Philosophy and Religion.
Sussex: Harvester Press. p. 221. ISBN 0855271477.
^ a b The Routledge Companion to
Philosophy in Organization Studies,
Routledge, 2015, p. 113.
^ a b Joann McNamara, From Dance to Text and Back to Dance: A
Hermeneutics of Dance Interpretive Discourse, Ph.D. thesis, Texas
Woman's University, 1994.
^ Grondin, Jean (1994). Introduction to Philosophical Hermeneutics.
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^ Klein, Ernest, A complete etymological dictionary of the English
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^ R. S. P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p.
^ Grondin, Jean (1994). Introduction to Philosophical Hermeneutics.
Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-05969-8. p. 21.
^ Grondin, Jean (1994). Introduction to Philosophical Hermeneutics.
Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-05969-8. pp. 21–22.
^ a b c Hoy, David Couzen (1981). The Critical Circle. University of
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^ see, e.g., Rambam Hilkhot Talmud Torah 4:8
^ Woo, B. Hoon (2013). "Augustine's
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^ Edward Joseph Echeverria, Criticism and Commitment: Major Themes in
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^ Thomas M. Seebohm, Hermeneutics: Method and Methodology, Springer,
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^ Jack Martin, Jeff Sugarman, Kathleen L. Slaney (eds.), The Wiley
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^ Martin Heidegger, Ontology: The
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^ Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, Phenomenology World-Wide: Foundations —
Expanding Dynamics — Life-Engagements A Guide for Research and
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^ Cf. interpretative phenomenological analysis in psychological
^ Wheeler, Michael (October 12, 2011). "
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Hermeneutics, Routledge, 2014, p. 259.
^ Winfried Schröder (ed.), Reading between the lines – Leo Strauss
and the history of early modern philosophy, Walter de Gruyter, 2015,
p. 39, "According to Robert Hunt, '[t]he Straussian hermeneutic ...
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^ Don Ihde, Hermeneutic Phenomenology: The
Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur,
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^ a b c Erasmus: Speculum Scientarium, 25, p. 162: "the different
versions of Marxist hermeneutics by the examples of Walter Benjamin's
Origins of the German Tragedy [sic], ... and also by Ernst Bloch's
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^ Richard E. Amacher, Victor Lange, Νew Perspectives in German
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Press, 2015, p. 11.
^ John D. Caputo, Radical Hermeneutics: Repetition, Deconstruction,
and the Hermeneutic Project, Indiana University Press, 1988, p. 5:
"Derrida is the turning point for radical hermeneutics, the point
where hermeneutics is pushed to the brink. Radical hermeneutics
situates itself in the space which is opened up by the exchange
Heidegger and Derrida..."
^ International Institute for
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^ Mohanty, Satya P. "Jameson's Marxist
Hermeneutics and the need for
an Adequate Epistemology." In Literary Theory and the Claims of
History: Postmodernism, Objectivity, Multicultural Politics. Ithaca:
Cornell University Press, 1997. pp. 93-115.
^ Steven Galt Crowell, Jeff Malpas (eds.), Transcendental Heidegger,
Stanford University Press, 2007, pp. 116–7.
^ Hubert L. Dreyfus, Mark A. Wrathall (eds.),
Truth, realism, and the history of being, Routledge, 2002, pp. 245,
274, 280; Hubert L. Dreyfus, "Heidegger's Hermeneutic Realism," in:
David R. Hiley, James Bohman, Richard Shusterman (eds.), The
Interpretive Turn: Philosophy, Science, Culture, Cornell University
^ Hubert L. Dreyfus, Mark A. Wrathall (eds.),
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^ Heidegger, Martin (1962) . Being and Time. Harper and
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^ Agosta, Lou (2010).
Empathy in the Context of Philosophy. Palgrave
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Hans-Georg Gadamer and the Hermeneutic Revolution", "The
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^ David Kaufmann, "Thanks for the Memory: Bloch, Benjamin and the
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Jamie Owen Daniel and Tom Moylan (London and New York: Verson, 1997),
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Socially Symbolic Act. Cornell University Press.
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Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka (ed.), Phenomenology of Life – From the
Animal Soul to the Human Mind:
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^ Association for Objective
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Mass.: MIT Press.
^ Perez-Gomez, A. 1985. Architecture and the Crisis of Modern Science,
Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
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Design as a Way of Thinking, London: Routledge, pp 165–180.
^ Snodgrass, A., and Coyne, R. 2006. Interpretation in Architecture:
Design as a Way of Thinking, London: Routledge, pp. 29–55
^ Snodgrass, A.B., and Coyne, R.D. 1992. "Models, Metaphors and the
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^ Mugerauer, Robert (1995). Interpreting Environments. University of
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Gianni Vattimo and Santiago Zabala. Hermeneutic Communism: From
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^ Freud, Sigmund (1900). The Interpretation of Dreams. Standard
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Look up hermeneutics in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
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Palmer, Richard E., "The Liminality of
Hermes and the Meaning of
Palmer, Richard E., "The Relevance of Gadamer's Philosophical
Hermeneutics to Thirty-Six Topics or Fields of Human Activity",
Lecture Delivered at the Department of Philosophy, Southern Illinois
University, Carbondale, IL, 1 April 1999, Eprint.
Plato, Ion, Paul Woodruff (trans.) in Plato, Complete Works, ed. John
M. Cooper. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1997,
Quintana Paz, Miguel Ángel, "On Hermeneutical
Ethics and Education",
a paper on the relevance of Gadamer's
Hermeneutics for our
understanding of Music,
Ethics and our Education in both.
Szesnat, Holger, "Philosophical Hermeneutics", Webpage.
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