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hermeneutic circle

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When we read a text, there are two contexts interacting with each other, the writer's context and the reader's context.

The reciprocity between text and context is part of what Heidegger called the hermeneutic circle.

Anne-Laure le Cunff suggests reading the same text several times1, but this is not what the idea of having a circle suggests. The idea is that we can't fully separate a text from the context in which it was written, or the other way around. In other words, the text and the author are part of this circle, or text and reader.

Reading the same text several times does not increase our understanding of it, we can even subject ourselves to the exposure effect (see: writing down as a mean to understanding what we read). Even within The Luhmann method, the context in which we read is always present (enforced even), he himself claimed that he was taking notes with an eye on the slip-box (his own context).

il movimento del ritorno a sé della circolarità ermeneutica: dalla comprensione all’interpretazione, e da questa - intesa come appropriazione del compreso - al «“rispetto a che” da cui si origina il senso»[3], ovvero la direzione orientata all’interno dell’orizzonte[4]

Reading is interpreting, and thus it will change our own self, which in turn would alter the interpreting of what we are reading, that is a circle. However, we can easily risk falling into a vicious circle, and therefore the hermeneutic process starts earlier:

«Il circolo vizioso è in realtà costituito da un riferimento e da una modalizzazione, da una comprensione e da una interpretazione»[8]. Il processo ermeneutico si colloca in una dimensione originaria che precede lo sviluppo di qualsiasi ideale conoscitivo. Esso si configura come il processo dei rapporti che l’esserci ha con tutto ciò che lo circonda.

Tags: #understanding, #hermeneutics #building-knowledge, #meaning, #heidegger


  1. https://nesslabs.com/hermeneutic-circle 

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