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Hermeneutics

 

Explanations > Social Research > Philosophies of Social Research > Hermeneutics

 

Principle | Discussion | See also

Principle

Meaning may be interpreted through study.

Discussion

The original meaning of the word 'hermeneutics' is the study of the Bible, how it is interpreted and in particular the discovery of values and truths therein. Four main types are:

  • Literal: the Bible is to be taken as literal truth, with no reinterpretation, assumption o metaphor or storytelling. This view was championed by people such as Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther and John Calvin.
  • Moral: which seeks to extract values and principles by which people should live their lives.
  • Allegorical: sees a second level of meaning beyond the literal descriptions. This is often spiritual in focus.
  • Anagogical: sees meaning at the mystical level, for example explaining Biblical events as having meaning for times to come.

This is only a background, however. The key aspect of this is that it is to do with interpreting something to create meaning.

In social research, the term 'hermeneutics' is rooted in Hegel and Lambert, but more recently associated with Husserl's Phenomenology, Heidegger's Hermeneutic Phenomonology and the philosophical hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer.

Wilhelm Dilthey (1883), aimed to identify a distinctly 'human science' where humans act upon the natural environment but within the social environment.

The hermeneutic circle: a thing is understood from words, but to understand a thing you need to understand the whole. It's a chicken and egg. Like a word in a sentence - to understand one you first need to understand the other.

See also

Phenomenology

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