Hermeneutic Interpretative Theory See Hermeneutics Theory

HERMENEUTICS THEORY. = hermen-eutic interpretative theory. The German philosopher Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911) first described this viewpoint concerning the ability and art of interpreting human speech, writing, and behavior in terms involving difficult or "fuzzy" concepts such as intentions and meanings (cf., the existentialists' study of the "meaning of life"). The approach in herme-neutics theory employs methods of investigation that are inappropriate, typically, for studying the phenomena of the natural sciences. The term hermeneutics originally (about 1654) was used, specifically, to denote the interpretation of Scriptural writings, but it is employed today more broadly to refer to any interpretative process, operation, or procedure. In hermeneutic interpretative theory (i.e., the theory of human understanding in its interpretative aspect, in particular, a herme-neutic is a set of practices or recommendations for revealing an intelligible meaning in an otherwise unclear text or text-analogue), debate revolves around three issues; whether interpretation occurs in an already fixed or existing world or in an evolving world; whether interpretation is a process taking place within a formal system of already-existing categories or whether it is a more fundamental process that works to provide -prior to any explicit understandings - a specific structure of "pre-understanding" (cf., Heidegger, 1962) upon which all the more explicit, categorical understandings rest; and distinctions are made between "dualistic" and "monistic" positions in the sense that the her-meneutical "task" may either be considered as directed towards grasping a spiritual or an objective "inner reality" in one's "outer" aggressions, or towards a more practical aim. The first formulation of a difference between systematic "historical hermeneutics" and a "psychological hermeneutics" (i.e., the recon-ceptualization of hermeneutics as concerned with the general problem of understanding) was made by the German Protestant theologian Friedrich D. E. Schleiermacher (17681834) who asserted that hermeneutics must accomplish by conscious effort and technique what ordinary conversationalists achieve effortlessly, that is, a grasp of the contents of one another's "minds" (cf., Palmer, 1969). In his invocation of the German word Verstehen ("to understand"), Dilthey advanced the notion of the interpretation and understanding of other people through an "intuitive" account of symbolic relationships obtained from adopting the point of view of the individuals being studied. Dilthey argued that the ultimate goal of the mental/human sciences is "understanding," but that of the natural/physical sciences is "explanation." Also, Dilthey claimed that the "natural" and the "human" sciences require radically different methodologies [cf., P. Duhem (1906-1962) who noted around the turn of the 20th century that natural scientific assertions are not tested one by one against experience, but require interpretation within a theory as a whole; and T. S. Kuhn (1962) who argues that the proper interpretation of theoretical statements requires reference to the context of scientific traditions and practices within which they have their expression]. Currently, on a related issue (i.e., the status of "psychology as a science"), the debate continues as to whether psychology is a science at all, and if it is, does it approximate more closely the natural sciences (e.g., physics, chemistry) or is it nearer to the social/cultural sciences (e.g., sociology, anthropology) (cf., Roeckelein, 1997a,b). See also COMTE'S


Dilthey, W. (1894/1977). Ideas concerning a descriptive and analytic psychology. In R. M. Zaner & K. I. Heiges (Eds.), Descriptive psychology and historical understanding. The Hague: Nijhoff. Duhem, P. (1906/1962). The aim and the structure of physical theory. New York: Atheneum. Heidegger, M. (1962). Being and time. New

York: Harper & Row. Kuhn, T. S. (1962). The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Palmer, R. E. (1969). Hermeneutics: Interpretation theory in Schleiermacher, Dilthey, Heidegger, and Gadamer. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

Messer, S. B., & Sass, L. A. (1988). Herme-neutics and psychological theory. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. Roeckelein, J. E. (1997a). Hierarchy of the sciences and the terminological sharing of laws among the sciences. Psychological Reports, 81, 739-746. Roeckelein, J. E. (1997b). Psychology among the sciences: Comparisons of numbers of theories and laws cited in textbooks. Psychological Reports, 80, 131-141.


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