Hermeneutics: Coming to understand

"How can we possibly understand anything written in a foreign language if we are thus imprisoned in our own?"    -  Hans Georg Gadamer

The interpretation of texts and the speed of modern society

Hermeneutics is the study of the interpretations of texts, especially religious texts.  However, the insights from Hermeneutic writers matter because humans interpret all the time.  We cannot NOT interpret the world around us.  We triage our environment, draw on what we already know, and predict based on our life history.  Time seldom allows us to test our assumptions - and most of the time we feel no need. 

Key Concepts

The Circle of Understanding: In contrast to the typical model of "linear thinking"  the process of understanding is circular.  There is no actual beginning point but rather a place where your current knowledge feels solid enough to start.  Even that place is built on prior knowledge. We are always in this circling, spiraling process of increasing our understanding.

Questioning:   We move into new ideas and new knowledge incrementally.  We move into new ideas through a process that is essentially questioning.  "Is it like this?  Is it like that?  What is it like?"  We ask questions from the territory where both question and answer are.  We cannot hear an answer that is more than slightly outside that territory. 

Limits:  Even when we have translated our text or come to a new understanding, our knowledge will be partial at best.  Our world, our time, our culture create a background into which our new understanding must be placed.  Our new knowledge therefore is "situated" in our world.  It does not - can not - represent all that it could.  A person of a different country or even a person older or younger by more than a couple of years, will be working with a different understanding.