Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Understanding is always a daring adventure

Philosophical hermeneutics is more concerned with questions than answers. It is particularly important to go back to the underlying issues. When we wish to answer a question and do not quite understand the question, or not really know what the other wants to know, then we obviously try to understand the issue better. We can then ask. "Why do you ask this?". Only when I know the underlying items in question, can I at all begin to search for an answer. We must ponder over the conditions that hides behind the questions. Hermeneutics first goal is to understand what may lie hidden in the questions. To clarify the hermeneutical situation means to realize that we will never get full transparency and clarity about the intentions behind the questions.

Understanding, just as action, is always a daring adventure and never allows a single application of a set of rules to understand the specific statements or texts. Understanding is in many ways like a fairy tale, and just as dangerous and just as many opportunities. Hermeneutics has much less security than in other scientific methods, not least because it is not satisfied with answers, or with what is written, but will return to the interests and questions that control us or influence us. Hans-Georg Gadamer's theory of the fusion of horizons, as he explains in his book Truth and Method (1960), is not only useful in conversation situations, but also very much in the interpretation of a text, which we are on speaking terms with by asking questions.

In this way, Gadamer believes that practical philosophy lives on in hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is about a theoretical approach within an interpretive practice, but also of the experience and about having different perspectives. The relationship between a general willingness to acquire knowledge and specific practical wisdom is an interaction. Thus Gadamer considers that the theoretical awareness in relation to the experience of understanding and of philosophical hermeneutics, can not be separated from each other. Practice and theory go together in practical philosophy.

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