Sunday, June 5, 2011

Interpretative projections of meaning

In the second step Hans-Georg Gadamer uses to restore the standing of prejudices and traditions is a re-reading of Martin Heidegger rather than Husserl as he used i step 1. He argues here that the interpretive projections of meaning has its roots in interpreter's situation. If I understand, for example, Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt from a question about racial stereotypes, then this is not a question that is objectively related to the book or in any way connected with the book's meaning. It is instead a starting point as I understand the book's meaning, even if others can understand it in other ways.
This situation about the determination of the meaning, is what Heidegger in his book Being and Time (1926/1977) calls the pre-structure of meaning.
I mean that his point (Chapter 5, § 32) is that even before I consciously begin to interpret a text, I have placed it in a particular context (Vorhabe), approached it from a particular perspective (Vorsicht) and perceived it a certain way (Vorgriff). There is, says Heidegger, no neutral position in which to examine a text or object real meaning. This also applies to the scientific method. Gadamer writes in Truth and Method (1950) that the scientific way to approach an object requires that you place it in a certain context and assume a certain attitude to it (s.265). We are in other words always looking at the world with prejudice and tradition.

Gadamer argues that all understanding intervenes in a projection of meaning derived from one's own situation and go beyond the observable facts. Heidegger calls this being casted-into-the-world. But where is then the distinction between personal prejudice and individual perspectives? I believe that if I view an object in a prejudiced manner, then I necessarily am transmiting an opinion on a text which goes far beyond that which can be coated with the available facts, but only on the basis of my own situation. What differs objective understanding from purely subjective interpretation? This question of subjectivism leads Gadamer to the third step in his attempt to restore the standing of the prejudices and traditions.

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