Thursday, June 01, 2006

Hermeneutics and Critical Hermeneutics: Exploring Possibilities Within the Art of Interpretation - Elizabeth Anne Kinsella

FERRARIS (1996) defines hermeneutics as "the art of interpretation as transformation" and contrasts it with a view of theory as "contemplation of eternal essences unalterable by their observer" (p.1). In these post-positivistic times, the need to make explicit the art of interpretation, and the transformative possibilities within, has never been more urgent. This paper suggests that hermeneutic thought has much to offer those interested in qualitative inquiry and, as SCHWANDT (2001) points out, serves as a major source of ideas for qualitative inquiry. Most research is informed by philosophical underpinnings that originate in unacknowledged and implicit philosophical traditions. I suggest that qualitative research is by its very nature informed by hermeneutic thought, although this link is not often made explicit in qualitative research writing. On a broad level, greater attention to the tradition of hermeneutic scholarship can enrich, substantiate and make explicit assumptions about interpretation and understanding that are central to qualitative research. Given that the emphasis in qualitative research is on understanding and interpretation as opposed to explanation and verification, and that the parallel emphasis is evident in hermeneutic thought, where for instance GADAMER (1996) demonstrates that understanding (verstehen) is the universal link in all interpretation of any kind, the connection between qualitative research and hermeneutic thought becomes self-evident. more....


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