My Revelation: Hermeneutics and its Applications

Hermeneutics–the study of interpretation and understanding–has fascinated me since I first learned about this concept in 2007. In this post I share a graphic I designed and a few quick thoughts. 

This diagram I made, I hope, will explain the basic ideas.

Keep in mind, every thing is a text.

Slide1Basically the idea is that when watching a movie or reading a book, for example, what the text means, even what it actually “says” changes minute by minute as people see and interpret “what happens” based on their body of experience.

A few different lunch conversations helped me see hermeneutics in a new and different way and to more fully understand its everyday applications. 

For those of us who teach: consider classrooms. The really eager classes compared to the classes where you can’t get enough people to talk. That situation is the perfect real-time model of hermeneutics. Think about how two classes covering the same information can be totally different even though what we deliver is basically the same. The receiving collective text (students) has a set of experiences that make the giving text (the professor, who they are “reading”) not valuable and in turn frustrations and changes what the text (the professor) does to attempt to make the text (students) more involved.  

Consider live performances–music and plays–where each night will likely be at least a bit different. This all relates to hermeneutics.

Most importantly, meaning changes. There is no set meaning of anything. It’s always changing. Always subjective. Never pure. Never as we intend or as we hope.

Indeed, part of the struggling and joy of living, writing, creating any kind of art, teaching, etc means being brave enough to be a text which will never by seen or understood as we intend and hope. Perception is reality.


See also:

History, intertextuality, and how Barack Obama has influenced Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., not the other way around

Signifier, Signified, Sign, and Cultural Relativism