Hermeneutics is a phenomenological theory of methods located in the methodology of the human sciences, specifically in the philological interpretation of texts. It is a critical reflection as a method of interpretation of texts and tradition. Such reflections show that the development of hermeneutics is unilaterally based on the development of hermeneutical consciousness, that is, the change of attitudes in the application and rejection of cultural traditions. All the methods and finally the methodologies are based unilaterally on the activities of the life world. The second part is a first attempt to develop an outline of a general phenomenological theory of methodical and methodical understanding in the world of life. The third part offers a phenomenologically guided critical analysis of methodological hermeneutics.

What is Hermeneutics?

Hermeneutics as a methodology of interpretation deals with the problems that arise when it comes to significant human actions and the products of such actions, mainly texts. As a methodological discipline, it offers a toolbox for dealing efficiently with problems of interpretation of human actions, texts and other significant material. Hermeneutics looks back on a long tradition, as the set of problems it addresses has prevailed in human life. He has repeatedly and constantly asked for your consideration. Interpretation is a ubiquitous activity, unfolding every time humans aspire to understand whatever interpretation they consider significant. Due to its long history, it is natural that both its problems and the tools designed to help solve them have changed considerably over time, along with the discipline of hermeneutics itself.

Background of Hermeneutics

There has been a highly developed interpretation practice in Greek antiquity, pointing to various interpretations such as oracles, dreams, myths, philosophical and poetic works, but also laws and contracts. The beginning of ancient hermeneutics as a more systematic activity dates back to the exegesis of the Homeric epics. The most notable feature of ancient exegesis was allegory (allegory, from alla agoreuein, that is, saying something different). This was a method of non-literal interpretation of authorized texts that contained statements and statements that appeared theologically and morally inappropriate or false.

Such exegetical attempts pointed to a deeper meaning, hidden under the surface: hyponoia, that is, underlying meaning. Allegory was widely practiced from the 6th century BC. Until the Stoic and Neoplatonistic schools and even later. In the Middle Ages, the most outstanding characteristic of interpretive praxis was the so-called accessus ad auctores; This was a standardized introduction that preceded the (classical) author edits and comments. There were many versions of accessus, but one of the most used was the following seven-question typology:

What (is the subject of the text) (quid / subject)?

Why (was the text written) (cur / cause)?

How (was the text composed) (quomodo / modus)?

How (was the text composed) (quomodo / modus)?

Where (was the text written or published) (ubi / loco)?

By what means (was the text written or published) (quibus facultatibus / facultas)?

Johann Conrad Dannhauer was the first to present a systematic textbook on general hermeneutics (Jaeger 1974), the Idea boni interpretis et malitiosi calumniatoris (1630), which presents the Latin neologism hermeneutica as the title of a general modus sciendi.

Methodological foundations

The question of the methodological foundations of the research that breathes philosophical hermeneutics pushes the discussion back towards that disputed territory of the method that is inscribed on the map of the modern university. The qualitative research literature also allows some freedom. These lax around method certainly create space for ways of conducting research that do not conform to the scientific paradigm and, even in the case of philosophical hermeneutics, explicitly question its hegemony.

The problem with hegemonies is that we live under them, whether we like it or not, not only under them but also in them. From a research perspective, philosophical hermeneutics is a way of addressing the need to answer certain types of questions. Qualitative research is a response to a basic curiosity about human experience that is not satisfied with the results of research based on Cartesian assumptions of objectivity and isolated phenomena. Over time, qualitative research has broadened in its range of approaches, which, at least in part, reflects a developing awareness of being in the shadow of quantitative research.

Objectives of the Hermeneutical Approach

The main objective of the hermeneutical approach is to explore and analyze the life world of individuals The world as it is experienced immediately or directly in the subjectivity of everyday life. Clearly differentiated from the objective worlds of science, which employ the methods of the mathematical sciences of nature; Although these sciences originate in the world of life, they are not those of everyday life. The sum total of the physical environment and everyday experiences that make up an individual’s world.

Cognitive map to orient yourself in daily life

Common sense, that is, storage of permanent symbolic forms Pragmatic cognitive style

Basic knowledge, mostly implicit and “natural”

Finite province of meaning = life is experienced through different “finite provinces of meaning.” In other words, there are multiple realities that help people organize their experiences within a complex and multidimensional reality. Each finite province of meaning (religion, science, politics, etc.). It gives meaning to a precise framework of reality and does not depend on the ontological structure of reality.

How to do a Narrative-biographical Research?

Hermeneutics and semantics

With the desire of the philosophers of the Enlightenment to proceed everywhere from certain principles and to systematize all human knowledge, hermeneutics became a field of philosophy. The philosophers of the Enlightenment saw hermeneutics and its problems as belonging to the domain of logic. In the 19th and 20th centuries, it developed under the various influences of romanticism, secularism, materialism, vitalism, and phenomenology. Thus, hermeneutical studies were oriented towards the psychological, historical and subjective aspects of interpretation.

Although the treatment of hermeneutics differs from author to author, it can be distinguished from semantics by being: Oriented more towards the holistic meaning of texts, rather than the individual meaning of smaller linguistic units, such as sentences or words. He focused on historical and humanistic explanations of interpretation rather than scientific and objective and functional accounts of the truth. More closely related to traditional approaches to language (rhetoric, grammar, biblical exegesis, and genealogy of language) than to semantics.

Directed towards the “internal rather than external side of our use of signs”, towards how signs are understood, rather than, conversely, how concepts can be signified. Interested in disruptive semantic features of meaning: Ambiguity, paradox, and contradiction are not features that can be “explained”, but rather intrinsic features of an explanation of meaning. Twentieth century philosophers working in the hermeneutical tradition have also pointed out a necessary structural relationship between holistic understanding and atomistic interpretation, represented by the “hermeneutical circle.” It describes a virtuous rather than vicious circular pattern of learning in relation to a text, discourse, or tradition: as individual parts are interpreted. The understanding of the whole becomes clearer; and as the text as a whole is better understood, new parts can be better interpreted.


The goal of hermeneutics, also known as “hermeneutical phenomenology” and “interpretive phenomenology”, is to understand human action within context. There are many forms of hermeneutics, but two common characteristics of this approach are;

(1) language is the essence of all understanding and

(2) the context (historical context, in particular) provides the framework for such an understanding.

Because of this focus on language as a precondition for understanding, texts are the very basis of data in hermeneutics. These can include texts in published materials such as newspapers, magazines and blogs, government reports, policy documents and the like. As well as private documents such as diaries, narratives, memoirs and personal stories.


Anderson, John R., 2005, Cognitive Psychology and Its Implications, 6th edition, New York: W.H. Freeman and Company.

Ricoeur, Paul, 1981, “What is a Text? Explanation and Interpretation”, in Paul Ricoeur, Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences, John B. Thompson (ed. and transl.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp.135–151.

Simon, Herbert, 1986, “The Information Processing Explanation of Gestalt Phenomena”, Computers in Human Behavior, 2: 241–255.

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