Hermeneutics. Interpretation and Its Validity

Karol Berger

in A Theory of Art

Published in print December 1999 | ISBN: 9780195128604
Published online February 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780199785803 | DOI:
 Hermeneutics. Interpretation and Its Validity

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No interpretation can escape the need to use figurative language of some sort: not even the closest of reading, paraphrase, or analysis where we stay within the confines of the interpreted artworld itself (text) and elucidate its internal structure, and certainly not the interpretation proper in which the results of analysis are confronted and compared with other represented and interpreted worlds so that the significance of the interpreted work for its author and his audience may emerge. To interpret is to invent new metaphors, but an interpreted artworld is not only a metaphor, it is also a metonymy. In an artworld, a visible or audible fragment implies a much larger, hidden whole; a whole way of life, of acting and suffering, and it is a job of the critic to bring this hidden whole out into the open. Based on the pragmatist’s rather than the fundamentalist’s side in the dispute over what constitutes a valid interpretation, it is argued that all we need are art interpretations that persuade us because like interpretations we provisionally accept in all other domains, they are consistent with lots of other beliefs we hold. They allow us to use the interpreted artworld as we want to use it, to amuse and to edify us. This position is qualified by showing that there are kinds of interpretation where it is proper to raise the issue of legitimacy and not to be satisfied with persuasion alone. In particular, it is shown that the pragmatic view of the nature of interpretation is compatible with a hermeneutic practice that appeals to the rules and constraints of the social practice within the framework of which the interpreted object has been made when construing the meaning of this object, and that insists on the primacy of the interpretation of meaning as a prerequisite to any criticism of significance.

Keywords: hermeneutics; analysis; interpretation; validity; meaning; significance; metaphor; metonymy; text; context

Chapter.  12077 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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