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The hermeneutic circle: a key to critical reading

The hermeneutic circle: a key to critical reading
Hermeneutics deals with interpretation. When we interpret a text, it's not linear: it’s a cycle, which is called the hermeneutic circle.


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Understanding a text

Understanding a text

We often forget that our interpretation of a text is influenced by our preexisting beliefs, knowledge and expectations.

Hermeneutics theory describes the method and interpretation o...



The hermeneutic circle

Interpreting a text doesn't happen out of context. The concept of the hermeneutic circle is to understand the whole by seeing how the parts interact with each other, and how they intera...



Consider the context

When practising critical reading, it is crucial to be aware of the context of the text.

Before reading a text, ask :

  • What do you want to gain from reading this t...



Read the text more than once

To allow for the hermeneutic circle to be effective, re-read the text a few times or at least read the parts that are most interesting to you.

Keep on considering the context as you re-read...



Interpreting a text is not a linear process

Allow your initial understanding to change. If your first interpretation improved, it's a good sign of critical reading.

The hermeneutic circle will continue to refine ...




Translation And Interpretation

Translation And Interpretation

They require an ability to be able to understand two or more languages and accurately express the content and information in the other language.

Translations need not be binary, but sho...

Source Language and Target Language

  • Source Language: is the original message or content
  • Target Language: is the resulting outcome after the translation or the interpretation.

Translation and interpretation work well if it is the native language of the translators and it is essential to recognize the cultures of both the source and target languages, in order to fully adopt the content.

The Difference between Translation and Interpretation

While both translation and interpretation have the same purpose: making the information or content accessible in another language, there is one major difference.

Translation is done in a written format, while interpretation is oral. Translators, therefore, are excellent writers, while interpreters have great communication skills.

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The purpose of the historic context

The purpose of the historic context

Historical context deals with the details of the time and place surrounding memories, stories, and characters.

The details enable us to interpret and analyze works of the ...

Historical context when interpreting gesture and words

Historical context is important when interpreting behavior and speech.

For example: "Sally hid her hands behind her back and crossed her fingers before she answered." It sounds innocent on its own. However, reading it as a statement from a transcript during the 1692 Salem Witch Trials will make you realize that she was a candidate for the gallows.

Historical context in literature

We cannot fully appreciate or understand a work of literature without context.

Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" cannot be fully understood if the reader is unaware of the Romantic movement in the early 19th century. The lives of Europeans were transformed by the technological disruptions of the Industrial Age. The Romantics captured the public's sense of isolation and fear that many experienced. Knowing this backdrop changes "Frankenstein" into an allegory for how technology can destroy us.

“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”

Robert J Hanlon

Hanlon’s Razor Explained

  • We tend to associate completely disconnected events in a unique way, fitting them into our ‘story’, the narratives we build to create our distorted version of reality.
  • The patterns we think exist may not actually do so, but that does not stop us from assuming negative intent or malice in all that happens around us.
  • We need to realize that the world does not revolve around us and try to approach situations and events in a neutral, objective manner.

The Way To Apply Hanlon’s Razor

The basic rules that we need to apply:

  1. Move from assuming bad intentions towards exploring other causes.
  2. Engage in active communication.
  3. Embrace opportunities.
  4. Stay positive and driven.
  5. Stop blaming and focus on creative problem-solving.
  6. Assume a neutral, unbiased position.

Hanlon’s razor is a potent mental model which can be used in any situation where our first instinct is a negative assumption. Any wrong hypothesis related to the bad intentions of others is counterproductive and can play havoc in our lives.