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The hermeneutic circle: a key to critical reading

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 interact with the whole.

When we first read a text, we gain an initial understanding. As we move through the text, we keep on updating our understanding based on the new knowledge. In turn, the new context will inform the way we interpret the text.

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

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.

We’re swayed by anecdotes
We’re swayed by anecdotes
Most of us are influenced more powerfully by personal testimony from a single person than by impersonal ratings or outcomes averaged across many people. This is the power of anecdote to dull our criti...
We’re overconfident

We overestimate our comprehension of the science. 

Part of the problem seems to be that we infer our understanding of scientific text based on how well we have comprehended the language used. This “fluency bias” can also apply to science lectures when it is delivered by an engaging speaker.

We’re seduced by graphs
It doesn’t take a lot to dazzle the average newspaper or magazine reader using the superficial props of science, be that formulas, graphics or jargon. 

One study found that participants were far more likely to support new evidence when it had a graphic visualisation of the correlational evidence than if they had read the same evidence without a graphic.

“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.