5.26.2006

What'choo talkin bout Willis...

Our next word in the series devoted to defining the phraseology of PoMoTheo is:
Hermeneutics

Hermeneutics is a philosophical technique concerned with the interpretation and understanding of texts. It may be described as the theory of the interpretation and understanding of a text on the basis of the text itself. The concept of "text" has been extended beyond written documents to include, for example, speech, performances, works of art, and even events. Thus, one might speak of and interpret a "social text".

Why is this word bandied about like some sort of verbal hex sign? Why is it so important to the PoMo "conversation"?

Because if you can redefine what words actually mean, if you can take the word RED, and say that it actually means light pink, you have not just changed the word itself, but every instance of the use the word up to the current instance! You have not just taken a word and created a new meaning, as evidenced in the slang terms "cool," "bad," "tight," and "phat yo." You have changed how that word is used for the future, and changed the intent and meaning of the words of those who are no longer around to defend their thoughts.

If these words were to be reinterpreted, then thoughts and ideas recorded in the past will have their meaning changed. i.e.
From Page 321 of The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics:
"... all the time. At last the top of the cliff became visible like a thin line of emerald green stretched tight as a fiddle-string. Presently we glided over that top: we were flying above a level, grassy country through which there ..."

Having read the above excerpt, with the meaning of the word tight being:
a : strongly fixed or held : SECURE tight jar lid- tight grip on the ladder b (1) : not slack or loose : TAUT tight>-tight knot- tight drumhead
The intent and meaning of the word in the above senteance makes sense. It is communication.

Now reread the passage with the slang meaning of tight: Stylish, cool, having everything together. The passage from Lewis is now gibberish, or open to being translated oddly or cryptically by eggheads and mystics, because the normal meaning of the word doesn't make sense in the context.

Now further imagine a world in which the new meaning of tight was immidiately placed on all instances of the word, and the use of tight to describe something secure or taut was ridiculed and scorned. Imagine that kind of power. You don't have to change peoples minds, you just have to change their understanding of a word.
That, is why Hermeneutics is so important.

2 comments:

MamaD said...

Interesting you should choose hermeneutics for your Pomo class. I had googled it the other day after deciding it would be my study topic for the summer.

R.C. Sproul has a book out about it called Knowing Scripture that I am hoping is not out of print. I think Terry read an article of his in his Tabletalk devotional a few years back and he covered basic points of hermeneutics that were really good.

Nikki said...

Oh, I want that book! Sounds good.