Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Undergoing Understanding

So much could be said about what is happening in conversation and in the interpretation of language. What first strikes me is that understanding is a process of coming to an agreement about an object, not "getting inside the other person and reliving their experience" (345). Coming to this agreement then happens through conversation, which has a life of its own. Understanding is a process that "happens to us", says Gadamer. What one undergoes in engaging in conversation toward understanding is like being catechized into a new something, a new world of understanding. The hermeneutical paradox is that clarity and understanding is greatest when understanding is interrupted from in normal, everyday understanding of itself. Similar to Hiedegger's notion that within language, the process of understanding comes from the breaking down of assumptions, the death of one aspect that gives birth to a new, more truthful perspective. A person must make them selves vulnerable, and in Kierkegaardian form, resign themselves existentially to thier perpetual lack of understanding. The true conversationalist must let go of himself and allow language to take hold of him. He can do this because he realizes how weak he is compared to language, interpretation and converstation. Every view he has has been constructed by him based on the world he has been brought up in, and so his view is limited to the terms he is used to. Each person has the power to manipulate and control language for their purposes, in every act of translation or "understanding". But if someone truly desires to understand authentically, they have to have the how of their understanding always before them. Gadamer calls this a "constant renunciation". The difficulty seems to enter when one must make decisions about the meaning of something while still being resigned to how they are understanding.

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