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Charles Taylor - Interpretation and the Sciences of Man
Two opposing views of the 'sciences of man': hermeneutic and empiricist Hermeneutic sciences characterised by three things:
* an object or field of objects about which we can speak of in terms of coherence or incoherence, sense or nonsense
* distinction between the sense of coherence made, and its embodiment in language. ie distinction between phenomena and their expression; 'a distinction must be possible between meaning and expression'
* must have meaning for a subject (e.g. agent) Problem with hermeneutics is that it rests on seemingly subjective interpretation
* an interpretation may make sense of what seems incoherent, but what if someone reads the language/situation differently?
# the interpreter can only justify with reference to more expressions or readings; hence we cannot avoid an ultimate appeal to common understanding of the expressions/'language' involved
# this is the 'hermeneutic circle' There are two ways that have been employed to break out of the circle
* rationalism a la Hegel
# aspires to such clarity that refutation would be unthinkable
# accepts as brute certain facts e.g. sense data, and seeks to build on these brute facts using inference (logical empiricism)
# this is the model of the natural sciences, and its hand is strengthened by the invention of computers (because explicit inference procedures) An empiricist will necessarily be hostile to hermeneutics, because it cannot meet the requirements of intersubjective, nonarbitrary verification Why would we consider the sciences of man to be hermeneutic?
* when we talk in terms of meaning we refer to three things:
# meaning is for a subject i.e. context dependent; there is no meaning in vacuo
# meaning is of something i.e. there is a distinction between meaning and its element
* there can be no meaning without elements, but the same meaning can appropriately attach to different elements
# things only have meaning in a field i.e. in relation to the meanings of other things
- colour, numbers etc.
* this is hermeneutic e.g. shame cannot be explained but with reference to other concepts, which themselves cannot be explained without reference to shame
# we may not notice this because we are inside the hermeneutic circle, but we notice it instantly when exposed to another civilization Do the sciences of man fulfil the three criteria of hermeneutic disciplines?
* Do they have sense/coherence?
# yes. all action must in principle be explicable, even if they are not 'rational' even irrational actions make sense
# this is necessarily hermeneutic: actions only make sense with reference to what one takes to be good sense, but good sense is a function of values/rationality etc the circle does not end
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