Hermes was messenger and interpreter between gods and mortals. Hermeneutics is an approach cultivating our ability to interpret or understand from another's perspective, and applying that insight, empathy, and understanding to interpretation or making sense of any situation.
Hermeneutics is a technique for understanding another’s mind and worldview. It concerns judging psychological accuracy from inaccuracy. Accurate beliefs deliver long-term satisfactions by distinguishing between accurate and inaccurate readings of situations by contextualizing them and comparing them.
Hermeneutics is a research paradigm we can apply in genealogy research. We want to understand our presuppositions, pivotal experiences and abilities on which our knowledge-claims are based.
Life, Expression, Understanding
The hermeneutic tradition values and explores the meanings of human experiences as they are lived. Such meanings are lived in cultural, sub-cultural, linguistic, religious, and gendered contexts.
Hermeneutic philosophy sketches a more balanced and credible approach to finding a genuine alternative to modern individualism and postmodernist relativism. What is the power of interpretation? What can we get at through interpreting? Can we get at Essences of things? Like the difference between symbol and image, hermeneutics subordinates the universal to the particular.
In philosophy and psychology it includes the interpretation of all texts and systems of meaning, including experiences. In the domain of genealogy it also includes recognition, metaphors, and insinuation. Psychological hermeneutics is the body of knowledge enabling insight and the discussion of biopsychosocial cause and effect.
Whatever is conscious exists along with psychological meanings in relation to present, past and future relationships between people -- and in relation to the relationship that people have with themselves. The ways of making sense of people in all situations is inextricably tied up with emotions and working out what exists for them and about them.
However, we are never other people nor do we ever have access to their consciousness. We cannot feel what they do or have the same life experiences as they. We can only interpret others from our prior understanding. Empathy occurs within oneself but is the central connection to others. To be empathic is to interpret empathy “out of” one’s own experience of other people.
Genealogy As Context
Experiences derive meaning from their overall position in the totality of our involvements in the world. Once born into the specific body, family, place and time in which we live, we have to deal with the details of ordinary life, temporal contexts, and social relationships. In this view there is no doing without being, no thought without feeling, no action without reaction, no values without ethics, no self without others. Being in a context is a multi-faceted whole, classically symbolized in the genealogical chart.
Hermeneutic engagement works with both Above and Below. Hermeneutic union lies in the shared realities through which we create meaning. We all create symbolic and imaginal worlds. Our genealogy personal history is the best promise we have for understanding our shared humanity because it is physiologically grounded. As genealogists we interpret our own psycho-history.