The Epistemology of “Text” Meaning: The Context is the Proof-Conditions Upon Which We Prove the Truth of Our Interpretation of the Text

Dan Nesher


The Oxford Dictionary defines Text as “the original words of author” and Context as
“parts that precede or follow a passage and fix its meaning; ambient conditions.” If
we explicate text as any cognitive sign operation and context as the conditions on
which we interpret the meaning of the text, then a text without context has no
meaning. Common knowledge is that we fix meanings by interpretation, but how may we
explicate the interpretation of text in context? I will discuss some major problems
of text and context in theories of interpretation and how to overcome the
predicaments of “hermeneutic universalism” and “hermeneutic contextualism” which
involve either indefinite series of interpretations or interpretive vicious circle
since there are no external grounds that would warrant the validity of
interpretation. According to pragmaticist epistemology, every cognitive operation
involves interpretation, and the question is if we can interpret the meaning of the
text without being entangled in the paradoxes of phenomenological hermeneutics. I
suggest that the criterion of the true interpretation of meanings is the
proof-conditions of the text which are its specific truth-conditions, the mental and
social conditions of the speaker, scientist, or the artist creating the artwork, and
the proof method, namely the procedure to prove or quasi-prove the true
interpretation of the text upon its truth-conditions.


philosophy; 20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; text; context; interpretation; sign

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