Value Unit 04

INTERPRETATION

The interpretation of texts is called hermeneutics and this is a key skill in critical reading and writing.  When interpreting texts, we are looking to understand two things: what is stated, and what is not stated but implied by what is stated.  What is implied is called an assumption.

Illustrated Dream

Kinds of Interpretation

One of the tasks of hermeneutics is to consider what the text implies.  This consideration takes on three common forms: hypotheses, recapitulations, and assumptions.  Use the table below to familiarize yourself with the different types:

Hypothesis


A hypothesis, unlike an assumption, does not need to be true; it is conjecture or guesswork based on all of the available evidence. The better the understanding of the evidence, the better the hypothesis. Consider for example, “The fire chief determined that the building was no longer safe for public use following the earthquake, and that the building should be condemned.” On what basis did the fire chief determine that the building was unsafe? The sentence doesn’t tell us; however, it is reasonable to assume that the earthquake had weakened the structure so that is was likely to fall down. This is a reasonable hypothesis, relying on the information in the sentence. It is NOT an assumption, because it is not the only possible explanation for the fire chief’s decision. Etymology of "Hypothesis" >




Recapitulation


This is to summarize the statement, or to put it in other words. A recapitulation aims to make clear what is explicitly stated. You've probably heard this word used in its common truncated form: "Let's recap the plot of the movie." Consider again, “The fire chief determined that the building was no longer safe for public use following the earthquake, and that the building should be condemned.” A recapitulation of this sentence might include observations such as, “the fire chief wanted to shut the building down”, and “the judgement was made following the earthquake” would be examples of recapitulation; they add nothing extra to the narrative, just simply state the obvious in other words, or rephrase what has been stated. Etymology of "Recapitulation" >




Assumption


Assumptions are one of the most difficult and subtle things to get right in critical analysis. An assumption is something that you believe is true or likely will be true if the statement is true. However, unlike a recapitulation, an assumption does not simply restate what has been said, but shows the consequences of what has been said. And unlike a hypothesis, an assumption is not just a theory that may or may not be true, but in fact will be true. Let’s return to our sample sentence: “The fire chief determined that the building was no longer safe for public use following the earthquake, and that the building would be condemned.” If this statement is true, then there are other things that have not been said that also must be true, such as: The fire chief has the authority to shut the building down. The sample sentence would indicate that the fire chief does indeed have authority to shut the building down; this is not merely a hypothesis, nor is it simply a restatement of what has already been said. Etymology of "Assumption' >




Hermeneutic


A theory of textual interpretation. How should we read texts? What do we need to know in order to fully appreciate a text? The art and skill of studying texts is called hermeneutics, and there are a number of different methods scholars use to interpret a given text. For example, being able to distinguish between symbolism and realism, or being able to consider a text in its historical context is a part of hermeneutic study in general. Etymology of "Hermeneutic" >





Examples

Physical Research

One of the main tasks of critical writing and critical reading is to identify all of the key features of a text, in order to fully understand it.

 

One of the tools we can use to help us hone our critical thinking skills is to engage in “physical research.”  This is the kind of research whereby you are not reading a text, but looking at pictures or data, and then trying to find the location, features, or map identity of a physical location.

 

Click on the link below to access the physical location exercise.  Once you have identified the location, you will be asked to submit the URL of the street view of the house in question.

Further Reading

Critical Thinking

Workbook

Critical Thinking

Foundations