Textual Reflexivity…


This is the continuation of an earlier post (you can find it here), which was an excerpt from a short essay I wrote for a philosophy class discussing the work of Wilhelm Dilthey. Throughout much of the course we were asked to elaborate on our work and positions, this is one such short example. Enjoy!

What is initiated in Dilhey approach is a hermeneutics beyond hermeneutics, a hermeneutics both beyond and exterior to the text. Influential philosopher Jacques Derrida proposed that nothing is outside of the text or that there is no outside of the text, yet, thinkers such as Wilhelm Dilthey and Edward Said seem to counter this notion strongly, suggesting instead that “all texts are ‘worldly’; that they are…‘events, even when they appear to deny it, they are nevertheless part of the social world, human life, and of course, the historical moments in which they are located and interpreted” (Rich, 2010, p. 72). There is a concrete material reality and sociological context which gives birth to the text and cannot be separated from it.
In my opinion then, Dilthey’s method is to be likened most to that of Clifford Geertz, who offers something of a wedding of semiotics and anthropology “In order to understand the full range of a culture’s psychology and systems of meaning” (Rich, 2010, p. 66). While Dilthey himself did not delve into the semiotic study of signs, Dilthey, like Geertz, believes that “culture must be studied like a text” (Rich, 2010, p. 66). Jennifer Rich (2010) explains that when history and society are treated as though they were texts it “brings out the cultural connotations and psychological symbolism missed in conventional anthropological explanations ” (p. 68). Dilthey’s hermeneutic historicism is a kind of sociological theory of knowledge. Perhaps, then, Dilthey somewhat agrees with Derrida  that there is ‘no outside of the text’. Perhaps the ‘text’ is best understood as representing a kind of reflexivity, in which the text and culture both wholly contain one another, causing and affecting each other. Culture gives rise to the text and within its contents the text implicitly reflects back a concretization and solidification of culture.
Rich, J. (2010). Critical Theory: An introduction [Kindle version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com

4 responses to “Textual Reflexivity…

  1. i like your treatment of Derrida’s “outside the text” remark. One of the more oblique of his conclusions… I don’t think he really means what he says though. His definition of “materialism” that he gives elsewhere seems to imply that there is something outside of the text, we can just never know what it is.

    • Hi again,

      Thanks for very kind words! I’m certainly far from a Derridean scholar, I’m not sure I’m even an astute reader of Derrida. LOL. But, the “outside the text” idea is one that has definitely continued to haunt me in many ways. It seems to be rife with implications. Yet, like yourself, I never really certain what Derrida really means by much of what he says. Perhaps, thats precisely the point. ; )

  2. Also I think you’re final conclusion is right on. Have you read Barthes? “From Work to Text” and “The Death of the Author” reach similar conclusions.

    • Thanks for the recommendations! I have come across Barthes numerous times throughout my various readings but, unfortunately I’ve yet to read any of the primary literature. I am actually quite unqualified and severely under-educated in terms of the thinkers and ideas that I attempt to discuss in my writings here. More often than not my blog acts as little more than a digital diary open to the public. My posts are usually never written from a place of confident understanding but, rather a shaky uncertainty. They are simply me grappling to understand an idea, text, concept or thinker. In this sense, I might actually be contributing more to bad scholarship, lol.

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