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.