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“We cannot escape an ultimate appeal to a common understanding of the expressions, of the ‘language’ involved. This is one way of trying to express what has been called the ‘hermeneutical circle’. What we are trying to establish is a certain reading of text or expressions, and what we appeal to as our grounds for this reading can only be other readings. The circle can also be put in terms of part-whole relations: we are trying to establish a reading for the whole text, and for this we appeal to readings of its partial expressions; and yet because we are dealing with meaning, with making sense, where expressions only make sense or not in relation to others, the readings of partial expressions depend on those of others, and ultimately of the whole. ”

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In Taylor’s point of view, human being is a species that is capable of self-interpreting. One of the goals of the sciences of human is to assign meanings to texts. In order to make sense of those texts, what we could to is to refer to other texts. Therefore, it seems that a successful interpretation of the meaning is to translate something that is in ambiguous form into something clear and definite. The effectiveness of interpretation is the process of the hermeneutical circle. The hermeneutical circles resolves one question, which is to understand what is the process of interpretation and how does interpretation develop. Normally speaking, the “circle” refers to the circle from parts to the whole. That is, interpretation of the whole texts is based on the interpretation of its parts, where the parts could be a passage, a chapter, a paragraph, a sentence, a phrase, or a word and the whole could be the central idea of the book. When readers enter a texts, they always bring with them existing knowledge or opinions which is influenced by historical consciousness. For example, if the reader is a college student, he or she would most likely interpret the texts from a college student’s perspective. It is impossible for readers to completely avoid the pre-existing knowledge or opinion when entering a text. However, when the readers bring those knowledge or opinions with them when interpreting the meaning of the texts, it also refreshes and rebuilds what they already know. Thus, when readers read the texts again, they always realize that the interpretation of the second time exceeds the interpretation of the first time. In my opinion, the reading experience itself is the hermeneutical circle. As the level of interpretation increases, the connection between the reader and the writer strengthens as well. To tie back to Taylor’s idea that human being is able to self-interpret, if the definition of self alters, the meaning of human existence also changes; therefore, we need a different method to interpret those meanings while us social scientists attempting to measure and predict human behaviors.

H.G. Gadamer: Truth & Method, pages 299-310 

“In relying on its critical method, historical objectivism conceals the fact that historical consciousness is itself situated in the web of historical effects. By means of methodical critique it does away with the arbitrariness of “relevant” appropriations of the past, but it preserves its good conscience by failing to recognize the presuppositions—certainly not arbitrary, but still fundamental—that govern its own understanding, and hence falls short of reaching that truth which, despite the finite nature of our understanding, could be reached. In this respect, historical objectivism resembles statistics, which are such excellent means of propaganda because they let the “facts” speak and hence simulate an objectivity that in reality depends on the legitimacy of the questions asked. ”

Historical culture flows from the past to present and moves on from the present to the future — it is never completed. As human beings, we have always been living in the connection between the past and the present, as well as the connection between the present and the future. The reason why history did become history is that, on one hand, its influence somehow occupies the present in some way; while on the other hand, it belongs to the past where there is a gap between the past and the present. In order to better understand how we become who we are today and why we exist in the first place, we ought to be able to interpret the past. H.G. Gadamer introduces the idea of history of effect for the reason that we must understand history and study its influence since we all origin from history (we must understand means that history is not something we are able to clearly articulate just yet). We are at where we are today not because history determines what is worth investigating for us, but to reject and neglect other objects that actually existed. It seems logical to say that historical consciousness begins when we start to learn about the past. However, as we think we are interpreting history with critical methods, historical events, as a matter of fact, use us as a medium to unfold at the same time according to our interpretations. In addition, if the right question is asked, it is possible for us to reach the truth where historical objectivism conforms with statistics — to allow the “facts” speak for itself. To this extent, historical consciousness itself exists within the history of effect. We must admit that the history of effect has always been effective in our interpretations, whether we are able to acknowledge its impact or not.

H.G. Gadamer: Truth & Method, pages 299-310 

“Every finite present has its limitations. We define the concept of “situation” by saying that it represents a standpoint that limits the possibility of vision. Hence essential to the concept of situation is the concept of “horizon.” The horizon is the range of vision that includes everything that can be seen from a particular vantage point. Applying this to the thinking mind, we speak of narrowness of horizon, of the possible expansion of horizon, of the opening up of new horizons, and so forth. Since Nietzsche and Husserl, the word has been used in philosophy to characterize the way in which thought is tied to its finite determinacy, and the way one’s range of vision is gradually expanded. A person who has no horizon does not see far enough and hence over-values what is nearest to him. On the other hand, “to have a horizon” means not being limited to what is nearby but being able to see beyond it. A person who has an horizon knows the relative significance of everything within this horizon whether it is near or far, great or small. Similarly, working out the hermeneutical situation means acquiring the right horizon of inquiry for the questions evoked by the encounter with tradition.”

We have a horizon, history has a horizon as well. Having a horizon means that person has a view point where such view point is based on prejudice. While interpreting history, we ought to position ourselves into the horizon that the historical contexts forms, so that we are less likely to misinterpret the meaning of those historical contexts. However, embedding oneself to the historical contexts does not mean to evaluate history with the historical criteria and perspective which persists the historic horizon on the same level as before. If this is the case, the interpretation of  history, the ultimate goal of investigating historical events and history itself become isolated from us human being. The reason of why we study history in the first place is to expand our horizons — the historical horizon broadens as ours expands, as long as human beings exist. The interpretation of the past allows a collision between the old horizon and the new one that reaches fusion on a higher level. During the process of such fusion, both history and us have been elevated. Nevertheless, the horizon we have now cannot be formed without the past. In this respect, there is no such thing as an independent horizon or an isolated historical horizon, but a continuous development of horizon creation. The objective to distinguish the differences between them is to present the exclusivity of hermeneutics. In other words, it explains the tension between present and the tradition when the two horizon collides. The purpose of hermeneutics is not to conceal but to reveal such tension. True fusion is formed during the process when historical horizon communicates and try to make sense of the new horizon. Such fusion signifies that historical horizons are to be emerged in the process of understanding and to be eradicated from the results of the interpretations.