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Hermeneutics is an intellectual tradition and an important term in the philosophy. Hermeneutics says that symbolic concepts are the foundation of building up the social-historical world. The origin of the Hermeneutics lies at the early study to language and in the explanation of the Bible and other religious texts.



Until the 19th century, hermeneutics were just interpreting religious texts. They were doing this because they thought that the Bible was a myth and thus so not true. But because they saw some relevance from the Bible in the modern world they started to create up-to-date explanations of the Bible. Till this day, there are still people who explain the Bible in this way, but some people see it as an threat because the Bible isn’t explained in the way it was written (Romeijn, 2003).


According to the Hermeneutics the world is constructed by the language and the actions of individuals. These symbolic concepts, which result out of language and action, get interpreted by other people in different ways. (Cloke, Philo and Sadler (1991). For Hermeneutics it is important to know the author. It is only possible to understand and explain a text when you know the life of the author and the community and time he was living in. The hermeneutics is seen as a study of interpretation and meaning. (Johnston, Gregory, Pratt, Watts, 2000). It became a universal principle what means that it can be applied to everything to understand people, not just texts but also conversations. So the entire human life is hermeneutics in the eyes of Gadamer. We are always trying to understand actions of humans (Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy,2009).

The circle of the hermeneutics stands for the everlasting process of interpretation of symbolic concepts. It is a creative and progressive process which will never come to an end. This is because when you hear something you have to know what the words you hear mean to understand a complete sentence. But to make a sentence you need to understand the words (Romeijn, 2003).

Hermeneutics in geography

On the field of Human geography the term 'hermeneutics' is being used as the study to the relation between humans and place. Hereby the human experiences in his social and spatial environment is being studied (Cloke, Philo and Sadler 1991, p. 90).

Understanding the hermeneutics

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It is important to know that words can not always be used in the same way. The meaning of words are dependent on the conceptual framework of the speaker. Gadamer does not call it a conceptual framework, but rather a horizon of understanding. When people have a wide horizon of understanding, the chance of succesful communication is larger (Romeijn, 2003). A person's horizon can become wider when they learn or experience things. When people's horizons come together, there is a higher chance of understanding eachother. Gadamer called that fusion of horizon.

The horizon of understanding can also be applied on books, music and art. For example: When you start reading a book, you use your own horizon of understanding. By using your own horizon of understanding, you create a preconceived opinion. The preconceived opinion helps to be more critical to your horizon of understanding. After the reading, you can keep of drop your preconceived opinion. In that way you are gradually going to have a good understanding of the text. It's a diffrent way of the fusion of horizon.

Further Reading

  • Hermeneutiek [1]


  • Cloke, P., Philo, Ch. and Sadler, D. , Approaching Human Geography (Stage, Londen 1991)
  • Johnston, R.J., Gregory, D., Pratt, G. Watts, M., The dictionary of Human Geography ( Blackwell Publishing, Oxford 4th edition 2000)


  • Page published by Meryl Burger
  • Page edited by Jobke Heij, 8 september 2011
  • Page edited by Janna Völpel JannaVolpel 12:59, 8 May 2012 (CEST)
  • Page edited by Stef Tomesen, 23 October 2012
  • Page edited by Hans Klerks, 24 October 2012
  • Page edited and links added by Isis Boot - --IsisBoot 12:16, 24 October 2012 (CEST)
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