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The term hermeneutics is used broadly to describe the process of justifying interpretation through exposing the criteria used to produce it. The form is also used, by extension, to designate a twentieth-century philosophy for which interpretation is either a condition for accessing meaning through thought, and therefore a condition of every science of mind as such, thus implicating the normativity of logic, or the praxis of thought itself, no product of thought being capable of escaping infinite reinterpretation since it would then no longer be living thought but dead thought.

In a limited sense, Logic, as understood by Aristotle's Organon, has been and remains the framework of hermeneutics. "Hermeneia," Paul Ricoeur writes, "in the fullest sense, is the meaning of the sentence"—and goes on to criticize an "overly 'lengthy' concept" of interpretation. But this is also the case when "hermeneutics" is understood as biblical exegesis (an "overly restricted" sense). Here it is theology, understood as an exclusive theory and therefore as a preestablished doctrine, that conditions truth and falsehood, and thus access to the determination of meaning. It should not be surprising therefore to find within the result of the interpretation what we were trying to find from the start.

Understood as philosophy, hermeneutics rejects the fact that logical concepts, in the Hegelian sense, can present and determine meaning, or that the "logic of the concept" can be its concretization; nor can the concept serve as a criterion of signification. However, hermeneutic finality can remain with the concept in the sense of discourse, or, on the contrary, an interpretation that falls short of the separation of words and things, an interpretation of the constitution of a possible world by each and for all, or even a fundamental process of "leveling" the language of the unconscious.

Freud considered that analytic interpretation, at the clinical situation, transmutes the patient's dreams into the true creative and critical power of subjectivity. For this reason interpretation is not and could not be an "extension" of the dream, as Ludwig Wittgenstein claimed, believing to have found in this a critique of the unscientific nature of Freudian "hermeneutics." Since, according to Wittgenstein, to interpret a dream is to prolong it, Freud's method of dream interpretation remains within the dream from the point of view of its scientific value. Thus one can also say that hermeneutics risks arbitrariness or relevancy that is only superficial to the extent that it can drift into an imaginary free association of ideas in connection of symbiotic or "esoteric" object, whereas this free association must itself be the object of a rigorous interpretation with reorganized and shared criteria; so hermeneutics also runs the risks of falling into a "delirium of interpretation," a psychotic hermeneutics used by the schizophrenic, who cultivates a discourse of paradoxes in order to protect himself from ambivalence and conflict (Paul-Claude Racamier).


See also: Amplification (analytical psychology); Deferred action; Interpretation; Philosophy and psychoanalysis. Bibliography

   * Ricoeur, Paul. (1965). History and truth. (Charles A. Kelbley, Trans.). Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. (Original work published 1955)
   * ——. (1970). Freud and philosophy: An essay on interpretation. (Denis Savage, Trans.). New Haven: Yale University Press. (Original work published 1965)
   * ——. (1974). The conflict of interpretations (Don Ihde, Ed.). Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. (Original work published 1969)