Hermeneutics as Embodied Existence

Marja Schuster

Abstract


This article explores the possibilities and limits of a hermeneutic way of being in the world, more specifically being a researcher as a part of human, embodied existence. Understanding existence as embodied highlights the subjectivity of a researcher. For a hermeneutic researcher this subjectivity is both a precondition for interpretation and something that might endanger the scientific endeavour. In this article, I examine the possibilities of combining Hans-Georg Gadamer’s empathetic hermeneutics with Paul Ricoeur’s critical hermeneutics as a means of both recognizing and, to some extent, controlling my subjectivity in the research process. With Gabriel Marcel I also argue for hermeneutics as an embodied experience. This is exemplified by my study with a focus on the existential dimensions of the nursing profession. The first part of the article introduces Marcel and his philosophical anthropology concerning our bodily existence as essential for shared lives with others. In the second part, this understanding of self and others is further developed by means of the hermeneutics of Gadamer and Ricoeur. In the third part, I present a way of applying hermeneutics in procedures for interviews, transcription, and analysis of data.

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