Interpretation, Knowing, and Being

Interpretation is taking something as something else. Interpretations are the “micro structure” of understanding. Being-in-the-world as understanding is constituted by a dynamic network of interpretations.

For most of us, most of the time, everything shows up as already pre-interpreted by the “they”.  Stuff shows up for us as equipment for living. For example if you are inside now the big stuff around you shows up as furniture. This condition is unavoidable, but we can be responsible for it. To be responsible, one step is to acknowledge how interpretation works at the level of knowing and being.

Knowing and Being. There are interpretations (LEC: distinctions) that we can use when the appropriate occasion arises. This “knowing” is the ability to explain and apply interpretations. There is also a level of interpreting that we consistently and reliably apply. (LEC: “being used by a distinction” in contrast to “using a distinction”).

Regarding the set of interpretations that you are.  We could view human beings as a relatively persistent network of interpretations. Our understanding operates as being-in-the-world by constantly interpreting, adding meaning to, the already meaning filled stuff in the world. One could loosely say that who we are is a set of interpretations that defines a worldview in which we operate. This persistent worldview gives us a sense of predictability and certainty about how the world is for us and even who we are. And since this interpreting operates before we pay explicit attention to our circumstances, our worldview is rarely challenged. Only rarely do we rigorously analyze our own worldviews. The world is already showing up as we know it is.

If we look in finer detail, an interpretation provides a set of signs, signals and directives that orients our being-in-the-world. An interpretation presents us with a path to follow, activities to perform. (LEC: openings for action) In Heidegger jargon, it orients our concernful circumspection (how one gets around amidst the stuff of the world), as well as the solicitous considerateness and forbearance we exercise in being-with other human beings. An interpretation provides a specific access for us to care for our being the world; it gives us access to existence as human being.


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One Response to Interpretation, Knowing, and Being

  1. Dave says:

    I think this kind of “existential analysis” expands in society because people see its explanatory value: it helps makes sense of life circumstances and provides access to new opportunities for effective action. Frustration and discomfort should be expected in two areas: the personal challenge in coping with the anxiety of realizing our own inauthenticity and automaticity, but also in our being with others. When we are being with and sharing with others, we uncover, with them, *their* fears and anxiety, which are ordinarily concealed. This calls for compassion for ourselves and others – beyond avoiding discomfort and uncomfortable communication. This is what “leaping ahead and liberating” points to.

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