Meaning, Information, and Inference

I’ve been imagining, for a long time, a seminar of a sort that would undergird my particular approach to hermeneutics, but naming that a ‘hermeneutics’ course strikes me as false advertising. A student has the just expectation that a ‘hermeneutics’ course will cover people like Schleiermacher, Bultmann, Gadamer, and Ricoeur, with side trips to account for feminism, racial and post-colonial approaches to interpretation, and postmodern theory, even when these aren’t an easy fit with the hermeneutical tradition.
I think I can sit comfortably with a course designation such as that which I’ve assigned this post. My work focuses on the problem that ‘meaning’ constitutes for interpretation, it frames hermeneutics as a problem of information design, and it relies on a reception model for explaining how we arrive at ideas about ‘what it means’. While I would prefer to teach the course as a multi-year seminar that covers many of the works I identify in my imaginary syllabus, I could probably cut that down to one year-long honours reading list, or one semester’s readings for a US course, and the rest of the readings might be assigned to a recommended bibliography from which assiduous students could draw for their further research.
As the ideas for my work come clearer and clearer to me, I’m more and more concerned to have the opportunity to teach this course, and to make the thinking behind it available in scholarly and popular form. That’s something that will fuel my research and publication agenda for the years to come, and (I think) should also fuel one element in my teaching.

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