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31. Exegesis, Hermeneutics, and Interpretation

Ross B. Emmett

Subject Economics » History of Thought

Key-Topics biography

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631225737.2003.00036.x


Before you on the desk sits an economics text. It may be the most recent article in a journal or a classic book in the discipline. If you are like most readers, your concern as you read is to make sense of what the text says. This is the central task of textual interpretation: to make sense of the meaning of a text. The other two words of our title are closely associated with interpretation, although they are used less frequently in economics than in the humanities. “Exegesis” refers to the critical analysis of a text , and hence is an integral part of the interpretive task. Exegesis takes us beyond reading the text to attending to its genre, style, form, word choice, model assumptions, internal logic, and contextual issues. Because the exegetical task forces one to pay close attention to the text, an exegesis usually focuses on one particular passage (or, in the case of contemporary economics texts, one model) in an author's work. “Hermeneutics,” on the other hand, most often refers to the study of the methods or principles of interpretation. It may be thought of as the methodology of interpretation . Because this essay will focus on the methodologies of interpretation in the history of economics, it is primarily an essay in hermeneutics. The close relation of methodological studies to philosophy has led to a hermeneutic tradition in philosophy, which assumes the primacy of the ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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