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Hermeneutic study : The 13th International Research Meeting of the Hermeneutic Study and Education of Textual Configuration Global COE Program was held.

  • 2012/01/09
The 13th International Research Meeting of the Hermeneutic Study and Education of Textual Configuration Global COE Program was held.

Previous articles on Nagoya University Research have focused on outstanding research in natural science. However, a great deal of prestigious research in social and human science is also conducted at Nagoya University. In this article, we introduce what happened at the 13th International Conference (9-11/12/2011) for the Hermeneutic Study and Education of Textual Configuration Global Center of Excellence Program, which is the one of the leading human science research centers at Nagoya University.

The Hermeneutic Study and Education of Textual Configuration is a Global Center of Excellence (COE) Program run by Nagoya University and supported by Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. The program is aimed at forming a research and education hub which will effectively foster a new generation of young researchers, through the hermeneutic study of textual configuration. The program conducts international conferences, supports graduate student foreign exchange, and has established a research article award to encourage and celebrate outstanding graduate students and younger researchers.

So, then, what is the hermeneutic study at the core of this program? Put simply, hermeneutic study is the pursuit of the answer to the following question, both theoretically and on an individual text basis: "what does it mean to interpret the content of a text (by which we mean a document worthy of commentary) by an author? Is it to understand the message of the author from the text or to interpret the text based on the individual philosophy of the reader independently of the author?"

The interpretation of texts is core to research in the human sciences. As such, hermeneutic study is an important research topic and indeed it has been conducted actively since ancient times. Despite this, the question of the relative positions of the author and the reader has still not been concluded. Nagoya University's Global COE Program has been established to examine this eternal question and advance the field beyond its previous limitations through the introduction of a new concept of hermeneutic study, namely the hermeneutic study of textual configuration.

The hermeneutic study of textual configuration can be summarized as shown in Fig 1. Fig 1 shows how among the reader, the text, and the author, there are a number of different texts: pretexts, which are prerequisites for their existence; intertexts, which realize intertextuality through cross-references among them; metatexts, which are annotations or interpretations assigned to them; and paratexts, which are titles indicating the genre or category of text, as well as the forms and constitutions of these texts. It also shows how the author and the reader are influenced by each other across these textual constituents. The point at which the view of the reader and intention of the author meet and can be mutually understood (the fusion of horizons) is defined as "the interpretation of text".

At the 13th International Research Meeting, noteworthy research achievements of the Hermeneutic Study and Education of Textual Configuration program were presented. Texts examined in the research field are diverse, on law, economics and linguistic-graphic texts. The meeting therefore included various presentations on the philosophy of science, the philosophy of law, and on research on philosophers related to the field of hermeneutic study, such as Gadamer.

The Meeting kicked off with a greeting from Professor Shoji Haga, the Dean of Graduate School of Letters at Nagoya University, followed by an opening address from Professor Shoichi Sato, who has been closely involving in the operation of the Global COE program. Both speeches emphasized the achievements of the Global COE program, including the impressive fact that a graduate student who had been supported by the Global COE program received the JSPS IKUSHI PRIZE awarded to only doctoral students with outstanding academic records in Japan. Professor Kazuhiro Matsuzawa, coordinator of the Research Meeting, also gave a brief explanation of the purpose of the meeting, focusing specifically on the hermeneutic study of textual configuration.

Oral presentations began after the opening session. From Nagoya University, presentations were made by Professor Matsuzawa, Professor Yasuhira Kanayama, Designated Associate Professor Claire Fauvergue, and Professor Yasutomo Morigiwa.

Professor Matsuzawa spoke on the "Science du langage et hermeneutique chez Saussure (Science of Language and Hermeneutics in the Work of Saussure)", discussing Saussure's draft for a theory of linguistics. Saussure is a world-renowned linguist, known for defining language as the formal system of signs. Specifically, Saussure proposed that language is composed of two signs, namely the signifiant (signifier, the phonic component of word; the sequence of letters or phonemes), and the signifie (the signified, the ideational component; the concept or object that appears in our minds when we hear or read the signifier).

According to Professor Matsuzawa, Saussure's draft talks about how the deductive systemization of language is very difficult. Language has a hermeneutic circle, which is closely related to the issues being examined by this Global COE program. The combination of the signifiant and the signifie is arbitrary, there is no logic, and it not based on deductive systemization. So why is it, for example, that human (signifie) is pronounced as hju':mэn (signifiant)? According to Professor Matsuzawa's interpretation of Saussare's draft, the reason is that relation between "human- hju':mэn" has been passed down over time and this tradition has rationalized the signifie-signifiant relation. Furthermore, the start of this relation and the rationalization that follows are not based on logical systems. This can be linked to Gadamer's assertion of "historically effected consciousness (the significant influence of tradition and history deeply affect on textual interpretation)" and indicates the how deeply linguistics involves hermeneutics.

Professor Kanayama, whose specializes in ancient Greek philosophy, gave a presentation entitled "Plato on the Problem of Written Texts", in which his discussed his interpretation of Plato's philosophy.

Designated Associated Professor Claire Fauvergue's presentation was entitled "Horizon et point de vue chez Leibniz et Gadamer (Horizon and Point of View in the Work of Leibniz and Gadamer)". Her presentation focused on the issue of horizon, which is an important concept in the hermeneutic study of textual configuration, as seen in the work of Leibniz and Gadamer.

The hermeneutic study of textual configuration also impacts legal philosophy. Professor Morigiwa spoke on "A Functional Theory of Legal Interpretation", examining the interpretation of legal texts.

In addition to presenters from Nagoya University, a number of distinguished researchers from other universities gave presentations, including Professor Keichi Noie from Tohoku University, Professor Jean Grondin from Montreal University, Professor Pierre Glaudes from Paris-Sorbonne University, and other famous researchers presented.

The Research Meeting was attended by young researchers and the general public alike, and prompted a great deal of stimulating debate.

Fig1. Concept of "Hermeneutic Study of Textual Configuration"

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Hermeneutic Study and Education of Textual Configuration Global COE Program

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