Hermeneutics: an exploration
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Hermeneutics: an exploration

Maura Dowling Lecturer, Centre for Nursing Studies, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland

The terms ‘hermeneutics’ and ‘phenomenology’ are often used interchangeably in the literature, which can result in confusion for the reader. In this article, Maura Dowling traces the relationship between these two philosophies and explains the various terms used when describing the different schools of phenomenology. The association between positivism and descriptive phenomenology is mapped. The origin of hermeneutics is traced, and the role of Gadamer in developing the work of Heidegger is explored. Gadamer’s belief in the importance of pre-understanding or prejudice is found to be central to hermeneutics. Furthermore, the role of the researcher in the hermeneutic circle is explained. Finally, the need for nurse researchers to explore clearly the philosophical underpinnings of hermeneutics is argued

This article represents months of reading, which initially began in an effort to try to understand the popularity of hermeneutics and phenomenology in nursing research. I wanted to find an answer to the following question: Why is hermeneutics such a popular research methodology in nursing? On my journey, I had to negotiate many meanings and understandings. This paper is the result of my reading. It is hoped that this journey will help others trying to grasp what is meant by hermeneutics, and its links with phenomenology.

Nurse Researcher. 11, 4, 30-39. doi: 10.7748/nr2004.07.11.4.30.c6213

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