Archives For interpretation

Part 1

Habermas emphasizes linguistic structure and analytical reason with regards to the pluralism of language games. What does this mean? Perhaps that languages can be translated into one another? First of all, the distance of theoretical language from normal language. Second, ordinary language grammar itself transcends the language it determines since it can be translated across languages. This second point describes a unity of word and thing, linguistic structure and world-conception.

There is a reflexive element that Habermas is driving at:

“For we become aware of the boundaries drawn for us by the grammar of ordinary language by means of the same grammar.” (p336)

“Hermeneutic experience is the corrective through which thinking reason escapes the spell of language; and it is itself linguistically constituted…To be sure, the multiplicity of languages with which linguistics is concerned also poses a question for us. But this is merely the single question: how is every language, in spite of its differences from other languages, supposed to be in a position to say everything it wants? Linguistics teaches us that every language does this in its own way. For our part, we pose the question: how does the same unity of thought and speech assert itself everywhere in the multiplicity of these ways of saying, in such a way that every written tradition can be understood?” (Gadamer, Truth and Method, in Habermas, p336)

Analytical reason: Habermas is saying that reason is transcendent over language. Hermeneutics mistrusts any mediatizing of ordinary languages and refuses to step out of their dimension. Linguistic practice has a tendency of self-transcendence embedded in it of which hermeneutics makes use.

“Languages themselves possess the potential of a reason that, while expressing itself in the particularity of a specific grammar, simultaneously reflects on its limits and negates them as particular. Although always bound up in language, reason always transcends particular languages; it lives in language only by destroying the particularities of languages through which alone it is incarnated.” (Habermas, p336)

It seems that through a complex unpacking of the nature of language interactions (conversations, translations, learning to speak at all) Habermas is driving at the need for a dialectical structure (citing Wittgenstein) and the need for conversation partners to find a common ground, a consensus in language usage. There is a conflict between Wittgenstein and Gadamer: for Gadamer the life-worlds that determine the grammar of language games are not closed forms of life (open horizons), Wittgenstein suggests a monadological language experience where understanding is limited to the virtual repetition of the training through which native speakers are socialized.

On tradition:

“Tradition, as the medium in which languages propagate themselves, takes place as translation, namely, as the bridging of distances between generations. The process of socialization, through which the individual grows into his language, is the smallest unity of the process of tradition….With the first fundamental rules of language the child learns not only the conditions of possible consensus but at the same time the conditions of possible interpretations of these rules, which permit him to overcome, and thereby also to express, distance.” (p339)

Wittgenstein sees language practice as the reproduction of fixed patterns; ‘as if socialized individuals were subsumed under a total system composed of language and activities.’ (p340) This is a positivist outlook.

Part 2

On Gadamer’s fusion of horizons:

Habermas first gives an account of Gadamer’s conception of the fusion of Horizons:

“The interpreter is a moment of the same fabric of tradition as his object. He appropriates a tradition from a horizon of expectations that is already informed by this tradition. For this reason we have, in a certain way, already understood the tradition with which we are confronted. And only for this reason is the horizon opened by the language of the interpreter not merely something subjective that distorts our interpretation. In opposition to theoretically oriented language analysis, hermeneutics insists that we learn to understand a language from the horizon of the language we already know.” (p343)

Habermas here is recognizing that Gadamer’s fundamental assumption is that humans have a set of rules, or habits, to which they conform in the knowledge building process. In a sense, a tradition of socialization (learning language, learning body language, how to relate etc).

“Hermeneutics avoids the embarrassment of a language analysis that cannot justify its own language game; for it starts with the idea that learning language games can never succeed abstractly but only from the basis of the language games that the interpreter has already mastered. Hermeneutic understanding is the interpretation of texts in the knowledge of already understood texts. It leads to new learning processes out of the horizon of already completed learning processes. It is a new step of socialisation that takes previous socialisation as its point of departure.” (p344)

Habermas seems to agree with Gadamer on the flaws of an objectivist (historicism) outlook.

“From the perspective of hermeneutic self-reflection, the phenomenological and linguistic foundations of interpretive sociology move to the side of historicism. Like the latter, they succumb to objectivism, since they claim for the phenomenological observer and the language analyst a purely theoretical attitude. But both are connected with their object domain through communication experience alone and cannot, therefore, lay claim to the role of uninvolved spectators.” (p344)


Philosophy of science is going to be an invaluable tool in analyzing this argument as it is hermeneutics claim (as represented by Gadamer) to universality that Habermas points out leaves no room for criticism in the social or natural sciences. If we are subject to our horizons of prejudice and preconception, how can science or social science critique? Gadamer claims that this state of being is not normative, it just simply is. To what extent would Popper or Kuhn, or even Einstein, agree?

Broadly speaking and to get straight to the point, Derrida rejects the traditional project of philosophy. He seeks not a continuation of philosophy by other means, but a continuation of philosophy’s means for other ends. This could be thought about as the direct decendancy of the Heideggerian tradition in which Heidegger sees Nietzsche as the end of the old, metaphysical philosophical tradition. That tradition being defined by, in Heidegger’s terms, the essentia and the existentia. Heidegger’s discussion prompts the question of the direction of philosophical research given that the metaphysical outlook was condemned by Nietzsche but not surpassed.

“Derrida is centripetal, relentlessly dissecting the body of failed philosophical knowledge.” (p289)

Derrida’s project of continuing philosophy’s means for another end involves looking back on, and employing philosophy’s paradigmatic questions and approaches to knowledge. So what does Derrida do? For convenience I am going to try to frame him in terms of interpretation, and link him to the tradition of Hermeneutics, though he himself would reject this. This will be the subject of a later discussion on the meeting between Derrida and Gadamer.

“Derrida maintained that although traditional philosophical issues are undecidable in principle, they are also ineliminable from our thought and in some sense require our constant attention. As a result, Derrida’s writings, unlike Foucault’s, are a constant and explicit probing of traditional philosophical concepts.” (p290)

In one sense Derrida could be thought of as critic or reader of philosophy, rather than practitioner. This is key to understanding Derrida’s foundations in structuralism and the critical engagement in literary as well as philosophical texts. His work leans more towards the writerly than the readerly in terms of Bathes’ spectrum.

“Derrida employs a variety of writing styles, most of which have little to do with the analytic philosopher’s efforts to clarify and refine our common-sense intuitions. He will, for example, play with language through puns, bizarre associations, or perverse self-referentiality, simple to effect a disorientation of our ordinary conceptual categories.” (p290)

For Derrida, writing itself was the subject matter that would reveal the essential peculiarities and limitations of human thought. Issues of authorship, attempts to bracket the text (Barthes) and the forever unresolved elusiveness of meaning and interpretation (hermeneutic basis for Derrida) all become sites of Derrida’s onslaught to excavate the experience of human consciousness. Linguistic formulation itself, even in the mind of the speaker, is limited and inaccurate. Writing may be the main material study, but the implication is to the very act of language at its source.

“It would seem that perfect adequacy is achieved only in the immediate, pre-linguistic presence of my thought to itself. But Derrida argues that there is no such pure presence of thoughts to the self. All thought is mediated through language and can never attain such total clarity.” (p292)

Perhaps an appropriate time for a discussion on Plato’s ideals? Gaze and ways of seeing?

“Derrida’s philosophical project is an unending extrapolation of the reader’s inability to master a text.” (p292)

Derrida closes the gap between speaking and writing. In the same that Plato thought of speaking as a “kind of writing inscribed in the soul,” Derrida defines a fundamental form or act of writing – archi-writing – of which speech itself is an instance.

To summarize A basic structuralist approach:

“First, the basic elements of thought and language are pairs of opposing concepts, such as presence/absence, truth/falsity, being/nothingness, same/other, one/many, male/female, hot/cold. This we can call the principle of opposition. Next, the opposing pairs are regarded as exclusive logical alternatives, governed by the principles of identity (A=A) and non-contradiction (Nothing is both A and not-A). This we can call the principle of logical exclusion. For example, being present excludes being absent; the present is simply what it is (present) and is in no way what it is not (absent). Finally, each fundamental pair is asymmetrical in the sense that one term has in some crucial sense priority over the other (e.g. is more fundamental, more real, morally better than the other). This is the principle of priority.” (p294)

Derrida challenges such logical models and seeks to reveal the extent to which a given text does not fit these models. thought for later…compare linguistic vagueness in logic to Derrida…where do the two crossover or conflict When Derrida is able to unmask in a text it’s own undermining of itself, or rather, that its system of binary opposition cannot be sustained and so such a system falls down on the very text that formulates it, he gives the name deconstruction to this technique.

“Deconstruction shows how texts based on binary oppositions themselves violate both the principle of exclusion and the principle of priority.” (p294)

Derrida’s technique and vision cast a long shadow. He does not simply interrogate texts to put on display the disfunction of language, he manages to apply his technique across consequential historical texts:

“The general project of deconstructing the fundamental dichotomies built into thought yields a critique of logocentrism. The dominant terms of the standard polar oppositions always correspond to some sort of presence, a reality that is positive, complete, simple, independent, and fundamental (Plato’s forms, Aristotle’s substances, Aquinas’s God, Hegel’s absolute). This presence is always understood as the polar opposite of something that is negative, incomplete, complex, dependent, and derivative (matter, creatures, appearance, etc.). Derrida’s deconstructive analyses show, however, that the purity and priority of presence is never sustained in the texts of the great metaphysicians. For example, Plato discovers that the forms participate in non-being, Christians think of God as somehow humanly incarnate, and so on. The result is a critique of metaphysical presence.” (p294)

Further to this deconstruction of metaphysics, is a deconstruction of epistemological foundationalism.

“Foundationalists assert something present and immediate (to the mind, in experience) that opposes and overcomes what is absent and derivative, for example, opinions received from others, unjustified inferences, interpretations that go beyond the given facts. Deconstruction, however, shows that the foundational elements themselves are tainted by the very epistemological limitations they are designed to overcome. Thus, entirely clear and hence infallible intellectual insights are found to contain questionable hidden assumptions, allegedly pure sense data turn out to embody culturally relative interpretative frameworks and so on.” (p295)

Derrida is probing philosophies own presuppositions about itself and in this sense continuing the Socratic project: to question assumptions and interrogate dialectic structures.

To relate back to Heidegger and the change in direction of the philosophical project, and the hermeneutic evolution:

“All so-called books are ‘entirely consumed by the reading of other texts’: a text can be understood only by the reading of other texts, from which it draws its problems, concepts, vocabulary. ‘Other texts’ also includes other parts of the given text.” (p296)

This sounds resonant of Heidegger’s free-to-hand and ready-to-hand, that an object is perceived in terms of its relationship to other things. Derrida is asserting that there is no grand unity of a text or of anything. So beyond structuralism that asserts the elements or atomising of a text, Derrida goes on to disassemble any concept of unity at all.

Re-visit page 297 of text

Reference: Structuralism and Beyond (1960 – 1990)

* Gutting, G., French Philosophy in the twentieth century, New York 2001, chap. 10, “Derrida”


In the 1960’s Barthes set out to establish a structural account of narratives. This project plays out in the realm of literary criticism and involves a debate between conservative and avant-garde forms of criticism. This boils down essentially to the impact of semiology and structuralism on literary criticism: essentially an interrogation of the very nature of the act of reading and writing. Psychoanalysis also comes to play a role. This type of interpretation is styled by Barthes as interpretive. As criticism it openly displays its attachment to ideological positions (Marxist, Existentialist, Psychoanalytic). It reflects on itself, its own language and its own modes of thinking. This is a contrast to what Barthes calls academic criticism which sees itself as outside ideology; as objective. Academic criticism also searches for text meaning in the author and in other external contexts.

First key text for articulation of this literary criticism interpretive style: Criticism and Truth (1966)

Barthes ‘new criticism’ is concerned with language itself rather than critical evaluation. In particular this new form of analysis shatters the traditional role or rule of verisimilitude in texts. A key point for Barthes on this matter is that by asserting an emphasis on clarity (to be found in verisimilitude) the old form of criticism is allowing itself to label as ‘jargon’ any critical discourse it dislikes.

“Barthes’s engagement with the structural analysis of narratives is a key moment in his life long critique of the bourgeois ideal of literary realism, a critique we have already observed in his work, Writing Degree Zero. The modern novel uses functions and indices of character and atmosphere to generate the illusion of ‘reality’. As Barthes frequently notes, in bourgeois Literature that which is detailed (in terms of description) is always associated with ‘reality’, with ‘realism’. Barthes engagement with the structural analysis of narratives continues, therefore, his demystification of bourgeois Literature by demonstrating the systematic (formal) rather than realistic basis of modern narratives.” (Graham Allen; Roland Barthes, Routledge Critical Thinkers)

Essentially this new criticism is about a structural understanding of general systems of signification: “it is because society, any society, is concerned immediately to structure reality that structural analysis is necessary.” (Barthes, Sociology and Socio-Logic; essay 1962)

“Yet the idea of an author as the source of a narratives signs runs directly against structural analysis, in that it suggests that a narrative’s form and meaning stems from an original human consciousness. THe idea of the author, in other words, suggests that narratives are not mediated but rather are unique expressions of unique authorial consciousnesses. As Barthes’s famous essay ‘The Death of the Author’ (1968) reiterates, structural analysis must dispense with the author completely, reading the signs of narration and of reading purely within the system of narrative itself.” (Graham Allen; Roland Barthes, Routledge Critical Thinkers)

Post Structuralism

The late 1960’s to the early 1970’s; this period in France dominated by the May 1968 near-revolution. These radical political events are matched by radical ideas emerging from philosophers and theorists such as Derrida, Barthes, Kristeva, Foucault and Baudrillard.

Barthes characterizes his work up to 1968 as obsessed with creating categories and classifications. He is assigning himself the same credentials as three authors he studies in his 1971 book ‘Sade, Fourier, Loyola”, in which he argues that all three very different authors share an obsession with ‘systematics: classifications and categorizations. Post-structuralism is a move from the demystification of signification to the demystification of the sign itself: “initially, we sought the destruction of the (ideological) signified; now we seek the destruction of the sign.” This is the notion to change the object itself. Barthes now equates the sign with the very thing (bourgeois society) which it (the sign) formerly allowed him to critique. (Graham Allen)

Post-structuralism moves its critique from French society (local) to Western civilization itself. The connection between Plato and Greek philosophy and contemporary mass communication and culture is recognized and therein the sign is perceived as involved in a system of meaning at the very bedrock of Western thought.

In 1967, Derrida published three influential texts which became the basis of deconstruction: Speech and Phenomenon, Writing and Difference, and Of Grammatology. At the root of deconstruction is the assertion that all ideas of structure depend upon the notion of a centre, an origin or foundation from which meaning flows. For Derrida there is an implicit contradiction:

“the centre…closes off the play it opens up and makes possible. As centre, it is the point at which the substitution of contents, elements or terms is no longer possible… Thus it has always been thought that the centre, which is by definition unique, constituted that very thing within a structure which while governing the structure, escapes structurality. This is why classical thought concerning structure could say that the centre is, paradoxically, within the structure and outside it. The centre is at the centre of the totality, and yet, since the centre does not belong to the totality (is not part of the totality), the totality has its centre elsewhere. The centre is not the centre. The concept of centered structre – although it represents coherence itself, the condition of the episteme as philosophy or science – is contradictorily coherent.” (Derrida, 1981, Writing and Difference, p271)

Saussere’s definition of the sign means that meaning can never be contained in the sign. Meaning therefore emerges from the relational difference and similarity between signs. Derrida expands on what Saussere only suggested. Meaning is purely relational and cannot be pinned down. To halt the play of meaning (relational movement of signifieds becoming signifiers ad infinitum) we would need to find a transcendental signified; a sign which does not depend on on other signs for its meaning. This is essentially impossible and has radical deconstructive effects on all discourses (religion, politics, philosophy, science etc.)

The author, traditionally, is a transcendental signified, standing behind the work as God is thought to stand behind the material universe. The author gives stability and order to the work. The author is associated with capitalist or commercialized ideas of reading as it allows for a model in which works can be successfully interpreted, mastered, deciphered, tamed. The capitalist association here is related to the suppression of difference and the promotion of consumption. What makes The Death of the Author post-structuralist is its introduction of the theory of the text and intertextuality.

Notes on Gadamer

March 30, 2012 — 1 Comment

Gadamer and the Hermeneutic Circle:

The Hermeneutic Circle is the relationship between a reader and a text. Certain kinds of students of H; a reader and an author (but potentially not Gadamer). For Gadamer it’s a reader and a text, but also a part and a whole. As a reader I come to a text and read a part (a phrase or a sentence). This gives me a sense of an imagined whole. I use this sense of the whole to continue to read more parts. The way I judge these successive parts is based on my shifting sense of the whole. I refer those successive parts back to my sense of the whole, which changes as I gain information from each successive part. This is a circular pattern. Also, the present and the past. I am in my particular historical horizon, and then I look at a past historical horizon that I am trying to come to terms with, referring to my own knowledge of the world and then going back to the text and changing my understanding of the world and so on in a circular fashion. It can also take place across a social or cultural gulf. As we have a conversation I have to try to understand what you’re saying, and I refer it to what I want to know/say, and the circuit of communication between us has to stay open based on this understanding.

“He [the reader] projects before himself a meaning for the text, as a whole, as soon as some initial meaning emerges in the text […] The later emerges only because he is reading the text with particular expectations with regard to a certain meaning.” Gadamer (Truth and Method)

What is there also has to do with ‘the subject matter’, the effort of the reader in coming to terms with the meaning of the text. What the text is really about.

Objectivity? This thinking suggests that you can’t get away from preliminary prejudices or conceptions. Even though there are always these preliminary conceptions (prejudices) there are never-the-less two ways into the circle. It is not a vicious circle. The way into the circle can also be constructed.

How? “In an interpretation, the way in which the entity we are interpreting is to be conceived can be drawn from the entity itself, or the interpretation can force the entity into concepts to which it is opposed in its manner of being.” Heidegger

example: in an 18thC poem by Mark Akenside, the poet writes “the great creator raised his plastic arm”. For us in this day and age we might say OK, the creator raised a prosthetic limb. A strange image for an 18thC poet. However, with some knowledge of the horizon of the time period, we know that plastic then meant mighty, powerful and flexible. So the poet is saying, “the great creator raised his mighty, powerful, flexible arm.”

A good prejudice is our prior awareness that plastic meant something different in the 18thC to what it means now. A bad prejudice would be when we leap to a conclusion without considering that there might be some other historical horizon. The reason we can tell the difference, is because if we invoke the 18thC meaning, the line makes sense, though if we stick to our own understanding, the line seems ridiculous. A useful preconception vs. a useless preconception.

The Fusion of Horizons

Gadamer (Truth and Method): the great objection of Gadamer to other people in Hermeneutics is that they believe there is a methodology. The basic methodology is what Gadamer calls historicism.

Historicism: The belief that you can set aside pre-conception. That you can factor out your own subjectivity, in order to enter into the mindset of some other time or place: that you can completely enter into the mind of another. Gadamer says you simply cannot do this. You can recognize that you do exist, live, think consciously within a certain horizon, recognize that you are coming face to face with another horizon, and then bridge between the two. In other words,
to find common ground, to find some way of merging horizons. This act of horizon merging has as its result effective history: history which is useful, which can go to work for us, which is not just gathering an archive, and distancing us from the past. Historicism for Gadamer is somehow immoral as it condescends towards the past. It supposes that the past is simply a repository of information. It never supposes that if we merge ourselves with the moment of the past, the past might tell us something we need to know; maybe able to teach us something. Historicism forgets that we can be taught something by the past.

Heidegger: the “as”; to look at something free of “something as”, is this possible?; The act of just looking. If I look at an exit sign on a stairwell, I am simply looking at it, not engaging in communication with it, not presupposing anything on it, just simply looking. For Heidegger this is a total illusion. How do I know it’s a sign, how do I know it’s anything? I bring endless preconceptions to it. Never-the-less, it may be desirable to just ‘see’ something, to have something brought before us free of preconception. This is impossible. The mind cannot forget that I am looking at a sign, to forget ‘knowing’. I do not “not know” that it’s a sign. That it’s an exit sign is the very first thing I know. I always know something first ‘as‘ something. This is not to say that I am correct, it is simply the first act of consciousness. This applies to Gadamer’s critique of historicism.

Gadamer argues that we can’t merge horizons very effectively, unless we have a very broad and extensive common ground with what we’re reading. He first talks about Classicism, but later uses the term Tradition. Something we can share. The classical is something that doesn’t just speak to its own historical moment, but speaks for all time to all of us.

Ultimately it seems to me at this point that Gadamer is a realist as he acknowledges the ever-present subjectivity of human beings. Though this might be criticized as exploitation of another through the act of interpretation, it is never-the-less the state of the world. A critic who says that prejudices should be put aside for objectivity may be wandering down the track of idealism. Though this conflict is widely considered as irreconcilable.

Also, Gadamer’s most basic departure from Historicism, and Kantian theory of aesthetics, is simply to recognise the want or will to look at or understand an entity (a work of art or period of history). An inescapable aspect of any communication and enquiry, and a fascinating part of the H circle for knowledge building.

Notes on Heidegger

March 29, 2012 — Leave a comment

Question to get started: What is the relationship between language to reality or experience?

Heidegger starts from interpretation. This is the access point to understanding.

We’re used to thinking about this under the model of representation, that we use language to represent things that are out there. Heidegger sees language very differently.

1) rather than the representation model, language as a tool for doing things that actually shape experience, shape reality.

2) What is the purpose of philosophical language in particular? Is it like scientific language to try to represent the truth? Or is there some other more active way that it’s working on you?

Heidegger’s language is difficult expressly to spur you out of your every-day frame of reference. There is an art at work. Pulling you away from your ordinary presuppositions. For Heidegger Grammar is potentially affecting or shaping our understanding, though may not be accurate to our actual experience of the world. This is what he is interrogating. He wants to liberate grammar from logic. To achieve this we need first a basic positive understanding of an a priori structure of discourse in general. As an ontological structure of existence. Language in action has a very primary place. Hence the importance of hermeneutics for his project – to ask the question what is the meaning of being? …or to work out this question, not just ask it.

3) Being is obscure and not obvious, though we do have a vague understanding of it. This is Heidegger’s starting point. “Being” goes ‘behind’ entities, behind beings. It is their mode of Being, it is not an entity itself, which is why we can’t tell a story about it. We need to interrogate entities to question them as regards their being. We are beings that can ask questions and give responses and so we are to interrogate ourselves, and this is Daseine (a Being which is there, there-being, human-state, ontologically distinguished in that we are Beings for whom Being is an issue). We always encounter things in terms of their usefulness for us, in this way an object, such as a pen, can open out into a whole world. The primary way of Being for the pen is ‘readiness to hand’. “Presence at hand” happens when we’re in a state of helplessness or weakness and an object presents itself just as it is, without use or purpose. Heidegger asks the question ‘what is the relationship between these two?’. Initially it might seems that R to Hand says that there’s a world of stuff that we interact with and then we give purpose. Heidegger actually poses the opposite. R to Hand is the way that entities are in themselves, it is the way they are defined ontologically, categorically, that is by and for Daseine.

The wider significance? Presence at Hand the basis of the scientific attitude.

4) Taking As: In Aristotle: in every meaningful appearance of beings involves an event where a human takes a being ‘as’ something. Some form of presence in a human being, this is expressed in ‘taking as’. H responds to these ideas by saying A’s misconceived the deep structure (too much in the mode of presence at hand): ‘taking as’ is grounded not in multiple modes of presence, but in a more fundamental temporal unity (hence Being and Time).

5) Being With: Daseine is not being alone. There are always other daseine. An object is also there for other people, other peoples projects.

Understanding the meaning of history requires both an inner articulation of the temporal structures of our own experience and the interpretation of the external objectifications of others. Dilthey’s reflections on history and hermeneutics influenced thinkers in the twentieth century, especially Ortega, Heidegger, Gadamer and Ricoeur.

Dilthey’s essay “The Rise of Hermeneutics” (19..) makes a connecting link between philosophy and history.

“the inner experience through which I obtain reflexive awareness of my own condition can never by itself bring me to a consciousness of my own individuality. I experience the latter only through a comparison of myself with others”

These others are accessible only from the outside. It is the task of understanding to compare/confer “an inside” to what is first given as “a complex of external sensory signs”. So rather than lived experience giving us an understanding of ourselves, it is our objectifications that is the means by which we understand ourselves. This is approaching the inside from the outside.

“The process of understanding, insofar as it is determined by common conditions and epistemological means, must everywhere have the same characteristics” (Dilthey 1996, 237). To the extent that rules can guide the understanding of the objectifications of life it constitutes interpretation. Hermeneutics is the theory of interpretation that relates to all human objectifications—that is, not only speech and writing, but also visual artistic expressions, more casual physical gestures as well as observable actions or deeds.

The interpretation of history must deal with all manifestations of life. Dilthey categories three classes of life-manifestation:

1) concepts, judgements and larger thought formations (to communicate states of affairs not states of mind) (theoretical)

2) actions (not meant to communicate anything yet reveal something about intentions of the actor) (practical)

3) expressions of lived experience (range from simple exclamations and gestures to personal self descriptions to reflections of works of art – again disclose more about the individual uttering them) (disclosive)

From the Stanford Encyclopedia:

In using words we do not represent them as words but fulfill their meaning by representing their objects. There is a triadic structural relation between the intuitive content of a linguistic expression, an act that gives it meaning and the object that embodies that meaning as what is expressed. But whereas Husserl’s phenomenology focused in the conceptual structures of objective apprehension, Dilthey gives equal attention to the structures of what he calls “objective having” In objective apprehension we progress from attitude to objects, in objective having we regress from objects to attitude. This regressive structure is characteristic of our lived experiences of feeling and tends to “lose itself in the depth of the subject”

Dilthey’s category of Wirkung or productivity is at the root of Gadamer’s theory of effective history (Wirkungsgeschichte).

As in the essay “The Rise of Hermeneutics,” understanding is said to involve a process of referring back from outer sensory phenomena to a reality that is inner. But now in The Formation of the Historical World in the Human Sciences Dilthey recognizes that this inner reality need not be psychological in nature. He uses the example of how the statutes of a state express the common will of a community. The inner content of the laws on the books is a legal meaning formation. The expressions we read in law books articulate an inner relation among legal imperatives. What is expressed in these laws is not the mental states of individual legislators, but a general way of regulating human relations. Dilthey makes the same claim for individual poetic creations. What is expressed in a drama is “not the inner processes in the poet; it is rather a nexus created in them but separable from them. The nexus of a drama consists in a distinctive relation of material, poetic mood, motif, plot, and means of presentation”

Gadamer parts with this through his conception of (influenced by Heideggeer) phronesis:

being-in-the-world over and against theoretical apprehension
a mode of insight into our own concrete situation (self-knowledge)

Understanding and interpretation is a practically oriented mode of insight which:
has a rationality irreducible to rules
cannot be directly taught
is always oriented to the case at hand