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BibArch Home Up Hermeneutics Contextual

The postprocessual approach in archaeology, essentially an inductive research methodology, includes a general rejection of the scientific method. Postprocessualists, as postmodernist thinkers, assume there is no such thing as objective reality and embrace hermeneutic and critical theory ideas. The latter refers to approaches based upon the writings of Karl Marx.

The focus of the postprocessual approach is upon interpretation not scientific explanation. Some archaeologists carelessly use the terms explanation and interpretation interchangeably as if they existed as one and the same. In a technical sense, explanation, not interpretation, serves as a part of the scientific method. Interpretation, not explanation, serves as a goal of hermeneutics and Marxist theory.

The debate concerning the applicability of scientific theory and hermeneutic theory to the human sciences continues. In archaeology, as in the other social sciences, the conflict between facts and values, how and why, mechanism and meaning, material culture and non-material culture, and explanation and interpretation, continues to obscure and to obfuscate the common principles that unite the methodologies. Is the use of hermeneutic theory at the expense of scientific explanation? Is the utilization of the scientific method at the expense of meaning? Are interpretation and explanation that far apart?

A philosophical hermeneutic interpretation does not necessarily exclude that goal. When reflecting on philosophical hermeneutic theory, recognizing the many approaches to knowledge acquisition it accommodates within its rules and methods, it is not exactly a quantum leap to see the scientific method as a subset of hermeneutics. That is, there may well be a hermeneutics of science. This for the time being belongs to the philosophers, and their debate into these issues continues. The argument simply may be about whose hermeneutics will produce, as a way of knowing, the most pragmatic results.

Page last updated: 08/18/17 11:22 AM.

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