Il y a plus affaire à interpréter les interprétations qu’à interpréter les choses.

[ We need to interpret interpretations more than to interpret things.]

(Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, 1533–92)

 

It is not so very important for a person to learn facts. For that he does not really need a college. He can learn them from books. The value of an education in a liberal arts college is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks.
(Albert Einstein, 1921, in response to Thomas Edison’s opinion that a college education is useless)

 

In much wisdom is much vexation, and those who increase knowledge increase in sorrow.
(Ecclesiastes 1.18)

 

Health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.

(Anonymous)

 

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.

(William Butler Yeats)

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 REL 312: Text and Meaning

Spring Semester • 2006 

 

 Welcome!

Welcome to Religion 312: Text and Meaning! Although designated as a Religion course, this is an advanced, interdisciplinary course on hermeneutics that can be illuminating for all majors and disciplines. Hermeneutics is an interdisciplinary study of the methodological principles of interpretation and examines how human beings experience the world and life as intelligible. We will ask fundamental questions regarding such intelligibility: What is a text? What is a context? What is language? What is meaning? Can everything we perceive be considered texts, including people and the world itself? What are principles and methods of understanding the world of human “objects,” i.e., forms of human expression such as paintings, laws, literature, music, religions? (Click here for other questions.) No matter what your major or discipline, this course will benefit you as we aim

to become familiar with what hermeneutics is and with the scope of its concerns;

to consider what language is, especially when conceived as any symbolic world of expression or meaning, most significantly, though not limited to, written texts;

to reflect critically on what the understanding and critique of human expressions (i.e., any objectifications of human culture) may look like;

to explore the hermeneutics of suspicion that penetrates into, below, or behind perceived phenomena

to survey some of the significant thinkers in the field of hermeneutics;

to discern major problems or issues in hermeneutics and to consider their significance for western civilization and for us;

to explore the concepts of Naturwissenschaften (natural sciences) and Geisteswissenschaften (human sciences);

to become familiar with the methodological issues involved in hermeneutics in the light of so-called postmodernism; and

to refine our critical thinking abilities by exploring and articulating the nature and principles of interpretation, as well as through questions of meaning and interpretation posed on various levels for critical application in various disciplines;

to cultivate an understanding of our world and human expressions that is both critical and creative by gaining hermeneutical knowledge for asking critical questioning.

Achieving these goals will require hard work on your part. At the same time, you can expect this course to be full of challenging, enlightening, exciting, frustrating, and rewarding experiences.

 Caveat

This course is not a Religion course. It is an interdisciplinary course designed so that anyone, religious or not, who does the required work can attain the goals mentioned above.

 Requirements and evaluation for the course

Evaluation

For my criteria for evaluation of your work go to Evaluation and read the information carefully.

Assigned

readings

The readings are essential (and often challenging) and should be completed before the class for which they are assigned. Keeping notes on the readings is highly recommended. Occasionally there may be additional readings assigned in class, but these will ordinarily be short. You are required to come to class with written questions or comments you have about the readings (see Participation).

Presentations

You will prepare a presentation(s) during the semester covering

the main ideas of the reading assignment (see the Assignments column in the course schedule below for the texts to be presented), When there are more than one, you may choose your own focus (i.e., you don't have to cover everything).

your critique or response to it, and questions you had while, or after, reading the assignment.

You should aim for ca. 10 minutes. You're expected to have read the text(s) carefully and be able to share the penetrating questions or issues you dealt with in your reading, preparation, or even further research. NB: you don't necessarily have to understand everything before class, but you should demonstrate that you prepared and that you're familiar with the major issues in the text(s).

 

Remember that questions are more valuable than answers. You should include or suggest challenges, discoveries, insights, questions, etc. for class discussion. See my Evaluation page under Presentations for evaluation criteria (ignore "Communication Skills" section of the Presentation evaluation page).

Research paper

You will submit a 10–15 page research paper on a topic of your choice. The best topics would be those that relate your learning in the course to your major or discipline. (Click here for ideas. Click here for more ideas. Also see the bibliography here.) Look at the table of content and index in the textbooks for some ideas. Make a preliminary list of 5–10 topics before discussing your choices with me as ealry as possible.

You must make an appointment with me to submit and discuss the following two preliminary assignments (see due dates below), the quality of which may affect your final paper grade. Make an appointment as early as you can for a consultation.

 

1) Proposal: Submit in one file
 

1.1) a paragraph stating your research interest, including which topicwhich can be a personyou propose to analyze and

 

1.2) a bibliography that includes at least 10 secondary sources (besides course textbooks or reference books) you have found to be promising for your paper, including 5 journal articles related to the topic. You may use Web sources for your research, but they will not count among the 10 sources required for this assignment. NB: Electronic sources count only if you provide evidence that they also exist in print form.

Submit your proposal as early as possible in the semester, so that it can be approved for you to begin your work.

 

2) Draft: Submit in one file
 

2.1) a clear introductory paragraph stating the thesis of your paper and

 

2.2) 2 good sample paragraphs and your revised bibliography (or works cited).

NB: You are responsible for scheduling an appointment to bring a hard copy of these two written assignments to discuss them with me (after submitting them on the R-drive). See the schedule below for the last possible dates for them and make an appointment as soon as possible.

The paper should represent original work (i.e., your own thoughts), not a mere digest of other people’s opinions. Your own reading and re-reading of the relevant texts, as well as review of other materials, are fundamental to the task. I want to know what you discover in your engagement with the text(s)—a "text" can be written works, art works, music, plays, movies, interview, research results, poll data etc.—whether or not you agree with the authors or the opinions presented in class, including mine.

 

Focus on honing your ability to argue for your opinions and conclusions by supporting them with evidence from texts (especially primary texts) and other relevant sources.

Your final bibliography (or works cited) must contain at least 8 secondary sources, including 4 journal articles used in your paper.

 

Use only printed sources in your paper, even if you used Web sources during your research. NB: Electronic sources count only if you provide evidence that they also exist in print form. Use footnotes to document your sources.

Follow all the instructions given on my Evaluation page under Written assignments.

As soon as you submit your paper, make an appointment to review your graded paper with me.

Terms

Throughout the semester, you’ll be responsible for learning significant terms covered in our texts or in class. You will be responsible for the definitions. Use 1) the course texts (e.g., index), 2) the resources listed in Resources to consider below, or 3) the “terms” file on the R-drive, where the terms to be covered on quizzes and exams will be highlighted and updated. Try also reliable Web resources (e.g., Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Philosophy Pages).

Exams

&

Quizzes

There will be a midterm exam (ca. 30 mins.) covering all the materials in the course, including the reading assignments and terms we will have covered by the time of the exam. The final exam, which will be an oral exam, will cover the entire sweep of the course. See my Evaluation page under Quizzes and examinations. There may be pop quizzes, the results of which will affect the evaluation of your participation.

Quizzes

&

exams

There will be a midterm exam (ca. 30 mins.) covering all the materials in the course, including the reading assignments and terms we will have covered by the time of the exam. The final exam, which will be an oral exam, will cover the entire sweep of the course. See my Evaluation page under Quizzes and examinations. The instructor reserves the right to administer pop quizzes, the results of which will affect the evaluation of your participation.

Grades

Grades will be assigned as fairly as possible. See my Evaluation page under Grades for more information. The final grade for the course will consist of the following:

research paper

40%

NB: participation is a significant part of this course.

See my Evaluation page under Participation for more information and instructions.

final examination

15%

midterm examination

15%

participation

15%

presentation(s)

15%

Extra

credit

You may earn extra credit any time during the semester.

Submit a 2–3 page reflection paper relating something from popular culture (e.g., movie, play, TV show, book, any performance) to a particular course topic (consult the instructor). It should be mostly critique and not merely a plot summary.

Do other extra credit assignments described in the file on the R-drive.

Caveat: The instructor reserves the right to make the final determination concerning any extra credit. You can earn a maximum of 5% towards the final grade. You may write more than one, if you wish, but you won't receive more than 5% total in extra credit.

 Required books

Grondin, Jean. Introduction to Philosophical Hermeneutics. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press,1994.

Palmer, Richard. Hermeneutics: Interpretation Theory in Schleiermacher, Dilthey, Heidegger, and Gadamer. Evanston: Northwestern Univ. Press, 1969.

 Recommended books (* = highly recommended)

 

Dilthey, Wilhelm. Introduction to the Human Sciences. Vol. 1 of Selected Works. Edited by Rudolf A. Makkreel and Frithjof Rodi. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989.

 

_____. Poetry and Experience. Vol. 5 of Selected Works. Edited by Rudolf A. Makkreel and Frithjof Rodi. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985.

 

Gadamer, Hans G. Philosophical Hermeneutics. Translated and edited by David E. Linge. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976.

 

_____. Truth and Method. New York: Crossroad, 1989.

 

Heidegger, Martin. Sein und Zeit. Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1986; Being and Time. Translated by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. New York: Harper & Row, 1962.

 

_____. On the Way to Language. Translated by Peter D. Hertz. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1971.

Makkreel, Rudolf A. Dilthey: Philosopher of the Human Studies. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992. (magisterial work; the definitive survey of Dilthey)

 

_____. Introduction to Descriptive Psychology and Historical Understanding, by Wilhelm Dilthey. Translated by R. M. Zaner and K. L. Heiges. The Hague: Nijhoff, 1977.

Müller-Vollmer, Kurt. The Hermeneutics Reader: Texts of the German Tradition from the Enlightenment to the Present. New York: Continuum, 1985.

Ricoeur, Paul. Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981.

Strunk, William, Jr., and E. B. White. The Elements of Style. New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1979. (See my Resources page under Miscellaneous for the first edition of Strunk.)

 Resources to consider

See my Resources page for McGill, AV, & Web resources, esp. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

R-drive: for helpful materials, check not only the course folder but also the "Religion" folder.

Bible concordances (McGill library)

 Keeping in touch

During the semester check your e-mail regularly for the latest messages from me regarding course matters (e.g., changes in the syllabus). Also visit this page for updates to the syllabus, as well as my home page for other information and resources related to the course. Please feel free to make an appointment any time about any course matters.

 Tips from former students

For some practical advice from former students, see the tips page.

 One last word …

Regardless of how tough all the stuff above sounds, I’m pretty much a nice guy. I promise to be as fair as possible. I recognize that you’ll be quite busy this semester, striving after all your passions. I understand. I have my passions too: my awesome, wonderful family, music, the Bible, the Reformed tradition, nature, mountain biking, fixing things, and food, among other things. But I’m also very passionate about education, both yours and mine—I don’t just mean the business of acquiring knowledge, but more importantly the total development of honorable human beings. I don't require you to share my excitement about all the things we'll cover, but I do expect you to complete all the requirements for the course. To help you do that as well as you can, I will make myself available outside the class time and the office hours. I'll be more than glad to help you out when you're stuck while doing an assignment. Or if you have any questions, concerns, complaints, and even compliments, I will do my best to take the time to listen and offer my opinion or advice. Keep in mind that I'm here to help you learn and to continue learning myself. So, again, welcome to Religion 312: Text and Meaning!

C o u r s e   S c h e d u l e

TR 11:00–12:30          OM 311


Date

 


Assigned reading

= required

> = recommended

bold = text for presentation


Project / text

highlight = R-drive file (only on campus & Internet Explorer)

red bold = important deadlines

 


Class / topic

Jan 19

R

Welcome to
REL 312:
Text and Meaning

Optical illusion (stare at the center for 30 seconds & then look at your hand)

Why hermeneutics? (use IE 6, Media Player 10 & Macromedia Flash 7)

 

>Escher: Print Gellery (cool)

>Escher gallery (Escher collection)

General orientation
What is hermeneutics?

Time, space, world

Jan 24

T

Grondin: Foreword; Preface; Intro

Palmer: Preface; Intro

Course syllabus (including Evaluation link)
Fisher: Effective Learning

 

>Hermeneutics (brief def & intro)

Copy all relevant Web pages to your hard disk or diskette
Reminder: bring your Qs & Cs to each class (see Participation)

 

>Perception quiz
>Riddles

Preliminary stuff: terms, concepts & approaches

Text, interpretation, meaning

Jan 26

R

Grondin: Intro

Palmer: Intro

 

>The Greeks (interactive site)

>Hermeneutics (brief def & intro)

Reminder: bring your Qs & Cs to each class (see Participation)

 

>Redaction & hermeneutics (funny & instructive)

>Manuscript (biblical text +)

Philosophy and scripture

Jan 31

T

Grondin: Intro; 1.1–1.2

Palmer: Intro; ch. 1

Droysen: “History and the Historical Method”

 

>Hermeneutics (brief def & intro)

Reminder: bring your Qs & Cs to each class (see Participation)

 

>Redaction & hermeneutics (funny & instructive)

>Manuscript (biblical text +)

Philosophy and scripture
 

Feb 2

R

Grondin: Intro; 1.1–1.2

Palmer: Intro; ch. 1

Droysen: “History and the Historical Method”

>Multivalence

Philosophy and scripture

Feb 7

T

Grondin: 1.3–1.5

Palmer: 2

Droysen: “History and the Historical Method”

>Cultural-contextual understanding

>Bach: Crab Canon (hear it; hear it again; read an imitation)

>Was ist ein Vampir?

Philosophy and scripture
•Presentation: Baier

Feb 9

R

Grondin: 1.3–1.5

Palmer: 2
Droysen: “History and the Historical Method”

>Escher: Print Gellery (cool)

>Escher gallery (Escher collection)

Philosophy and scripture
•Presentation: Scott

Feb 14

T

Grondin: 1.6–1.8

Palmer: 3

 

Happy ©alentine's Day

Gioia: Words

Philosophy and scripture
•Presentation: Stubenbort

Feb 16

R

Grondin: 1.6–1.8

Palmer: 3

Dilthey: “The Understanding of Other Persons and Their Expressions of Life” (read only Dilthey's text first, p.123 ff.)

Gioia: Words

Philosophy and scripture
•Presentation: Baier

Feb 21

T

Grondin: 2

Palmer: 4

Dilthey: “The Understanding of Other Persons and Their Expressions of Life” (read only Makkreel's intro)

•Paper proposal due (R-drive; file name = "last name proposal.doc"; see example of file name on R-drive)

Jeremy Begbie: interview on music theology

 

>Contemporary hermeneutica

Toward Enlightenment and critique
•Presentation: Scott

Feb 23

R

Grondin: 2

Palmer: 4–5

Dilthey: “The Understanding of Other Persons and Their Expressions of Life” (read Dilthey's text again, p.123 ff.)

Nobody Understands Me (hear it m4a; hear it wma)

Toward Enlightenment and critique
•Presentation: Stubenbort

Feb 28

T

Grondin: 3

Palmer: 6–7

Schleiermacher: general hermeneutics

Lamin Sanneh, Whose Religion Is Christianity?

 

>Hermeneutics quotables

Schleiermacher: beginnings of "general hermeneutics"
•Presentation: Baier

Mar 2

R

Grondin: 3

Palmer: 6–7

Schleiermacher: general hermeneutics

 

Schleiermacher: beginnings of "general hermeneutics"

•Presentation: Scott

Mar 7

T

Grondin: 3

Palmer: 6–7

Schleiermacher: general hermeneutics

 

Midterm exam moved to Mar 9

 

Schleiermacher: beginnings of "general hermeneutics"

•Presentation: Stubenbort

Mar 9

R

Grondin: 4

Palmer: 8

Dilthey: handout of selections

>Einstein (also read Einsteins "Sience and Religion" in the Inquiry textbook)

Midterm exam

 

Dilthey: Geisteswissenschaften

Presentation: Stubenbort moved to Mar 7

Mar 11–21

Catch up on some sleep

Mar 23

R

Grondin: 4

Palmer: 8

Dilthey: handout of selections

Na: Paul through Dilthey

 

>Hermes in the New Testament

>Einstein (also read Einsteins "Sience and Religion" in the Inquiry textbook)

Dilthey: Geisteswissenschaften
•Presentation: Baier

Mar 24

F

Movie night with the Nas 7:49-ish

directions on the R-drive (view in MS Word: in menu, click View>Print Layout) or click here

Mar 28

T

Grondin: 4

Palmer: 8

Dilthey: handout of selections

Na: Paul through Dilthey

 

>Henderson Lecture slides

Dilthey: Geisteswissenschaften
•Presentation: Scott

Mar 30

R

Grondin: 4

Palmer: 8

Dilthey: handout of selections

Draft of paper due (R-drive; file name = "last name draft.doc"; see example of file name on R-drive)

 

Na: Paul through Dilthey

Dilthey: Geisteswissenschaften
•Presentation: Stubenbort

Apr 4

T

Grondin: 5

Palmer: 9–10

Husserl: phenomenology

Heidegger: metaphysics

Heidegger: technology

A hermeneutics exercise

Heidegger: reframing western philosophy
•Presentation: Baier

Apr 6

R

Grondin: 5

Palmer: 9–10

Husserl: phenomenology

Heidegger: metaphysics

Heidegger: technology

 

Heidegger: reframing western philosophy
•Presentation: Scott

Apr 11

T

Grondin: 5

Palmer: 9–10

Heidegger: handout of selections

 

Heidegger: reframing western philosophy
•Presentation: Stubenbort

Apr 13

R

Grondin: 6

Palmer: 11–12

Gadamer: universality

Gadamer: scope & function

Gadamer: self-understanding + MORE

 

Gadamer: truth? method?
•Presentation: Baier

Apr 14–17

Happy Easter J

Apr 18

T

Grondin: 6

Palmer: 11–12

Gadamer: universality

Gadamer: scope & function

Gadamer: self-understanding + MORE

 

>Palmer: 4

 

Gadamer: truth? method?
•Presentation: Scott

Apr 20

R

Grondin: 6

Palmer: 11–12

Gadamer: universality

Gadamer: scope & function

Gadamer: self-understanding + MORE

 

>Palmer: 4

 

Gadamer: truth? method?
•Presentation: Stubenbort

Apr 25

T

Grondin: 7; Afterword

Palmer: 13

Gadamer: selections from Truth and Method

 

>Palmer: 4

Paper due (R-drive; file name = "last name paper.doc"; see example of file name on R-drive)

The meaning of understanding a text (in postmodernity)

Apr 27

R

Grondin: 7; Afterword

Palmer: 13

Gadamer: selections from Truth and Method

Derrida: "'Genesis and Structure' and Phenomenology"; "Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences"

 

The meaning of understanding a text (in postmodernity)

May 2

T

Palmer: 14

Derrida: "'Genesis and Structure' and Phenomenology"; "Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences"

 

Hermeneutics?

May 4

R

Palmer: 14

Paper due (R-drive; file name = "last name paper.doc"; see example of file name on R-drive)

•Last day for extra credit papers (R-drive; file name = "last name extra.doc")

Final thoughts

May 9

T

Reading Day (Review for final exam?)

May 11

R

F  i  n  a  l     e  x  a  m: 11:3014:00 (regular classroom)

Have a great summer J

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Evaluation


Resources


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