Going in Cricles: Interpretation as Hermeneutic Circle and as Vicious Circle


Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason and Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals

Martin Heidegger

What is decisive is not to get out of the [hermeneutical] circle but to get into it in the right way. . . . The circle of understanding is not an orbit in which any kind of random kind of knowledge may move . . . It is not to be reduced to the level of a vicious circle, or even of a circle which is merely tolerated. In the circle is hidden a positive possibility of the most primordial kind of knowing, and we genuinely grasp this possibility only when we have understood that our first, last, and constant task in interpreting is in never to allow our fore-having, our fore-sight, and fore-conception to be presented to us by fancies and popular conceptions, but rather to make the scientific theme secure by working out these fore-structures in terms of the things themselves."

Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, 153

"Thus we constantly find ourselves moving in a circle.   And this is an indication that we are moving within the realm of philosophy. Everywhere a kind of circling . This circling movement of philosophy of course is alien to ordinary understanding which only ever wants to get the job in hand over and done with as quickly s possible.   But going round in circles gets us nowhere.   Above, all, it makes us fell dizzy, and dizziness is something uncanny. We feel as though we are suspended in the Nothing.   Therefore, there must be no such circling and thus no circle in philosophy! This is, after all, a universal principle of logic. That is why all scientific philosophy prides itself on getting by without this circle. Yet anyone who has never been seized by dizziness in the presence of a philosophical question has never asked the question in a philosophical way, that is, has never entered the circle I the first place.   The only thing that ordinary understanding can see in this circling motion is the movement around the periphery which always returns to its original point of departure on the periphery. Thus it misses the decisive issue here, which is an insight into the centre of the circle as such, an insight made possible in such a circling movement and in this alone. For the centre only manifests itself as such as we circle around it.   And this is why every attempt to argue away such circularity in philosophy only leads us away from philosophy itself. . . . Of course, this is not to say that every circular proof is a sign of philosophical thinking (circle and turbulence)."

Martin Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude , p. 180 (and see p. 187)

"Yet why all these false trails through all these confusing questions that have failed to bring us a step closer to answering our guiding question concerning the essence of the world? That is how ordinary understanding thinks." Martin Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude, p. 286

Interpretation / cognition as Pathless, Errant Loop and Detours (Drifts, Digressions,Tangents)

Sigmund Freud:

Repetition Compulsion and the Uncanny


Analysis Terminable and Interminable

Martin Heidegger on the uncanny and ghostly doubles that know no boundaries in "The Ister."

Jacques Derrida on "destinerrance"

The Violence of Interpretation / Deconstruction

This violence, however, should not be confused with an action that is wholly arbitrary. The interpretation must be animated and guided by the power of an illuminative idea. Only through the power of this idea can an nterpretation risk that which is always audacious, namely, entrusting itself to the secret élan of a work, in order by this élan to get through to the unsaid and to attempt to find an expression for it. The directive idea itself
is confirmed by its power of illumination.

Martin Heidegger, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, 207

First and Second prefaces to Martin Heidegger, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics,

Deconstruction is generally practiced in two ways or two styles, and it most often grafts one on to the other. One takes on the demonstrative and apparently ahistorical allure of logico-formal paradoxes. The other, more historical or more amnesiac, seems to proceed through readings of texts, meticulous interpretations and genealogies.

One often associates the theme of undecidability with deconstruction. Yet, the undecidable is not merely the oscillation between two significations or two contradictory and very determinate rules, each equally imperative . . . The undecidable is not merely the oscillation between two decisions. Undecidable--this is the experience of that which, though foreign and heterogenous to the order of the calculable and the rule, must nonetheless . . . deliver itself over to the impossible decision while taking account of laws and rules. A decision that did not go through the text and ordeal of the undecidable would not be a free decision; it would be the programmatic application or the continuous unfolding of a calculable process.

This deconstruction does not apply itself to such a text, however. It never applies itself to anything from the outside. It is in some way the operation or rather the very experience of this text, it seems to me, first itself, by itself, on itself. What does this mean? Is it possible? What remains, then, of such an event? Or its auto-deconstruction? Of its just and unjust completion? What is the ruin of such an event or the open wound of such a signature?

Jacques Derrida, "Force of Law," in Acts of Religion, 250; 252; 264


Signifiying and Non-Signifiying Patterns (repetitions):

Some repetiions create patterns in films that are significant. Some repeitions are ornamental, but a design that helps unify the film but that do not have any symbolic value.

Main title sequences often work both ways at the same time.

Interpretation often moves in a parabolic zone between significance and insignificance.


Parables of Jesus

Someday you may understand them, if you keep trying. (There's something to understand.)

Zen Koans: Ditto

Parables of Kafka

You'll never understand them, no matter how hard you try.


Stories and Sayings of Dr. Phil, Deepak Chopra, Yoda, and so on.

There's nothing to understand.

Aphorisms (one liners) / Burtisms

"Just because you're broken doesn't mean you're broken down."

--Richard Burt

You know you understood something, but you're not quite sure if you understood it correctly.

Transmission versus Traumission

Transmissions get through because of static, delays, deferrals, errors, and so on (traumissions), not in spite of them.


Clarity versus Obscurity

"clear and distinct ideas" are the criteria for determining what is true.

Rene Descartes, Discourse on Method, Meditations 3 and 5

"Clear ideas are ideas that are dead and finished."

--Antonin Artaud

Visibility as Remedy in Film

Women and the gaze

Identity Politics and Multicuturalism (Bush Co administration)

Criteria unclear for "correct" mode of representation in film.

Assumes a wound can be healed.

As opposed to thinking of history as an open more or less hidden wound in which blood has begun coagulating but does not redeem.

Assumes the center is a better place to look than the margin to understand how film / History works.