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Hermeneutic Inquiry

  • By: David Geoffrey Smith
  • In: Encyclopedia of Curriculum Studies
  • Edited by: Craig Kridel
  • Subject:Cultural Studies (general), Curriculum & Content (general), Curriculum Studies

The English word hermeneutics is derived from the ancient Greek hermeneutike, meaning interpretation. First used by Plato (427–347 BCE) in the Politicus, it was usually linked with another word, mantike, meaning divination. These words were linked because an act of interpretation was regarded as necessary for translating divine messages from oracles and omens. Insofar as such messages were usually mysterious, they required intermediary interpretation to be rendered understandable. The basic assumption, then, of all hermeneutic endeavor is that there is always a difference between what is said (the surface phenomenon of language) and what is meant (the fuller range of possible meanings contained within the surface phenomenon). Because all educational practices, including curriculum, are mediated through language, they are subject to interpretation.

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