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Apprey, M. (1995). Essences and their trajectories as backdrop in clinical stories. Free Associations, 5(1):81-102.

(1995). Free Associations, 5(1):81-102

Clinical Issues

Essences and their trajectories as backdrop in clinical stories

Maurice Apprey, Ph.D.


Whenever clinicians use a hermeneutic method to formulate or construct a clinical story there tends to be an emphasis on hermeneutics as praxis or application. Hermeneutics is seen as a deciphering instrument by clinicians and by human science researchers as a viable alternative to natural science and quasinatural science models. The problem, however, is that there is more to hermeneutics than a deciphering praxis. There is a long line of philosophical traditions behind hermeneutics. There are, inter alia, the traditions of Dilthey, Schleiermacher, Heidegger, and Gadamer. There is a long line of theories of interpretation. Represented here are Hirsch, Rorty, Derrida, Foucault, de Man, and Said. In hermeneutics there cannot be a cleavage between the philosophical underpinnings and applications. When clinicians produce a praxis without the appropriate philosophical sharpening, we have a precarious situation where a number of things can happen. First, it becomes difficult to teach the praxis. Students or adherents of a praxis without philosophy may have results without knowing why. They may even agree for the wrong reasons. Consequences for people agreeing on a praxis for the wrong reasons can be tragic. Students or adherents will have difficulty replicating the method or may vary the praxis without optimal understanding of where the variation of the method could lead them. Praxis without philosophy is like a leap from an unintegrated unity of theoretical understanding to application. Below I will submit a chronology of way stations of theories of interpretation as a hermeneutic backdrop to provide an anchor for clinicians who formulate or construct clinical stories.

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