From Philosophy to Practice
Chapter 5. The Address of the Topic
What Is an Address?
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THE ADDRESS OF THE TOPIC1
“Understanding begins when something addresses us” (Gadamer, 1960/1989, p. 299). The conduct of a research study guided by the tenets of Gadamerian philosophical hermeneutics rarely has a definitive starting point or endpoint, but if one had to delineate a place where inquiry begins, it is often around the experience of being addressed personally about something at work in one’s life or practice. An address is the feeling of being caught in some aspect of the world’s regard, of being called or summoned. In this chapter, we speak to the experience and importance of the address of a topic in the working out of a hermeneutic inquiry.
Addresses catch us off guard and break through our regular routines. They cause us to pause and take note, ask not that we speak or do something immediately, but rather that we stop and listen. It is through this process of listening, or what Bruns (1992) called “reading with our ears” (p. 157), that the topic of inquiry often arrives. To listen when we are addressed means that we are vulnerable and open, that we are prepared to be guided by a topic and its own form of address, rather than assumed versions of it, or by a ← 71 | 72 → pre-determined method. As stated previously in this book, it is not the case that there is not a method in hermeneutics, but rather, that method serves the topic...
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