Epistemological realism and the indeterminacy of meaning. Is systematic interpretation possible?

Summary This paper tries to show how the irreducible indeterminacy of textual meanings can be reconciled with epistemological realism which normally presupposes independently existing but determinate objects of knowledge. E.D. Hirsch's project of objective interpretation, including his most recent attempts to show that meanings, in spite of their openness to future modifications, are historically determined objects of knowledge, is being criticized. The paper argues that his use of the semantics and the reference theories of Kripke, Putnam, and others forces him to give up, against his own intention, his methodologically important distinction between meaning and significance. Within such theories a strict separation of linguistic knowledge of meaning and world knowledge can no longer be upheld. Since the application of individually and historically variable world knowledge is unavoidable in the process of understanding texts, the textual meanings reconstructed by readers will always remain indeterminate.
Keywords realism  interpretation  meaning  object of knowledge  explanation  indeterminacy
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DOI 10.1007/BF01801209
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