Doing it the Gadamerian way--using philosophical hermeneutics as a methodological approach in nursing science

Scand J Caring Sci. 2012 Dec;26(4):829-34. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6712.2012.00993.x. Epub 2012 Apr 20.


While several authors are referring to Gadamer's philosophy, the operationalization of his thinking into practical use in nursing science is less common. The goal of this paper is to systematize some of the basic key concepts in Gadamer's hermeneutics into a methodological approach to the interpretation of texts. This is a somewhat different approach to his work from those described in earlier commentaries and should be useful for nursing science. In this paper, Gadamer's hermeneutics is explored with a particular focus on some of the basic concepts of his philosophy. A four-step approach is proposed that may be used to develop a research plan in the Gadamerian hermeneutic tradition. Gadamer himself did not develop a method of interpretation, but elaborated upon the old hermeneutic tradition, of an inner fusion of subtilitas intelligendi (understanding), subtilitas explicandi (interpretation) and subtilitas applicandi (application). Hence, the analyses are not open and accessible, but inherent in the interpretation (auslegung). To use Gadamer's philosophy as a methodological approach, the interpreter must acquire a comprehensive understanding of the basic ideas and key concepts of his philosophy. These concepts may be used as a framework upon which to develop a research plan.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Nursing Methodology Research*
  • Philosophy, Nursing*