Interpretation seems to be the technique by which human beings evaluate a given object. The interpretation of a literary object, then, would seem to entail a given understanding of this object. Put differently, the interpretation of a text would seem to entail a pre-interpretative understanding of this text: its description. However, such reasoning, which certain literary critics—namely, the formalists—presuppose, faces a serious refutation. In what follows, I formulate this refutation with the help of Stanley Fish's Is There a Text in This Class? (1980) and relate it to a trajectory of early-modern philosophical thought, evident in the works of René Descartes and Gottfried Leibniz. This enables me to specify the shortcomings of the formalists' reasoning, to complicate Fish's refutation of it, and to attempt to provide a preliminary ground for a consistent method by which to interpret texts.
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