Learning Skills

Literal Reading &
Interpretation


Web Resources for This Assignment

For General Education 110

Literal Interpretation of Genesis

For General Education 111

The Capitalism Debate

Thinking in Interpretations   Your knowledge is divided into two types: facts and interpretation. One of the most important tasks as a student is to learn the difference between the two. Now facts are not better than interpretation, and interpretation is not better than facts. Facts without interpretation are useless, and interpretations without facts are often wrong and frequently dangerous.
   In reading, the "facts" of a text are always what the text literally says; interpretations are always how an individual understands that text and puts together the various parts of the text. Sometimes the text gives us a clue as to how it should be interpreted; sometimes interpretation comes from taking your understanding of one part of the text and applying it to another (such as when you related Abraham's obedience to Adam's and Eve's disobedience); and sometimes you bring the interpretation pre-formed to the text.
   No matter what, the best interpretations are always grounded in the "facts" of the text that you're reading, that is, in what the text literally is telling you. If, for instance, the text says that Yahweh destroys Babel because he fears that humanity will be too powerful, that does not mean that Yahweh destroys Babel because he feels that humanity has become too proud.
   Interpretations do the following:
  • Interpretations order information and facts into topics and arguments.
  • Interpretations impose meaning on facts, whether they are statistics or a string of events in a story.
  • Interpretations impose meaning on facts or parts of texts that do not make sense.
  • Interpretations are one way that social groups communicate and impose their world view on others.


The Assignment   From this point onwards, I'd like you to begin to identify facts and interpretations in the material you're reading.

General Education 110

   On this particular assignment, I'd like you to select one of your answers to one of the questions on your literal reading of Genesis quiz, and copy it below (no more than four sentences). Then I want you to identify which part of the answer is a fact, that is, an account of what is literally said in the text of Genesis . After that, I'd like you to identify the parts of the answer which are interpretations, that is, your own understanding of what the literal text means. Then tell me where you got those interpretations: from someone else, from memory, from other parts of the text you've read, from your imagination, or whatever. Then evaluate the interpretation: the more closely it corresponds to what you've identified as "fact" (what is literally said in the text), the better the interpretation. The more distant it is from the "fact" (what is literally said in the text, the worse the interpretation.

General Education 111

   For students of General Education 111, I'd like you to examine your answer in the capitalism debate. In that assignment you were asked to construct all your arguments from the text of Adam Smith. I want you to identify all those areas in your argument where you are using the literal meaning only of the text—these areas are the "facts" that you're using in your argument. Then identify all those areas where you're imposing an interpretation on the text, that is, your own understanding of what the literal text means. Then tell me where you got those interpretations: from someone else, from memory, from other parts of the text you've read, from your imagination, or whatever. Evaluate the interpretation: the more closely it corresponds to the literal meaning of the text, the better it is; the more distantly it departs from the literal meaning of the text, the worse the interpretation.

You should submit your assignment
using WebUniversity
at http://webu.wsu.edu.



Your Name:
Your email address:
Title of your submission:
Submission: