Hermeneutics is the theory of interpretation. One of its major components is recognizing prejudgments, or forestructures, that we bring to our objects of study. In this paper, we construct a historical narrative of the evolution of thinking about the role of caves in relation to groundwater flow in limestone, and we tabulate forestructures as they appear in the story. This account consists of three overlapping time periods: the before and after of an incident that repelled hydrogeologists and students of karst from each other in the middle of the 20th century; a period, up to around the turn of this century, when karst science and mainstream hydrogeology were on different tracks; and a period of convergence, now intertwining, beginning roughly in the last quarter of the 20th century. Two influential players in our story are M.K. Hubbert, whose introduction of the Eulerian perspective of flow was a force for divergence, and R.M. Garrels, whose founding of the field of sedimentary geochemistry was a force for convergence. Other key players include F.T. Mackenzie, J.E. Mylroie, V.T. Stringfield, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Bermuda Biological Station, and the Gerace Research Center in the Bahamas, along with the historical accounts of W.B. White. Our narrative ends with the broader acceptance of the concept of multiple-permeability karst aquifers. We flag in our construction a total of 43 forestructures distributed amongst the categories of hermeneutic theory: 14 in the category of preconceptions; 9 in goals; 14 in tools such as skills; and 6 in tools such as institutions. These counts are an example of the concept of social construction of statistics, and we discuss the implications in terms of the huge number of potential combinations of forestructures that could shape alternative historical narratives of this subject over this time frame.
Vacher, H. L. and Lee J. Florea.
Quantitative hermeneutics: Counting forestructures on a path from W.M. Davis to the concept of multiple-permeability karst aquifers.
International Journal of Speleology,
Available at: https://scholarcommons.usf.edu/ijs/vol44/iss3/2