Making Sense

  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘The best way to refine an interpretation is by getting out and performing.’’
    —Joshua Bell
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘We doubt that any facts actually exist. We only have observations and interpretations. Most of the interpretations remain questionable.’’
    —Peter J. Carroll
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘Today, we're encouraged to believe that we should have a verbal interpretation for what we view as art – when in fact the words are an intrusion on the experience.’’
    —Ken Danby
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘All meanings, we know, depend on the key of interpretation.’’
    —George Eliot
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘Everyone in a complex system has a slightly different interpretation. The more interpretations we gather, the easier it becomes to gain a sense of the whole.’’
    —Margaret J. Wheatley
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘The chief aim of interpretation is not instruction, but provocation.’’
    —Freeman Tilden
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘History is the interpretation of the significance that the past has for us.’’
    —Johan Huizinga
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘The material memories are not usually part of what is said about a picture, and that is a fault in interpretation because every painting captures a certain resistance of paint, a prodding gesture of the brush, a speed and insistence in the face of mindless matter...’’
    —James Elkins
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘There are no facts, only interpretations.’’
    —Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘All interpretations of history are propaganda for one idea or another.’’
    —Selma Dabbagh
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘The art of interpretation is not to play what is written.’’
    —Pablo Casals
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘A interpretation exists because of what we find between the notes.’’
    —Renee Fleming
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘When two things occur successively we call them cause and effect if we believe one event made the other one happen. If we think one event is the response to the other, we call it a reaction. If we feel that the two incidents are not related, we call it a mere coincidence. If we think someone deserved what happened, we call it retribution or reward, depending on whether the event was negative or positive for the recipient. If we cannot find a reason for the two events' occurring simultaneously or in close proximity, we call it an accident. Therefore, how we explain coincidences depends on how we see the world. Is everything connected, so that events create resonances like ripples across a net? Or do things merely co-occur and we give meaning to these co-occurrences based on our belief system? Lieh-tzu's answer: It's all in how you think.’’
    —Liezi, Lieh-tzu: A Taoist Guide to Practical Living
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘Our interpretations of subjects are clouded by our intellects.’’
    —Carl Purcell
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘The aim of interpretation is not agreement but understanding.’’
    —Donald Davidson
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘Through interpretation, understanding; through understanding, appreciation; through appreciation, protection.’’
    —Freeman Tilden
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘All knowledge that is about human society, and not about the natural world, is historical knowledge, and therefore rests upon judgment and interpretation. This is not to say that facts or data are nonexistent, but that facts get their importance from what is made of them in interpretation… for interpretations depend very much on who the interpreter is, who he or she is addressing, what his or her purpose is, at what historical moment the interpretation takes place.’’
    —Edward Said
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘Interpretation is the revenge of the intellectual upon art’’
    —Susan Sontag
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘All things are subject to interpretation whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.’’
    —Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘The one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it.’’
    —Oscar Wilde
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘So our virtues lie in the interpretation of the time.’’
    —William Shakespeare
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘To abstract an original idea is to invent; to abstract reality or a realized experience is to interpret’’
    —Ian Semple
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘Directing is an act of interpretation.’’
    —James Watkins
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘I do not document anything, I give an interpretation’’
    —Andre Kertesz
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘No story is the same to us after a lapse of time; or rather we who read it are no longer the same interpreters.’’
    —George Eliot
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘The interpretation of our reality through patterns not our own, serves only to make us ever more unknown, ever less free, ever more solitary.’’
    —Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘We see, not change of aspect, but change of interpretation.’’
    —Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘The text has disappeared under the interpretation.’’
    —Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘A work survives its readers; after a hundred or two hundred years, it is read by new readers who impose on it new modes of reading and interpretation. The work survives because of these interpretations, which are, in fact, resurrections: without them, there would be no work.’’
    —Octavio Paz
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘The old style of interpretation was insistent, but respectful; it erected another meaning on top of the literal one. The modern style of interpretation excavates, and as it excavates, destroys; it digs 'behind' the text, to find a sub-text which is the true one.’’
    —Susan Sontag
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘We look to the history of the time of framing and to the intervening history of interpretation. But the ultimate question must be, what do the words of the text mean in our time.’’
    —William J. Brennan, Jr.
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘Many people make the mistake of confusing information with knowledge. They are not the same thing. Knowledge involves the interpretation of information. Knowledge involves listening.’’
    —Henning Mankell
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘A path is a prior interpretation of the best way to traverse a landscape.’’
    —Rebecca Solnit
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘Great design is so many things all at the same time. It is emotional, functional, and responsive. It creates an unwritten dialogue, a connection, between itself and those who experience it. It is open to interpretation yet created for a specific purpose. It creates meaning and value.’’
    —Marcel Wanders
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘Today is such a time, when the project of interpretation is largely reactionary, stifling. Like the fumes of the automobile and of heavy industry which befoul the urban atmosphere, the effusion of interpretations of art today poisons our sensibilities. In a culture whose already classical dilemma is the hypertrophy of the intellect at the expense of energy and sensual capability, interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art… Even more. It is the revenge of the intellect upon the world. To interpret is to impoverish, to deplete the world - in order to set up a shadow world of 'meanings.' It is to turn the world into this world. ('This world'! As if there were any other.) The world, our world, is depleted, impoverished enough. Away with all duplicates of it, until we again experience more immediately what we have.’’
    —Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation and Other Essays
  • Interpretation is...
    ‘‘All interpretation, all psychology, all attempts to make things comprehensible, require the medium of theories, mythologies, and lies.’’
    —Hermann Hesse