Uncovering Original Intent in Torah

We have already written here strongly promoting the scientific or “realistic” approach to Torah study.
This method, lost with the demise of Chazal and Rishonim, has gained more adherents over time. But we still have a ways to go. For example, one clear rule is that the true meaning of any text is best gained by studying its earliest commentators (obvious exceptions notwithstanding). The closer to the era and spirit of the author(s), the better.
If we follow this rule, one should study Avos Derebbi Nosson when seeking to elucidate Mishna Avos. Right? Moreso, when faced with two possible interpretations, the one from Avos Derebbi Nosson ought to win out.
You already know what I’m going to ask: How often was this even attempted by the commentaries on Avos?

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