Conversation Sessions Schedule - 2021

Todd Mei

Public Philosopher & Philosophical Consultant

May, 8th - Saturday at 2 pm US Eastern Time

Meaningful Work

Todd Mei will discuss the ways in which hermeneutics can help us to better understand how work can be meaningful. The talk will touch on the roles of storytelling, virtues, and personal development.


Annemie Halsema

Associate Professor of Philosophy

June, 5th - Saturday at 1 pm US Eastern Time

Narrative Medicine

On the basis of Ricoeur’s hermeneutics, this presentation argues for considering the interaction between medical professionals and patients as a narrative practice. Even if a physician talks from an external point of view – for instance, in explaining lab results to a patient – she is at the same time in conversation with the patient, addressing the latter as an interlocutor and in this process evoking, co-constituting and receiving first person accounts of the patient’s experience.



Brian Treanor

Professor of Philosophy

July, 10th - Saturday at 1 pm US Eastern Time

Environmental Hermeneutics: Interpretation from the Ground Up

Aldous Huxley observed, “in a world where education is predominantly verbal, highly educated people find it all but impossible to pay serious attention to anything but words and notions.” This bias is evident in hermeneutics as well, which remains enthralled by what I refer to as “the metaphor of the text,” the idea that interpretation and understanding are to be understood in terms of reading a text, even in instances in which the “reading” and the “text” are metaphorical. Thus, for example, we speak of “reading” the landscape, or of starting a “new chapter” in one’s life. The metaphor of the text is a powerful one, and it’s given rise to lots of good philosophy. However, if hermeneutics teaches us anything, it is that every “way of seeing” reveals some things and conceals others. The metaphor of the text, while useful, also has some significant blind spots. These blind spots are particularly evident when thinking about the environment or the “more-than-human” world. When we understand nature through the lens of language, we tend to slide into an easy anthropocentrism—the view that human beings, human concerns, and human perspectives are the standard by which everything else is measured and understood. That, however, misses a great deal of what is interesting about our embodied experience of the material world. Rather than limiting hermeneutics to interpretation, we should think of it in terms of perception, orientation, and inclination. When we reflect carefully on our embodied experience of the material world, we find alternative metaphors for understanding that help to correct for the biases of traditional frameworks, metaphors rooted in our embodied experience of the material world.


August, 1st - Sunday at 1 pm US Eastern Time

Architecture and Hermeneutics

The disciplines of urbanism and architecture have gone through a noticeable transformation in recent years. Today we can observe a clear shift both in the nature of discussions within architecture and urbanism and in their relationship with other academic disciplines. Not only are architects and urban planners becoming more receptive and sensitive to philosophy and social theory, but social thinkers and philosophers are becoming increasingly more involved in debates about architecture and the social dimensions of the urban environment. This discussion aims to add to this development through exploring the insights of hermeneutics into architecture and the interactions of urban inhabitants with the built environment.

Alberto Romele

Associate researcher, IZEW, University of Tübingen

September, 4th - Saturday at 1 pm US Eastern Time

Digital Hermeneutics - Hermeneutics and Technology




Dan Stiver

Professor of Theology

October, 3rd - Sunday at 2 pm US Eastern Time

Poor Hermeneutics Are Killing Us! Why Evangelicals Fall for Conspiracy Theories

One of the largest demographics in the U.S. that has supported Donald Trump and conspiracy theories has been white evangelicals, the famed 81 percent support of his election in 2016 and that largely continued. On the surface, this support is counterintuitive and has astonished observers. One factor in this support, provocatively, is hermeneutics. The evangelical hermeneutic was forged in the fires of slavery and was refined through another century of Jim Crow and other racist practices, as detailed now by a number of scholars. It is a hermeneutic that not only facilitated support of racism, it enables uncritical support of and even allegiance, based on biblical support, for other questionable beliefs, such as Creationism and end-of-the-world predictions. It is a short step to their support of radical conspiracy theories like Qanon. How is a hermeneutic like Ricoeur’s (and many others) an urgent alternative?


John Arthos

Associate Professor of English

November, 6th - Saturday at 1 pm US Eastern Time

Rhetoric, Hermeneutics, & General Education

That rhetoric and hermeneutics constitute the bedrock of a 21st century liberal education grows directly and unambiguously out of Gadamer's mature philosophical reflections. I will cite the key texts that support this assertion, and then give a thumbnail history of rhetoric’s long-standing reciprocity with hermeneutics: (1) the fusion of Aristotelian rhetoric and the doctrine of prudence in classical Roman education, (2) the Protestant inversion of the rhetorical canons for instruction in a reading and preaching culture, (3) the dawning realization, from Schleiermacher to Heidegger, that this rhetorical-hermeneutic praxis has been wrongly displaced by the ascendant paradigm of scientific knowledge, and (4) the hermeneutic standpoint as an appropriate grounding for a 21st century liberal education. The required public speaking course at Indiana University will be offered as example of this paideia.

Marianne Moyaert

Professor of Religion and Theology

December, 5th - Sunday at 1 pm US Eastern Time

Critical Interfaith Pedagogy

Based on her experience as an educator teaching religion at the university level to classes composed of students from diverse faiths, Marianne Moyaert develops in her presentation a critical interfaith pedagogy, drawing upon Ricoeur's hermeneutical anthropology and taking into account patterns of prejudice, power, and privilege.