Hermeneutics in Real Life

The importance of hermeneutics to non-academic spheres.

The project is open to anyone interested in the application of hermeneutics to real life. The project includes online resources and a monthly, hour long, online discussion on topics applying hermeneutics to various areas of real life.

While hosted by Ricoeur scholars, the invitation to participate is extended to the entire hermeneutics community, including those new to the field.

Hermeneutic Themes: Viewed Across Different Areas of Practice

The goal is one of seeking to understand, which includes:

  • the concerns of others

  • the role of narratives in fashioning and relating values and experience

  • the role of translation between individuals; between actors in a field; across fields

  • what is required in communicating with and listening to others

  • how to negotiate across values

  • how to recognize and address what is not being considered or what has not been considered in the past

  • the importance of dialogue

  • the importance of recognition

  • how to question assumptions

  • how to facilitate dialogue that can lead to constructive action

  • how to enhance human activity, including meaningful work, in order to increase human capability and the opportunity to flourish

  • How to enhance human activity, including work, as meaning-full and so to increase human capability and the opportunity to flourish

Background Themes

  • Hermeneutics is not just of theoretical interest but has real world application.

  • The vitality of hermeneutics needs defending and advancing on its own merits and in light of challenges to its image in popular consumption and broader trends toward quantitative analysis;

  • The monthly online discussions should be useful for those at the intersection of hermeneutics and practical application, including:

    • academic scholars thinking about and working on hermeneutic application;

    • junior scholars seeking academic appointments that bridge disciplines to practical arenas;

    • those in practice wanting to consider the use of hermeneutics in their work;

    • those with hermeneutics interests in transition between employment in academics and in the real world.

  • The project offers a way to bring more people into hermeneutics (and studies of Ricoeur, Gadamer, etc.) by showing its real world (and academic) significance.

  • One goal will be to translate the hermeneutic arena to be more accessible for a broader audience.

“The choice in favor of meaning is . . . the most general presupposition of any hermeneutics.”

-- Paul Ricoeur, “Phenomenology and Hermeneutics,” From Text to Action, 38

“The hermeneutical consciousness culminates not in methodological sureness of itself, but in the same readiness for experience that distinguishes the experienced [person] from the [person] captivated by dogma.”

-- Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, 362

“The hermeneutical experience . . . has its own rigor: that of uninterrupted listening.”

-- Gadamer, Truth and Method, 465

“One of the aims of all hermeneutics is to struggle against cultural distance.”

-- Ricoeur, “What is a Text,” From Text to Action, 119

“Interpretation here, then, does not refer to the sense intended, but to the sense that is hidden and has to be disclosed. In this sense every text not only presents an intelligible meaning but, in many respects, needs to be interpreted.”

-- Gadamer, Truth and Method, 336

Next Conversation Session

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?

Find here the schedule of our monthly meetings.

Additional Resources on hermeneutics applied to real world affairs.


Find a list of contacts working on hermeneutics in real life.

Useful Links

External links to other groups and projects related to hermeneutics.


Contact hinrl@googlegroups.com to get more information on the project