Prior Conversations

Saturday, March 18th 2023

The Future of Money

Money is a vast and complex topic. One way of viewing money is as a form of technology which facilitates the exchange of wealth and the transfer of goods. At present we appear to be at a technological threshold with the development of decentralized cryptocurrencies and the emergence of centralized digital currencies. So what does the future have in store? Will physical fiat currency become a thing of the past? Or, are such currencies a passing technological fad which will prove obsolete? 

Sunday, Jan 15th 2023

Schooling on Race, Gender, & Sexual Orientation

Discussion of such sensitive topics as race, gender, and sexual orientation is proving to be quite challenging in contemporary settings in higher education, both within the classroom and in university settings more generally. The prior model of the marketplace of ideas, where supposed free and unfettered discussion occurs, has proved to be insufficient. Some voices have not had a place at the discussion table, some voices have drowned out others, and discussion has been inattentive to microaggressions. This panel seeks to discern both how hermeneutics might aid current discussion of these sensitive topics and how models of hermeneutics might themselves need to improve in light of these topics.

Saturday, Nov 19th 2022

Are the Digital Humanities an Oxymoron? 

As with almost every topic in our contemporary society, many discussions about Digital Humanities tend to be polarized. From a practical point of view, some think the digital humanities are the salvation for the decline of interest in the humanities. In contrast, others believe that it is a Trojan horse that will destroy the humanities by corrupting them from within. From an epistemological point of view, some believe that digital and humanities methods are mutually exclusive, while others see no difficulty reconciling quantitative and qualitative methods in the humanities. A deeper discussion of these polarities will likely transform these extreme positions into a much more complex and fruitful gradient for discussing under what circumstances, with what caveats, concerning what topics and methods the interdisciplinarity of the Digital Humanities can be beneficial to the humanities, both pragmatically and epistemologically. This session's panelists Laura Chaptot, James Dobson, Luca Posatti, Alberto Romele, and Karin van Es have been thinking about these issues in depth, and share their perspectives on the Digital Humanities and its various connections with Hermeneutics in Real Life.

Saturday, Sep 18th 2022

Joseph Edelheit

Rabbi, Emeritus Professor of Religious and Jewish Studies, St. Cloud University, Minnesota

Saturday, May 7 2022

Antisemitism and a Hermeneutics of Renewal of Ricoeur’s Warning

“[B]y remembering and telling, we not only prevent forgetfulness from killing the victims twice;we also prevent their life stories from becoming banal.”

-- Paul Ricoeur, “The Memory of Suffering” (1989), in Figuring the Sacred.

The increased reality of “Jew-hatred” defies our shared assumption that the extermination of 6million Jews would permanently transform the same culture that engaged in “The Final Solution.” What does Paul Ricoeur’s life work provide us in our public roles as teachers and thinkers facing today’s antisemitism?

This presentation will reflect upon Paul Ricoeur’s essay/sermon, “The Memory of Suffering,”and the current work of Dara Horn, “People Love Dead Jews: Reports from a Haunted Present.”

Additional Resources:

Review 'Auschwitz Not Long Ago, Not Far Away' - The Atlantic

Becoming Anne Frank  History  Smithsonian Magazine

Antisemitism Quotes

Ricoeur. The Memory of Suffering.

Recipe for Change: Standing Up to Antisemitism with Idina Menzel, Ilana Glazer & Moshe Kasher

Jewish-Christian Relations are suffering.

Audit of Antisemitic Incidents 2021

Antisemitism Worldwide - Report 2021

February, 5th 2022

Olivier Abel

Hermeneutics and the Vision for Europe

Building on his recent book, Le vertige de l’Europe, Olivier Abel discusses how hermeneutics may assist the crafting and implementation of a new vision for Europe. He offers his presentation in French and answer questions posed in French or English. He is professor of philosophy and ethics at the Institut Protestant de Théologie in Montpellier. He is prominent as a Ricoeur scholar and was one of the principal driving forces behind the establishment of the Fonds Ricoeur.

January, 8th 2022

Molly Mann

Hermeneutics and Work in Government

Molly is a senior leader in the Ontario Public Service and is currently working in the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs.   Her talk is entitled 'Left-Right Debates on Selfhood and Paul Ricoeur's Hermeneutics of the Modern Welfare State'.  Molly will apply her argument that Ricoeur's political philosophy is a meditation on the hermeneutics of the shared self to current iterations of the left-right debate on selfhood to argue that both the far right and the far left at times fail to grapple with the complex policy considerations on  poverty.   She will also reflect on Ricoeur's political philosophy and its impact on how she approaches issues of Indigenous self-determination and the role of the the market and capitalism in these issues.

Marianne Moyaert

December, 5th 2021

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.

John Arthos

Associate Professor of English

November, 6th 2021

Rhetoric, Hermeneutics, & General Education

Hermeneutics was not intended and does not deserve to become a niche study in a boutique curriculum for specialists; it should regain its rightful place in both grounding general education and guiding the humanities. The German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer understood this mission to be its birthright, which is why he located its origins in the classical teaching traditions of rhetoric. Our discussion will explore how hermeneutics can, right here and now, be placed at the center of undergraduate instruction in the basic competencies of writing and speaking, in pre-law, in aesthetics, and in criticism. What hermeneutic principles can inform these curricula? How can the richness of hermeneutic understanding be made accessible to our undergraduates? What are the institutional and curricular opportunities for cultivating a hermeneutic sensibility in college education?

Dan Stiver

Professor of Theology

October, 3rd 2021

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?

Supporting Material: 

New Survey Shows 3 In 5 White Evangelicals Say Joe Biden Wasn't Legitimately Elected : NPR

The Wasting of the Evangelical Mind | The New Yorker

Alberto Romele

Associate researcher, IZEW, University of Tübingen

September, 4th 2021

“Digital Hermeneutics” is Said in Many Ways

Hermeneutics is the discipline that deals with interpretation and understanding. My research in the field of digital hermeneutics stems from the observation that today more and more interpreting and understanding the world depends on the use of techniques and technologies, in particular digital technologies. Sometimes it even happens that it is the technologies themselves that interpret and (perhaps) understand the world for us. Like classical hermeneutics, however, digital hermeneutics is said in many ways. The purpose of my presentation will be precisely to introduce some of these ways. Specifically, I will focus on: digital hermeneutics as a theory of “interpreting machines”; digital hermeneutics as a hermeneutics of the self; and finally, digital hermeneutics as a hermeneutics of digital worldviews. 

August, 1st 2021

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.

Brian Treanor

Professor of Philosophy

July, 10th 2021

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.

Annemie Halsema

Associate Professor of Philosophy

June, 5th 2021

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.

Todd Mei

Public Philosopher & Philosophical Consultant

May, 8th 2021

Meaningful Work

Todd Mei discussed the ways in which hermeneutics can help us to better understand how work can be meaningful. He explored the roles of storytelling, virtues, and personal development.

Mootz III, Francis J.

Professor of Law

April, 3rd 2021 

What is Sex?

Does Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protect gays, lesbians and transgendered persons from employment discrimination because of "sex"? Can hermeneutical thinking help to resolve legal issues? Can hermeneutical thinkers learn from legal practice?

Richard Kearney

Founder, The Guestbook Project

March, 7th 2021

The Guestbook Project

Richard Kearney talked about the relation of hermeneutics to the Guestbook Project he leads. The project promotes, through the exchange of stories across groups in conflict, "the power of digital storytelling as a means of healing divisions."