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Exercises in Hermeneutical Ethics (24.-25.2.2021)

The meanings of ethics go beyond mere judgement. To be more precise: There are kinds of ethical reflexion and ethical labour that are not merely preparatory to moral judgement or to ethical communication. These kinds of ethical reflections have a right of their own. They are not merely there in order to prepare the passing of ethical judgements. This kind of ethical work comes in many forms. One of the forms of this indirect ethical labour is hermeneutical work on texts, i.e., texts that could inspire moral inspiration in an albeit unforeseeable way, or texts that might lead to an irritation of moral convictions and outlooks. Ethical work can also be seen as work on oneself, work on one’s disposition to adequately perceive those parts of the world that build the horizon of one’s action. This reflexive work on one’s own self can be productively related to those forms of ethical reflexion that eventually do lead to judgement. Yet self-reflexion does not merely serve to form one’s capacity of judgement. 

The conference will be situated in this very tension: On the one hand, there is a kind of ethical reflexion that aims to articulate judgements, and this kind of ethical reflexion is perhaps discarded by anti-theory too quickly. On the other hand, there is a kind of ethics that refuses to subject itself to the expectation of propositional ethical language, and that affirms ambivalence of meaning, irritations, subtle nuances that resound between the lines. This latter kind of ethics allows for ambiguities; indeed it seeks situations of irresolvable ambiguity and invests itself in the contemplation of the challenges these bring along. This latter kind of ethics can be called sceptical ethics or weakly normative ethics. With respect to discussions in the field, this kind of ethics can be associated with narrative ethics or indeed with hermeneutical ethics in a broader sense.

Hermeneutical ethics is organised in a modular way. Its aim is not to denounce analytical ethics by way of anti-theory, but rather to fully appreciate the complexities of ethical realty and ethical praxis. And it does in particular in view of those dimensions of ethical reality that cannot be reconstructed in analytical terms exhaustively, but can only be developed albeit inconclusively by virtue of micrological procedures. This link between theoretical, aesthetical and micrological perspectives on the one hand and propositional judgements on the other hand is well developed in several areas of theological and philosophical research. In philosophy, there is a rich discussion about the frontiers of ethics, about the meaning of literary and narrative structures and the relationship between these and “theory.” In theology, previous research in the field of ‘literature and theology’ ties closely with the envisaged conference, as this field cultivates what one could call “synopses” of ethical and propositional discourses. The conference will focus on the question of what the contribution of hermeneutical ethics to (theological) ethics could be. Its guiding ‘principle’ is the very oscillation between fundamental ethics questions on the one hand and micrological interpretation on the other hand. The aim of our joint thinking is to bring ethics down to earth, as it were, to vitalise it and – in spite of the proliferation of scepticism and weakly normative ethics in this very proposal – to strengthen ethics, while not once losing sight of the need of conceptual and terminological precision and clarity.

Supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Evangelische Kirche von Westfalen (EkvW)

Conference Program

24.02.2021

09:30-11:00 a.m.

Jochen Schmidt: Hermeneutical Ethics. Mapping the Field

 

Coffee

11:15-12:45 a.m.

Andrew Hass: Listening as Interpretation: Ethical Responsibility in the Spirit of Music

 

Lunch

02:00-03:30 p.m.

Andreas Mauz: The Same, different. Perspective as a Key Aspect of Hermeneutics/Hermeneutical Ethics

 

Coffee

03:45-05:15 p.m.

Heather Walton: From Everyday Ethics to Poetics. Critical and Creative Challenges

07:00 p.m.

Dinner

25.02.2021

09:30-11:00 a.m.

Maike Schult: What serves the common good. Ishiguros novel Never let me go as a micrological exercise in Hermeneutical Ethics

 

Coffee

11:15-12:45 a.m.

Martin Leutzsch: Demanding Forgiveness. The Ethical Impact of a Peculiar Form of Responsa concerning the Holocaust

 

Lunch

02:00-03:30 p.m.

David Jasper: Ethics after Postmodernism: The Literary Turn – a Study of J. Hillis Miller and Wayne C. Booth

 

Coffee

03:45-05:15 p.m.

Lothar van Laak: Vulnerability in the Aesthetics of Literature

05:15-06:00 p.m. 

Conclusion and further perspectives

 

 

Speakers

Prof. Dr. David Jasper[1], Theology and Literature, University of Glasgow:

Ethics after Postmodernism: The Literary Turn - a Study of J. Hillis Miller and Wayne C. Booth

 

Dr. Andrew Hass[2], Theology and Literature, University of Stirling:

Listening as Interpretation: Ethical Responsibility in the Spirit of Music

 

Prof. Dr. Lothar van Laak[3], Germanistik und Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaften, Universität Paderborn:

Vulnerability in the Aesthetics of Literature

 

Prof. Dr. Martin Leutzsch[4], Biblische Theologie, Universität Paderborn:

Demanding Forgiveness: The Ethical Impact of a Peculiar Form of Responsa concerning the Holocaust

 

Dr. Andreas Mauz[5], Hermeneutik und Religionsphilosophie, Universität Zürich:

The Same, different. Perspective as a Key Aspect of Hermeneutics/Hermeneutical Ethics

 

Prof. Dr. Jochen Schmidt, Systematische Theologie, Universität Paderborn:

Hermeneutical Ethics. Mapping the Field

 

PD Dr. Maike Schult[6], Theologie und Literaturwissenschaft, Universität Marburg:

What serves the common good: Ishiguros novel Never let me go as a micrological exercise in Hermeneutical

Ethics

 

Prof. Dr. Heather Walton[7], Theology and Religious Studies, University of Glasgow:

From Everyday Ethics to Poetics: Critical and Creative Challenges

 

[1] David Jasper, A short introduction to hermeneutics (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004).

[2] Andrew Hass, David Jasper, and Elisabeth Jay, The Oxford handbook of English literature and theology (Oxford handbooks, Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).

[3] Susanne Kaul and Lothar van Laak (eds.), Ethik des Verstehens: Beiträge zu einer philosophischen und literarischen Hermeneutik (München: Wilhelm Fink, 2007).

[4] Martin Leutzsch, ‘Narrative Ethik Jenseits der Schriftlichkeit. Ethische Dimensionen und Implikationen autobiographischen Erzählens in der Selbsthilfegruppe’, in Jochen Schmidt (ed.), Erzähltes Selbst. Narrative Ethik aus theologischer und literaturwissenschaftlicher Perspektive – The narrated self. Narrative Ethics from the perspectives of theology and literary studies (Theologie – Kultur – Hermeneutik [sub prelo], Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2020) (im Druck).

[5] Simon Peng-Keller and Andreas Mauz (eds.), Sterbenarrative: Hermeneutische Erkundungen des Erzählens am und vom Lebensende (Studies in Spiritual Care, 4, Berlin, Boston: de Gruyter, 2018).

[6] Maike Schult, Im Banne des Poeten: Die theologische Dostoevskij-Rezeption und ihr Literaturverständnis (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012).

[7] Heather Walton, Literature and theology: New interdisciplinary spaces (Burlington, Vt: Ashgate, 2011).

Contact and Registration

Isabell Rüffer, Institut für Evangelische Theologie

The University for the Information Society