Abstracts of Key Note lectures

Marianne Moyaert:

Ricoeur and a social justice approach to interfaith dialogue

In this lecture, I develop a social justice approach to interfaith dialogue in conversation with the work of Paul Ricoeur. Scholars interpret the notion of social justice in different ways; in this lecture, I follow the work of Sachi Edwards, who understands “social justice as an umbrella concept which provides a vision for society where all forms of oppression (racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, transgender oppression, religious oppression, ageism, ableism, sizeism, and others) are eradicated, and where all people are able to fully and equally participate ‘in a society that is mutually shaped to meet their needs’”(Edwards, 2016). A social justice approach to interreligious dialogue draws specific attention to issues of power, privilege and systemic injustice and treats the category of religion not as a descriptive category with universal scope but as a power category; i.e. as a category implicated in political processes of boundary making and unequal power distribution. Understanding religion in terms of power also has implications for the way I study interreligious dialogue. Most scholars understand interreligious dialogue in terms of an interpersonal encounter intent on overcoming religious prejudice on the one hand and cultivating mutual understanding, respect and ideally deep appreciation for difference; I rather approach the so-called dialogical turn as a hermeneutician of suspicion: I trace the ideological framework that forms the blue print for the dialogical project; examine the systems of inequality that are woven into the dialogical turn and takes action to dismantle those systems.

I will explain why Ricoeur, who as a philosopher attached great importance to dialogue on the one hand and who also paid attention social justice issues, nevertheless did not consider the possibility of a social justice approach to interreligious dialogue. Rather, Ricoeur considered dialogue from the perspective of hermeneutics, anthropology and ethics, three perspectives intertwined in his work. That the encounter between religions also has to do with injustice and oppression is not a thought that seems to have occurred to him. I will explain in this lecture why I think it is, however, appropriate to approach interreligious dialogue from the perspective of critical theory and with particular attention to unequal power relations.

Brian Gregor:

Peace and Violence in the Ontology of Creation

Brian Gregor’s presentation will show how Ricoeur’s hermeneutics of creation helps us to envision an ontology of peace, rather than an ontology of violence–in other words, that peace is more fundamental than violence. Central to this view is Ricoeur’s conviction that creation is a fundamentally good gift of God.  Gregor examines this conviction in three of Ricoeur’s works: The Symbolism of Evil, where Ricoeur contrasts the book of Genesis with the Babylonian epic of creation, Enuma Elish; his 1971 essay ”On the Exegesis of Genesis 1:1-2:4a”; and his chapter ”Thinking Creation” from the volume with Andre LaCocque, Thinking Biblically.  These essays reflect Ricoeur’s developing thinking about the goodness of creation, but one feature that runs through them is his attempt to avoid the idea of creation ex nihilo, and his readiness to use the language of chaos.  These tendencies allow Ricoeur to ”think creation” in terms of its fragility.  At the same time, they also create difficulty for his desire to think of creation in terms of a good gift, insofar as these tend in the direction of a tragic view of being, in which violence is more fundamental than peace. One possible answer to this problem is to return to Ricoeur’s Symbolism of Evil, where he indicates a way beyond the tragic view, through Christology and eschatology. These biblical sources can nourish an eschatological imagination capable of seeing peace as the ultimate end and fulfillment of creation.

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