Dominic Pizzolitto

Understanding the Other: New Horizons for the 21st Century

Gadamer’s hermeneutical theory, as developed in Truth and Method, deals with the fundamental question of how understanding is possible across different socio-historical perspectives. Inspired by Charles Taylor’s influential essay on the significance of Gadamer’s work on the human sciences, this paper seeks to evaluate the potential impact of hermeneutics on contemporary political discourse. In this paper, I contend that the hermeneutical model of understanding can serve as a framework for engaging in dialogue with interlocutors within the social sphere. Gadamer argues that prejudice is present in all understanding; we are all part of effective history and therefore develop pre-judgements based on our own unique context and lived experiences. This paper attempts to show that, much like a book or an unfamiliar culture, other individuals present us with a challenge to our understanding by positing a lived experience quite different from our own. I argue that Gadamer’s theory of interpretation as a fusion of horizons is an indispensable tool for coming to mutual understanding with other people. In a political climate where dangerous prejudices are often considered to be valid expressions of subjective belief, it is imperative that we develop a theory capable of interpreting the multiplicity of human experience.

Dominic Pizzolitto is a Graduate student in the department of Philosophy at the University of Windsor. His research interests include: Critical Theory, Existentialism, Psychoanalysis, Post-Structuralism, Hermeneutics, Marxism, Aesthetics, Literary Theory and continental philosophy more generally. Outside of academia, he spends his time in and around the local arts scene promoting, organizing and attending shows to push the boundaries of underground culture.

Galen Watts

Spirituality, Identity and Modernity

In The Heretical Imperative Peter Berger argued that the defining characteristic of modernity is a shift from fate to choice. Individuals in modern societies understand their lives—and thereby their identities—as no longer predetermined, and this means they must therefore choose who they should be, and how they should live. Taking this insight of Berger’s as a point of departure, and drawing from qualitative data collected from in-depth interviews with Canadian millennials who self-identify as “spiritual but not religious,” I investigate the ways in which these young people navigate themselves within a secular pluralistic society where a plethora of worldviews and lifestyles are on display and seemingly open for adoption. I argue that the emergence of discourses on “spirituality” as distinct from “religion,” is tied to what Berger calls the “Modern Situation,” characterized by weak plausibility structures and little existential certainty. More specifically, I argue that an interest in “non-religious” spirituality in the modern world is tied to a quest for a stable sense of self and purpose, often catalyzed by a sense of alienation. Rather than discovering answers to these questions by means of joining a religious community, these young people engage in personalized quests that draw guidance from various sources of inspiration including but not limited to: popular books, music, YouTube videos, and alternative health classes (i.e. yoga). I conclude by discussing a number of socio-political implications this may hold.

Galen Watts has a broad and diverse range of academic interests. Currently, his research could be classified as convening at the intersection of political philosophy, religious studies, and social theory. More specifically, he seeks to articulate and analyze the basic values, belief-systems, and practices that inform contemporary spirituality among the millennial generation (aged 18-36) in Canada in order to discern its social and political implications, broadly understood.

Alysse Kushinski

Incontinent Domains: Thinking through Leaks in the Contemporary Moment

Leaks appear within and in between disciplines. While the vernacular implications of leaking tend to connote either the release of texts or, in a more literal sense, the escape of a fluid, the leak also embodies more poetic tendencies. Theoretically, it functions analogously to incontinence in philosophy, to desire in psychoanalysis and to the fluidity that qualifies the postmodern condition. It is through these contours; mediation, materiality, and theory, that this paper traces the notion of “the leak”. The leak is a difficult subject to account for – it eludes a specific discipline, its meaning is fluid, and its significance, always circumstantial, ranges from the entirely banal to matters of life and death. I assert that the amorphousness of the leak is valuable and allows us to trace the ways that actors are entangled. This presentation explores several instantiations of “leaking” in the realms of media, materiality, and theory to draw connections between seemingly disparate subjects. Despite leaks’ threatening consequences, they always mark a change, a transformation, a revelation. The leak becomes a means through which we can challenge ourselves to reconsider the (non)functionality of boundaries – it is an opening through which new possibilities occur, and imposed divisions are contested.

Alysse Kushinski is a PhD candidate in Communication and Culture at York University. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from University of British Columbia and holds a Masters of Science in Political Sociology from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Alysse’s current research focuses on the politics and aesthetics of visual culture, specifically concerning the circulation of photographs of abject landscapes. Generally, her work sits at the intersection of critical theory, aesthetics, and visual and material culture.