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Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - Afra Jalabi, Religions and Cultures

The Resurrection of Socrates. Towards Rehabilitating the Political in Gadamer’s Philosophical Hermeneutics.

Thursday, June 23, 2022 (all day)

This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


Daniela Ferrer



When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.

Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.


The dissertation aims to rehabilitate the dialogical hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer as a way of offering a new critical approach to navigating, and even possibly transmuting, power relations by exploring the ethical and political implications of his project. Given the centrality of the dialogic in Gadamer’s hermeneutics, the dissertation itself engages in a dialogue with the projects of Michel Foucault and Hannah Arendt. Foucault’s relational conception of power brings out a political dimension in Gadamer’s dynamic dialogical modality but, while Gadamer’s main metaphor of the human condition is conversation, Foucault’s main metaphor is war. Consequently, Foucault’s discussion of the ineluctability of power relations in the social matrix and his doubt, whether we could ever turn “relations of domination” into “relations of meaning,” arises as an inevitable contention between their perspectives. On the other hand, Arendt’s redefinition of the category of the political in dialogical terms closes some of the gaps that arise between Gadamer and Foucault. Her metaphor of the political as an oasis emerging from the sterile desert of domination aligns with Gadamer’s dialogical ontology as an alternative to such domination. Arendt argues that with the execution of Socrates, Western philosophy divorced itself from the political, ever since Plato retreated into the "Academy," and given how Gadamer's philosophical hermeneutics resurrects the Socratic dialogue, their projects intersect in ways that create radically new political possibilities. Arendt’s dialogical reconceptualization of the category of the political allows a new reading of Gadamer’s project, in which hermeneutics re-orients us back to the Polis given the ineluctability of encounter. With these intersections, we see how philosophical hermeneutics, with its emphasis on phronesis, could be rehabilitated to investigate and interpret the inevitability of difficult and concrete dialogues in desert conditions. Gadamer’s conception of language as the horizon of a hermeneutic ontology provides new ways of maneuvering, because in Gadamer's linguistic turn understanding does not merely interpret the world but it changes it. The dissertation aims therefore to explore the power of hermeneutics as an alternative to the hermeneutics of power by examining the implications of Gadamer's dialogical ontology in light of the main questions raised by Foucault and Arendt about the nature of power and the promise of the political.

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