W e e k  o f  D i a l o g u e

W i t h

   C a s i m o    Z e n e


Professor of School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
University of London

Schedule of Lectures                    Abstract of Lectures                        Curriculum Vitae






May 15, 2001

9-11 am

Hermeneutics of Dialogue

Tarbiat Modarres University, Tehran, Shahid Motahari Hall

Intersection of Chamran
Expressway and Jalal al Ahmad Highway

May 15, 2001

3-5 pm


Tehran University,
Ibn Sina Hall

Enghelab St.

May 16, 2001

3-5 pm

De Certeau

Tehran University,
Ibn Sina Hall

Enghelab St.

May 17, 2001

10-12 noon


Wisdom & Philosophy Institute, Tehran

No. 6, Araklian St., Shahrak-e-Ghods

May 17, 2001

4-6 pm


Ibn Sina Cultural Center

Iran Zamin St., Shahrak-e-Ghods

May 19, 2001

9-11 am


University of Isfahan, Isfahan


 Round Table 





May 19, 2001

5-7 pm

Epistemology and Methodology of Reciprocal Knowledge

Wisdom and Philosophy Institute


This cycle of 8 lectures could be titled ‘Philosophies of Dialogue’ or ‘The Hermeneutics of Dialogue’. Its aim is to offer an understanding of the role of hermeneutics in the present cultural and philosophical climate. It is argued that even Post modernity, in its most ethical instances, points towards the possibility of Dialogue, which is to be understood more in terms of ‘weak logos’ rather than as the ‘All Powerful Logos’ of Western philosophy.

 This quote by Odo Marquard summarizes the main thrust of this cycle of Lectures:

 If – regarding a holy text – two interpreters, contradicting each other, assert: ‘I am right, my understanding of the text is the truth, and a truth imperative for salvation’ – it may come to a fight. But if they agree instead that the text can be understood in a different way, and that is not enough, in another way, and yet another – they may rather start to negotiate – and who negotiates does not kill. The ‘pluralizing hermeneutics’, unlike the ‘singularizing hermeneutics’, augurs a ‘being towards the text’ in lieu of the ‘being towards murder’. (Odo Marquard)

Abstract of Lectures 

  1. Introduction
    As a general introduction to Western Hermeneutics, I will discuss:

    a. The modern significance of an ancient usage (Hermeneuein/Hermeneia)
    b. Three directions of meaning: to say (orality), to explain, to translate;
    c. Six definitions of Hermeneutics

  2. The Existential Turn in Hermeneutics: Martin Heidegger (1889-1976)

    1) Ontology and Existence
    2) Humans and World
    3) Temporality
    4) Collectivity
    5) Language
    6) Transparency in Interpretation
    7) A Philosophical Hermeneutics as Facticity
    8) The derivative status of statement
    9) Hermeneutics after the turn

  3. The Conflict of Interpretations: Paul Ricoeur (1913 - )

    ’Henceforth, to understand is to understand oneself in front of the text. It is not a question of imposing upon the text our finite capacity of understanding, but of exposing ourselves to the text and receiving from it an enlarged self, which would be the proposed existence corresponding in the most suitable way to the world proposed… In this respect, it would be more correct to say that the self is constituted by the ‘matter’ of the text’.

    As one of the leading philosophers in post-war France, Ricoeur has written with originality and authority on an astonishing variety of topics. During the last few years, he has turned his attention more directly to problems of language, entering into a sustained dialogue with the tradition of hermeneutics. In order to appreciate fully the significance of Ricoeur’s current work, it is necessary to have some perspective on his writings as a whole. The aim of this introduction is to provide such an overall view. We will begin by tracing the evolution of Ricoeur’s thought, from his early project for a philosophy of the will, through his encounters with psychoanalysis and structuralism, to his recent preoccupation with the theory of the text. In the second part, we shall sketch the central themes of Ricoeur’s current work.

    1. Philosophy of the Will
    2. Examination of Psychoanalysis
    3. Confrontation with Structuralism
    4. Discourse and Creativity
    5. Text and the Theory of Interpretation
    6. Action and History
    7. Hermeneutics and Philosophical Reflections

  4. Michel de Certeau (1925-1986): Interpretation and its Other.

    Since his death in 1986, Michel de Certeau’s reputation as a thinker has steadily grown both in France and throughout the English-speaking world. His work is extraordinarily innovative and wide-ranging, cutting across issues in historiography, literary and cultural studies, anthropology, sociology, theology, philosophy and psychoanalysis.
    “To look at processes in this way, to ‘interpret’, in the musical sense of the term, this mystic writing as a different utterance, is to consider it a past from which we are cut off and not to presume ourselves to be in the same place it was; it is the attempt to execute its movement for ourselves, to retrace the steps of a labour but from afar… To do this is to remain within a scriptural experience and to retain that sense of modesty which respects distances…”.
    “A (‘popular’) use of religion modifies its functioning. A way of speaking this received language transforms it into a song of resistance, but this eternal metamorphosis does not in any way compromise the sincerity with which it may be believed nor the lucidity with which, from another point of view, the struggles and inequalities hidden under the established order may be perceived…”.

    1. The histrographical operation
    2. Interpretation and its archaeology
    3. Voices in the text
    4. Mystics
    5. Strategies and tactics

  5. Makhail Bakhtin’s ‘Dialogical Principle’

    Todorov, at the end of his study on Bakhtin, reveals the paradox to which even the most stubborn researcher of Dialogue can fall prey: that of having no listener or of receiving no answer. Bakhtin’s hope had been that of finding, at some point, a sort of super-receiver who would pay attention to the voices, both his and others’, which had fallen into the silence of history, and thus continue the dialogue. It seems that lately Bakhtin’s voice in the West has received considerable attention not only by linguists, literary critics and philosophers, but also by anthropologists, and that he ‘is emerging as one of the major thinkers of the twentieth century’.

  6. Emmanuel Levinas (1905-1997): The face-to-face encounter with the Other

    “The idea of the face is the idea of gratuitous act. Commanding love. Commanding love signifies recognizing the value of love itself. The face does not give itself to be seen. It is not a vision. The face is not that which is seen. I began today by saying that the face is not an object of knowledge [une connaissance]… there is rather an order, in the sense that the face is a commanded value. Consequently you could call it generosity; in other terms it is a moment of faith… Faith is not a question of the existence or non-existence of God. It is believing that love without reward is valuable…God is the commandment of love…”

    “The ethical ‘I’ is subjectivity precisely insofar as it kneels before the other, sacrificing its own liberty to the more primordial call of the other… Ethics redefines subjectivity as this heteronomous responsibility, in contrast to autonomous freedom… I can never escape the fact that the other has demanded a response from me before I affirm my freedom not to respond to his demand. Ethical freedom is une difficile liberte, a heteronomous freedom obliged to the other…”

    1. Knowledge and Power
    2. The Authority of the Face
    3. Totality and Infinity
    4. The Foundation of Ethics
    5. Levinas’s contribution to contemporary debate

  7. The Philosophical Turn in hermeneutics: Hans-Georg Gadamer (1900 - )

    ’The interpreter dealing with a traditional text seeks to apply it to himself. But this does not mean that the text is given for him as something universal, that he understands it as such and only afterwards uses it for particular applications. Rather, the interpreter seeks no more than to understand this universal thing, the text; i.e. to understand what this piece of tradition says, what constitutes the meaning and importance of the text. In order to understand that, he must not seek to disregard himself and his particular hermeneutical situation. He must relater the text to this situation, if he wants to understand at all’ (Truth and Method).

    Within the framework of Truth and Method the “universal” aspect of hermeneutics has at least one meaning that is easily explained. It indicates that the traditional hermeneutics – that of the human sciences – has been superseded in the direction of a philosophical hermeneutics that accords the “hermeneutics phenomenon” its full breadth. For philosophy, this universality means that hermeneutic inquiry cannot be limited to the ancillary problem of devising a methodology for the human sciences. The quest for understanding and language is not merely a methodological problem but a fundamental characteristic of human facility (to use Heidegger’s term). Emphasizing the “universal aspect” of hermeneutics then, opposes confining hermeneutics to the human sciences. The whole of Gadamer’s philosophical efforts are directed toward broadening the horizon of hermeneutics so far beyond the human sciences narrowly conceived that it becomes a central occupation of philosophy. It is precisely this that is meant by broadening hermeneutics to become the universal inquiry of philosophy and by the “Ontological Turn of Hermeneutics,” as the title of the third section of Truth and Method phrases it. In this final part, Gadamer turns hermeneutics inquiry away from and beyond the hermeneutics of the human sciences, the subject of the first two parts, and toward the greater universality, that of the ontological or philosophical dimension expressed and revealed in language.

    1. The inconsistency of Method
    2. The historicality of understanding
    3. The I-Thou dialogue
    4. The Linguisticality of Understanding
    5. The Universality of the Hermeneutic Understanding

  8. Some notes on the ‘Epistemology and Methodology’ of ‘Reciprocal Knowledge’

    This paper is concerned with delineating a possible epistemology and relevant, methodology for reciprocal knowledge. I attempt to do this by breaking down the various parts of the initial title/statement in order to arrive at some partial conclusions. It is argued that a distinction should be made at the outset on the importance of unfolding the intended title from epistemology to ‘epistemologies’ thus clarifying my own position as one of many epistemologies possible to attain the desired results. In a sense, I am stating here that my discourse is limited to Western thinking or, at least, it rests on this premise and that this is the first limitation that makes me aware of the necessary presence of other epistemologies.