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Orientation via Texts and Communication

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Organizer: Reinhard Mueller

Co-Organizer: Olga Faccani

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How do we orient ourselves to texts? How do texts orientate us and how can they transform us? How do texts shape the world that we orient ourselves in? And how do the ways we orient ourselves to each other shape the creation and dissemination of knowledge?

Since the invention of writing, fundamental societal reorientations have often occurred hand in hand with innovative forms of communication that were connected with new social settings to convey knowledge: Plato invented the dialogue in order to avoid all doctrines while creating his academy; Aristotle the treatise in order to teach it in his own name while establishing the Peripatetic school; Montaigne wrote his essays in order to seek truth via unbiased self-observation, while pursuing a hermitic lifestyle. Later, Nietzsche performed masks in his texts living as a wanderer apart from society, and James Joyce experimented with thoughtstream as a minute observer within society. This process of differentiation and innovation has continued up until today, and the contemporary world has witnessed an explosion of manifold digital forms of communication that has revolutionized the ways we interact with each other in our everyday life, including classrooms and workplaces. New forms of communication and interaction can bring about radical reorientations; and foundational reorientations often require novel ways for communicating them.

In this seminar, we seek to explore, via the concepts of the philosophy of orientation, how different forms of communication orient us in different ways and create different worlds of orientation. The philosophy of orientation was developed by Werner Stegmaier, at first in German in his Philosophie der Orientation (Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2008) and subsequently in its abridged and updated English translation What is Orientation? A Philosophical Investigation (Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2019).

We welcome all orientation-philosophical explorations of (but not limited to):

innovations of the forms of writing and communication across time, including digital forms of communication
how different forms of communication shape different ways of thinking and orientation
the distinctions and connections between different genres of writing, such as philosophy and literature
the differences and connections between different scholarly practices for the dissemination of knowledge, such as written texts vs. performance, or lecture vs. interactive dialogue
texts as means of transformation, growth, or healing, e.g., in pedagogy or therapy
how the way we orient ourselves to others can shape the way knowledge is created and shared (in various settings such as university classrooms, workplaces, social settings, etc.)
the intersection between different modes of communication and different cultures, classes, races, and ethnic groups


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