Is the spiritual a valid category for the Humanities? An interdisciplinary debate

In the wake of poststructuralism, critical theory, especially literary theory, has become adept at analyzing and questioning the ideological foundation of speech. Historical and socio-political contexts, race and gender as well as the problematic relationship of language to reality have all been perspectives used to examine literature as discourse. However, such critical stances are helpless to go beyond their own “hermeneutics of suspicion” (Ricoeur 1975) to construct a “positive, restorative interpretation” (Goetz 2011 ; Ricoeur 1965) particularly when it comes to approaching the human being from a non material viewpoint. Researchers are then confronted to a major epistemological question: how should one refer to what eludes rationality and the five senses? What word(s) should be used to characterize the nature of the aesthetic, political or existential quest undertaken in fields as varied as art and literature, sociology, education, environmental philosophy or medical care? Rather than terms like “mystical” or “religious”, laden with connotations and in many respects too reductive to fully express the diversity of human experience, the “spiritual” is a notion that has been gaining epistemological momentum for several decades (Foucault 1979, 2001 ; Hadot 2002, 2008 ; Le Brun 2015 ; Vesperini 2015).


This conference thus wishes to initiate an interdisciplinary debate with a view to examining whether the spiritual might serve as a valid academic category in the humanities. 



The submission date for a paper has been extended to Feb 15th

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