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Cambridge Interfaith Programme


The Senior Seminar in Inter-Religious Relations presents Professor Marianne Moyaert, Chair of Comparative Theology and Hermeneutics of Interreligious Dialogue, VU University of Amsterdam: 'Ricoeur's Interreligious Hermeneutics, Prejudice, and the Problem of Testimonial Injustice'

Professor Marianne Moyaert, Chair of Comparative Theology and Hermeneutics of Interreligious Dialogue at VU University of Amsterdam will present a paper is titled 'Ricoeur's Interreligious Hermeneutics, Prejudice, and the Problem of Testimonial Injustice', and a response will be given by PhD student Barnabas Aspray. It will take place on Thursday 26 April, 2.00 pm – 4.00 p.m. in the Lightfoot Room, Faculty of Divinity. 

The session will be followed by informal refreshments in the Selwyn Room (Divinity).

All welcome. Please email if you would like to attend.

Abstract and Background

I work as an interreligious educator, at a multireligious department of Theology and Religion at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, where both Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu ‘theologians’ are trained as well as religious scholars. My prime pedagogical responsibility in this department is to help form our students in such a way that they become interreligiously literate. Considering the fact that much contemporary societal conflicts are not only due to a lack of religious knowledge about different traditions but are also related to deep prejudices and misunderstandings this is an important pedagogical challenge.

The French philosopher Paul Ricoeur, who is sometimes called the philosopher of all dialogues, has especially shown himself to be a rewarding conversation partner in this process of developing an interreligious pedagogy. His hermeneutical anthropology, according to which we are all others has enabled me to dedramatise the challenge of interreligious learning. We all enter the hermeneutical circle as prejudiced beings and to understand is always to interpret. Though Ricoeur would dismiss any claim to full or complete comprehension just like he would meet all claims to neutrality with suspicion, there is no need to become fatalistic. Human beings (and here Ricoeur shows himself to be a heir of reflexive philosophy) are also capable of critical self-reflection and transformation.

For a long time I have aligned his hermeneutical philosophy and my interreligious education. This has resulted in a pedagogical approach which enables students to develop their skills of interpretation and provides ample opportunities for critical (self-)reflection. However, based on several years of teaching experience in a multireligious context, I have become increasingly conscious of some of the limits of Ricoeur’s interreligious hermeneutics: his hermeneutics lacks a power analysis, which reckons with the majority-minority dynamics in the classroom, as a consequence of which some are more different than others just like some are more prejudiced than others. It has been my educational experience that what some students bring to the conversation is simply not taken seriously, not because they do not have anything significant to say nor because of an innocent misunderstanding, but rather because what they say does not fit in the dominant (often implicit) hermeneutical framework of the majority. The end result is what epistemologist Miranda Fricker would call testimonial injustice, which “happens whenever prejudice on the part of a hearer causes them to attribute a deflated level of credibility to a speaker’s word.” (Fricker 2007)  

In my presentation, I wish to do three things. First, I will briefly provide a Ricoeurian approach to interreligious learning as an encounter between self and other. Secondly, and based on a particular case that I have drawn from my teaching experience, I will explain how Ricoeur’s hermeneutics lacks a power analysis, which likewise limits his capacity to grabble with the problem of testimonial injustice and I will explain how this negatively affects the learning opportunities of students in a multireligious classroom. Last but not least, I will formulate the beginnings of a critical interfaith pedagogy in an effort to overcome the problem of testimonial injustice.

I have particularly benefitted from Ricoeur’s suggestion to think of interreligious dialogue as a practice of linguistic hospitality.


Other seminars this term:

Dr Reid B. Locklin (University of Toronto), 'Conquering the Quarters, Preaching in Silence: an Interreligious Exploration of Missionary Advaita Vedānta'

Thursday 3 May, Seminar Room 7, Faculty of Divinity, 11:00-13:00

Dr Sami Everett (CRASSH, University of Cambridge), 'Maghrebinicité: North African Jewish experience in peri-urban Paris since 1981'

Thursday 10 May, Lightfoot Room, Faculty of Divinity, 12:00-14:00

Dr Susannah Ticciati (King's College London), 'Negotiating Conflicting Religious Truth Claim: Rabbinic and Christian Accounts in Dialogue'

Thursday 24 May, Seminar Room 7, Faculty of Divinity, 14:00-16:00


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