Conference: Self-understanding and Self-alienation

It is a central insight in philosophical hermeneutics that understanding belongs to human existence. If this is so, how should we then ‘understand understanding’? What does understanding mean in understanding others and in understanding a more or less shared world? How does self-understanding play into understanding? How is the ‘self’ implied in self-understanding?

Self-understanding is an ongoing meaning-making process where we situate ourselves and are situated in the world. It is inherent to self-understanding that we can also misunderstand or fail to come to an understanding, which can lead to experiences of self-alienation, confusion and frustration. How is this tension a part of the human condition? What is the relationship between existential experiences of self-alienation and situations where such experiences become overwhelming, as we see it in psychopathology or after severe traumatization? Are the experiences of the same kind only different in intensity, or are they fundamentally distinct? Moreover, how is the self-world relationship implicated in different kinds of self-alienation?

If we take the two insights together that understanding belongs to human existence, and that self-alienation is in question in ways of human relatedness, what is the relation of self-understanding and self-alienation?

Time and place:

September 24th – 25th, 2015

Venue: Faculty of Theology, University of Copenhagen, Købmagergade 46, Aud. 7

Organized by the VELUX project: “Existential Hermeneutics and Psychopathology: Self-understanding and Self-alienation.

Website for Self-understanding and self-alienation



Thursday, September 24 

Morning Session:

10:00-10:15:  Words of Welcome

10:15-11:00   Emil Angehrn (Basel): “Self-Understanding and Self-Deception”

11:00-11:30   Discussion

11:30-12:00    Cathrine Bjørnholt Michaelsen: “The solitude of not being able to be alone – or, living through others”

12:00-12:15   Discussion

12:15-13:30   Lunch Break

Afternoon Session:

13:30-14:15    Günter Figal (Freiburg): “The Decentered-ness of Understanding Oneself”

14:15-14.45   Discussion

14:45-15:00   Coffee / Tea Break

15:00-15:45   Ingolf U. Dalferth (Claremont): “Self, Finitude and Estrangement”

15:45-16:15   Discussion

16:15-16:45    Morten Sørensen Thaning: “Responsibility and the Breakdown in Self-understanding”

16:4517:00     Discussion


Friday, September 25

Morning Session:

09:15-10:00    Shaun Gallager (Memphis):  “Somatic alienation: Body disownership in the context of torture”

10:00-10.30   Discussion

10:30-10:45    Coffee / Tea Break

10:45-11:30    Lisa Guenther (Vanderbilt): “Isolation, Self-alienation, and Resistance in a California Prison”

11:30-12:00   Discussion

12:00-13:00   Lunch Break

Afternoon Session

13:00-13:45    Thomas Fuchs (Heidelberg): “Transparency, opacity and alienation: The self as medium of perception and cognition”

13:45-14:15   Discussion

14:15-14:45   Arne Grøn (Copenhagen): “Self-understanding and self-alienation”

14:45-15:00   Discussion

15:00-16:00   Open discussion

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