Amber Bowen

Project leader:

Dr Amber Bowen (Redeemer University Canada)
with Prof. Merold Westphal (Fordham University)


From Critique to Character


This project offers a transvaluation of the hermeneutics of suspicion through the development of a post-critical hermeneutics. While the hermeneutics of suspicion can and should be placed in service to faith, this project takes seriously the way that critique has become unlimited in the modern academy, the church, and in western society more generally. By valuing and promoting dispositions of detachment, ingrained wariness, hyper-suspicion, even paranoia, “criticality” limits the kinds of discourses we have, the pursuits we undertake, and it shapes the kind of people we become.

This project expands the hermeneutical horizon beyond critique to character by theologically and philosophically developing post-critical hermeneutics. The aim of this project is to de-essentialize critique by reinscribing it within a broader theological trajectory of re-generation. The project engages philosophical (specifically phenomenological) possibilities of cultivating more generous and expansive ways of thinking and modes of discourse. Drawing upon Søren Kierkegaard’s authorship as a resource, especially his text Works of Love, it offers a kind of “phenomenological therapy” that helps us cultivate other dispositions toward the world. These dispositions reveal what the gaze of suspicion conceals, and thus are better means of pursuing truth. Beneath the reign of criticality, virtues such as faith, hope, love, forgiveness, and trust seem like a form of naïve Pollyannaism that has no place in the real world. However, this project will investigate not just the possibility of these virtues in a world of suspicion, but the necessity of these virtues in order to live more fully and more faithfully in the real world.