Dialogical Breakdown and Covid-19: Solidarity and Disagreement in a Shared World





This article considers the limitations, but also the insights, of Gadamerian hermeneutics for understanding and responding to the crisis precipitated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Our point of departure is the experience of deep disagreements amid the pandemic, and our primary example is ongoing debates in the United States about wearing masks. We argue that, during this dire situation, interpersonal mutual understanding is insufficient for resolving such bitter disputes. Rather, following Gadamer’s account of our dialogical experience with an artwork, we suggest that our encounter with the virus gives rise to new ways of seeing and experiencing ourselves and the world. Further, we draw on Gadamer’s account of the fusion of horizons to show how even competing perspectives on wearing masks arise within a shared space of meaning created by the virus. These insights provide hope for an improved model of political dialogue in the world of Covid-19.

Author Biographies

Cynthia R. Nielsen, University of Dallas

Cynthia Nielsen is an Associate Professor at the University of Dallas, where teaches courses in the areas of hermeneutics, aesthetics, the philosophy of music, and the history of philosophy. Her articles have appeared in journals such as Philosophy Today, Symposium: Canadian Journal of Continental Philosophy, Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, and Philosophy and Literature. She has published two books, the most recent is entitled, Interstitial Soundings. Philosophical Reflections on Improvisation, Practice, and Self-Making, which focuses on the philosophy and phenomenology of music as well as the social and political dimensions of music-making. Her current research centers on bringing Hans-Georg Gadamer's reflections on art into conversation with the insights and practices of certain expressions of 20th and 21st century music and art. Nielsen currently serves as the President of the North American Society for Philosophical Hermeneutics.

David Liakos, Houston Community College

David Liakos, Houston Community College

David Liakos is a philosophy professor and full-time faculty member at Houston Community College. He completed his Ph.D. in philosophy in 2019 at the University of New Mexico, where he wrote his dissertation on Heidegger, Gadamer, and modernity. He has published several articles on various topics related to hermeneutics, and he is currently working on a series of papers outlining a conversational conception of politics (including the limits of politics). He is also working on an account of the landscape of contemporary hermeneutical thinking. Follow him on Academia: https://hccs.academia.edu/DavidLiakos