Spoilers, Triggers, and the Hermeneutics of Ignorance


  • Dr. Tom Grimwood University of Cumbria




A hermeneutics of ignorance may, at first, appear to be a contradiction in terms. Yet, ignorance and stupidity remain a pressing issue in the realm of today’s public discourse. The form this takes concerns, not the actual intelligence of people per se, but rather the use of the denomination of ‘stupidity’ as an active framing of debate, or the use of perceived ignorance to strategically organise individuals, publics and audiences. This offers a challenge to hermeneutic practice; or, at least, a pause for reconsidering some of the assumed figures that govern the hermeneutic endeavour, namely dialogue and intelligibility. In this paper, I want to sketch out some provisional areas of consideration for such a challenge and its potential response. Focusing on one aspect of the contemporary media milieu – the work of the spoiler and the trigger – I want to suggest how the digital ecology through which much of public discourse takes place requires adjustments to hermeneutic approaches, and the implications of these to what a hermeneutics of ignorance might look like.

Author Biography

Dr. Tom Grimwood, University of Cumbria

Tom Grimwood is Professor in Social Philosophy at the University of Cumbria, UK. His research focuses on cultural hermeneutics, in particular the formative role of ambiguity within acts of interpretation, and the relationship between the history of philosophy and applied social practices. He is the author of The Shock of the Same: An Antiphilosophy of Clichés (2021), Key Debates in Social Work and Philosophy (2016), Irony, Misogyny and Interpretation: Ambiguous Authority in Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche (2012), and Against Critical Thinking in Health, Social Work and Social Care (forthcoming).