Invited Paper. The Hermeneutic Wager: Building Community in Pediatric Neuro-Oncology


  • Dr. Richard B Hovey McGill University
  • Dr. Angela C Morck McGill University
  • Marie Vigouroux Faculty of Education, McGill University



During the Covid-19 pandemic, Hovey was contacted by the lead of a pan-Canadian working group on pediatric brain tumours (PBTWG). While all stakeholders (researchers, clinicians, regulators, patient advocates, ethicists, and industry experts) were highly motivated to address barriers through innovative strategies in collaboration, clinical research, regulation, and business models, advancement has been challenging on multiple levels. Hovey and his team were tasked to facilitate and successfully engage this diverse divisive group of stakeholders to achieve their goals. Inspired by Richard Kearney’s anatheistic wager, the hermeneutic wager acts simultaneously as a team building and research approach, as it serves to gain insight into the perspectives of members of a purposeful community. Through its five conversations, namely imagination, humility, commitment, discernment, and hospitality, the hermeneutic wager elicits responses from the participants that are based on meaningful participation in a relational approach of community co-creation. We individually interviewed the PBTWG facilitators (5). With informed consent, our research team also recorded all 5 of the PBTWG work group meetings (20 participants from 6 stakeholder groups) and break-out room meetings and took notes which consist of rich and extensive narrative data. This data was analyzed alongside the individual PBTWG interviews. The audio and visual data collected via a secure Zoom platform was then transcribed verbatim and analyzed interpretively according to the applied philosophical hermeneutic tradition. Findings centered around six points: “The Work of Stories,” “Changing Landscapes: Community / Communication not Consensus,” “Let the Words Lead You,” “Those Words Matter,” “Metaphors as a Bridge to Understanding,” and “A Road Map to be Inspired By.” Through these findings, we contend that the hermeneutic wager is an invitation for conversation that builds a path to the generation of new and creative understandings that transcend previous ways of knowing. The efficacy of the hermeneutic wager resides in its ability to help build a community of people who work together through and across difference to arrive at a shared understanding and collective outcome.  

Author Biographies

Dr. Richard B Hovey, McGill University

Dr. Richard Hovey PhD is an Associate Professor in the Division of Oral Health and Society with the Faculty of Dental Medicine and Oral Health Sciences, McGill University.

Dr. Angela C Morck, McGill University

Dr. Angela Morck RN, PhD is a Research Associate in the Division of Oral Health and Society with the Faculty of Dental Medicine and Oral Health Sciences, McGill University and Assistant Editor, Journal of Applied Hermeneutics, Faculty of Nursing, University of Calgary. 

Marie Vigouroux, Faculty of Education, McGill University

Marie Vigouroux MS is a PhD student in the Department of Integrated Studies (DISE), Faculty of Education, McGill University.