Our interdisciplinary project, Hermeneutics of Dis-ability: Dis-advantage, De-privation, De-fect, and Dis-crimination, addresses the phenomenon of dis-ability from different phenomenological and hermeneutic perspectives in order to disclose the intricacies of the dialectics of ability and dis-ability. We firmly believe that we can bring an important voice to the technologized world and show how much there is to be thought of when we deal with a human being’s mode of being in the world. Instead of running into the bare schemata for ability/disability, we would like to promote a way of understanding a human being as a capable human being (l’homme capable), capable of speaking, acting, suffering, being responsible and ready for the difficult experience of forgiving. If, and when, we understand that human beings are worth more than their actions, we open ourselves, perhaps unwittingly at first, toward perceiving dis-ability as a pro-vocation for enhancing life and embracing all those experiences that can help us to accept our human condition in its complex fullness. The colon in the title indicates that the project attempts to approach dis-ability and all the known existential conditions/components of dis-ability within the wider horizon rather than just the confines of our understanding of the human being as an acting and suffering person (l’homme agissant et souffrant).
The goal of the World Report on Disability (WHO 2017) is for all people to live a life of health, comfort, and dignity. This minimal projection for human existence becomes problematic given that there are an estimated one billion people world-wide with reduced functionings or disabilities. This is further complicated by the fact that 80% of those with disabilities are living in low and middle income counties, suggesting a strong link between disability and poverty (Banks, Kuper and Polack (2017). Disability, therefore, is a complex intersectionality between health, poverty, and the environment. However, there are deeper considerations of philosophical anthropology and ontology that underlie these political and sociological issues. In fact, the World Health Organization, itself, argues that disability is part of the human condition Banks, Kuper and Polack 2017, p. 3). Almost every person will experience impairment and increased difficulties in functioning at some point throughout their lives—and every person certainly will, if they live long enough into old age. Thus, disability opens the ontological question of the meaning of being anew, not as beings-towards-death (finitude), but as beings-towards-disability (fragility).
“Utopias are lighthouses in the sea of reality” (Freyer 1936 p. 15.), they provide anticipations of the future that criticize existing constellations and get over them fictively. By criticizing the present and looking out towards the future, utopias evoke targetoriented thinking. Such utopias are crucial in overcoming existing discord, injustice and social structures. Therefore utopias serve an important answer to a world filled with crises, insecurity, incalculableness, imponderableness, disrespect, and inhumanity etc. Yet utopias have a chance at influencing the world if they are associated with the feeling of yearning. Therefore, I aim to develop “longing of a utopia” as a theoretical construct, which is determined by philosophical theories, on one hand, and by everyday understanding, on the other. Psychological theories of development suggest that adolescence is predestined for the formation of the construct „longing of a utopia;” therefore pupils in Grades 5 to 10 from South Germany have reflected and written narrations for my research question.
In my contribution, I sketched the philosophical constructs: longing, utopia and the literary form / method “narration” and what followed was our research on how young Germans imagine and envision the future.
Current discourses on addiction variously construct people with addictions as disabled or impaired in some significant way, and in need of “repair” through some more or less authoritarian model of treatment and service delivery. Using the notion of disability as a jumping off point, in this paper we seek to answer the question, “How might a phenomenological orientation add to an understanding of addiction and help resolve some of the knotty issues debated in the literature today?” We argue that a phenomenological perspective is needed to resolve the current tensions in addiction discourse and to point the way toward a more effective response to the growing impact of addictions on human life in the present period.
We begin with an overview of disability and addiction, drawing out how the discourse in both fields has moved between individual and social models, and point out the underlying Cartesian assumptions within the discourses. We move on to provide a more detailed analysis of addiction discourses, including those informed by social justice and harm reduction perspectives. We then suggest a phenomenological critique of these literatures. Finally, we offer some thoughts on how a phenomenological perspective may inform a different and perhaps, more egalitarian understanding of addictive behaviours and how our responses may be altered if we acknowledge and incorporate the lifeworlds of those currently labelled “addicts.”
Spending several weeks in my seventy-second year reflecting on my experiences with different forms of disability reveals where I then, and now (mis)fit into this realm of common experience called humanity, and how I have come to constructively create purpose to my life and hermeneutically find meaning to the lifeworld (see Husserl, 1936). In this autoethnographic paper in the methods of Denzin (2013a, 2013b) and Van Manen (1997), I describe in italic my phenomenological experiences with disability at different existential levels of my maturity and development. I then punctuate each level with non-italic hermeneutic “looking back” reflections within the frame of Therborn’s (2013) types (vital, exi¬stential, and resource) and mechanisms (distanciation, exclusion, hierarchization, and exploitation) of inequality. Potential outcomes are: demonstrated hermeneutic reflection on lived experience for expanded ontological consciousness, and encouragement to those with disabilities to use self-as-instrument to tell their stories and name their truths.