April 2014‎ > ‎

3. Faculty Spotlight: Shannon Hoff

Shannon Hoff, Associate Professor of Social and Political Philosophy, BA (Calvin College), PhD (Stony Brook University)

In addition to her role on the faculty of the Institute for Christian Studies, Shannon is President of the Canadian Society for Continental Philosophy. In 2013 she was a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Cultural Inquiry in Berlin, Germany. She is the author of The Laws of the Spirit: A Hegelian Theory of Justice, as well as of numerous articles in modern and contemporary political philosophy.

Shannon is interested in the largely invisible ways in which human beings are attached to each other, their families, their religious communities, their cultures, and their societies, and in discerning how political environments should be constituted so as to support those attachments and to protect against the kinds of vulnerabilities associated with them. Her writing and teaching have addressed all manner of issues associated with this basic phenomenon: the tensions between different forms of attachment, the nature of law, the phenomenon of conscience, the significance of specific forms of identification to human life, the difficulties of intercultural and interreligious communication, and the nature of political authority and of human freedom.

Shannon’s first book on these themes, The Laws of the Spirit: A Hegelian Theory of Justice, has just been published with SUNY Press. The book is an attempt to translate Hegel’s powerful ethical and political insights into the terms and discourse of contemporary political philosophy. Its focus is Hegel’s ambivalent attitude toward the modern political accomplishment represented by the idea of human rights: the idea that human beings have rights is a powerful political tool, but it also has the capacity to conceal other aspects of human life that are also of significant import. Using Hegel’s work she identifies those other aspects that also require political recognition and protection: first, we are always formed in the context of particular, familiar communities, to which we have a specific, partial, and largely unreflective attachment; and second, we are irreducibly singular and continuously capable of transforming our political contexts, our laws, and ourselves. Since writing the book on Hegel’s philosophy she has been working on related themes in Locke, Heidegger, Derrida, Fanon, and feminist philosophy, and hopes to eventually draw these various projects in political philosophy into a second book manuscript.

Currently Shannon is enjoying sabbatical leave, during which she has been giving talks and conducting workshops in exciting places such as Berlin, Delhi, Bombay, Istanbul, Vancouver, and Carbondale, Illinois. In the next few weeks she will be travelling to Arizona and Michigan for further workshops and talks at Northern Arizona University and Calvin College, her alma mater. In her new capacity as President of the Canadian Society for Continental Philosophy, Shannon is also currently planning the Society’s annual conference, which will take place in October in Vancouver. Finally, she is doing research for a new paper on Dooyeweerd, Hegel, and Derrida, on the theme of the relation between faith and knowledge and the consequences of that relation for the issue of inter-religious communication.