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Dan Stiver

Hardin-Simmons University

Abilene, Texas
In the movement towards a post-secular society, one of the issues that drove “a secular age,” in Charles Taylor's terms, was the divide in epistemology between religion and epistemology in general. Religion typically came up short in light of the demands of modernity. This led to one extreme in Christian theology in particular of trying to meet those standards and make faith as rational and scientific as possible, with deism as an example on the liberal end and the impact of Scottish Common Sense Realism in evangelical theology on the other. Another extreme at the other end of the spectrum was to move to a fideistic stance that also had more liberal and conservative forms. As the high standards of modernity for epistemology, for example, Cartesian demands for clarity and distinctness, have broken down and religions have experienced resurgence, we are entering both a post-secular age and an age of hermeneutical reason. As one of the premier hermeneutical philosophers, along with Hans Georg-Gadamer, Paul Ricoeur's hermeneutical arc is well-known. One facet of the movement of the arc, however, has not been particularly re-evaluated in terms of his later thought, namely, the movement from the middle moment of “explanation” or critique to “appropriation.” As Ricoeur points out, there is often a short-circuit in the movement from critique to conviction I propose to draw on the notion of “practical wisdom” (phronesis) in Ricoeur as well as themes of unavoidable tragedy in ethics and linguistic translation and hospitality to indicate ways to traverse the fragile movement from criticism and to conviction. A major source, of course, will be the well-known book of interviews with Ricoeur entitled Critique and Conviction. The dynamics of the movement to conviction apply to reason in general but also to religious belief. This coming together or “interweaving,” to use the term Ricoeur applied to the relationship of historiography and fiction, is significant for the role of religion in a postsecular context. As Ricoeur said, it avoids the extremes of the “cogito exalted by Descartes and from the cogito that Nietzsche proclaimed forfeit.” (Oneself as Another, p. 23) I will compare then Ricoeur's notion of hermeneutical reason to another major candidate, the epistemology of the later Wittgenstein, especially in On Certainty, a comparison that is relatively infrequent both to measure the relative contributions of each but also to see where they complement each other.

The Capable Human Being in an Age of Environmental Violence
“Ricoeur in the Wild: Environmental Hermeneutics beyond the Cogito”

David Utsler, University of North Texas

“An Animal among Others: Ricoeur’s Ethics in Environmental Hermeneutics”

Nathan M. Bell, University of North Texas

This panel seeks to explore the relevance of Paul Ricoeur’s philosophy to contemporary environmental problems. We live not only in the age of hermeneutical reason, but also (and increasingly) in the age of unprecedented violence against the natural environment and nonhuman living things. What are we to say about the capable human being in an age of such environmental violence?

The first paper, “Ricoeur in the Wild: Environmental Hermeneutics beyond the Cogito,” seeks to draw on Ricoeur’s philosophy to re-examine the human/nature relationship. The hermeneutics of the self that Ricoeur developed provides a way of framing the human/nature relationship that isn’t trapped in the human/nature dualism of the cogito, while at the same time does not require that humans be dissolved into nature via the anti-cogito in order to solve the environmental crisis. This paper seeks to trace out both epistemological and ontological aspects of the hermeneutics of the self that will reveal that an underlying problem of the environmental crisis and the response of the environmental movement lies in the immediacy of self-reflection that characterizes the cogito as well as the shattered cogito. Either alternative leaves the capable human in a relationship with nature characterized by separation and alienation. The hermeneutics of the self places the capable human in the environment through an understanding of nature as one’s self and other than self simultaneously. Through this creative dialectical tension the self is constituted through the detours of reflection upon place and environment.

The second paper, “An Animal among Others: Ricoeur’s Ethics in Environmental Hermeneutics,” seeks to examine the possibility of ethical consideration of animals. The capable human being can have ethics with animals because we interpret and recognize both our selves and (animal) others. One possibility for animal ethics, in light of Ricoeur’s Onself as Another, is when a person interprets the animal other seeing her as able-to-judge, able to act ethically and do otherwise. In such cases this person clearly interprets the animal also, in judging her, as being able to judge. Such an interpretation is potentially possible because going beyond the cogito opens us to other ways of thinking about selfhood, agency, and judgment. With Ricoeur’s work we can further explore a openness to both different ideas of the self and therefore to different ideas of others. This brings us to potentially inclusive ideas of animal agency or suffering that open a ground for ethical consideration of animals.

The goal of this panel, then, is twofold: on the one hand, we want to show how Ricoeur’s philosophy can provide new approaches to the questions faced by environmental philosophers. On the other hand, engaging with environmental philosophy can help us to push the boundaries of the hermeneutical thinking we pursue with Ricoeur scholarship. In applying Ricoeur’s hermeneutics to the environment we can explore how this is an age of both hermeneutical and ecological reason.

Friedrich von Petersdorff

Independent Scholar

In 1984 Ricœur presented the Annual St. Thomas Aquinas Lecture at Marquette University in which he discussed “The Reality of the Historical Past” (published 1984). In his lecture Ricœur distinguishes three approaches of how to grasp the historical past. He analyses the past “under the sign of the Same, […] of the Other, and […] of the Analogue”. In this short lecture, nonetheless concise and precise, Ricœur presents and studies various ways how in the present it is possible to talk about history and how to address the quest for a true representation of the past. Apparently, Ricœur, in his lecture, discusses the topic of history (i.e. the hermeneutical and epistemological questions involved) in a manner different from his proceedings in “Time and Narrative” or in “Memory, History, Forgetting”, where history is being viewed in its interwovenness with and in its relatedness to other concepts such as time, memory and forgetting. In contrast, Ricœur’s analysis in his lecture (of history and of the related hermeneutical and epistemological questions) appears to be focussed on the topic of history itself. In my paper I, therefore, intend to present a detailed analysis of the three historical approaches Ricœur discusses in his lecture, in order to see how the concept of history is viewed differently in “The Reality of the Historical Past” as compared with the discussion of historical questions in “Time and Narrative” and “Memory, History, Forgetting”. I, further, argue that as Ricœur’s analysis of history in his lecture offers a detailed examination of the hermeneutical and epistemological questions regarding historical research mainly within the context of historical research itself it is worthwhile to re-read today his lecture, i.e. with Ricœur’s philosophical results of “Time and Narrative” and “Memory, History, Forgetting” in mind. I argue that such a reading will contribute in gaining a better understanding and appreciation of Ricœur’s contribution to the philosophical questions of history.

Interpreting Recognition and Politics. Ricoeur and Bedorf
Ernst Wolff

University of Pretoria

South Africa
Ricoeur studies will always benefit from confronting his work with the continuous debate on issues that were of concern to him. In my paper, I shall set up an encounter between Ricoeur’s later practical philosophy with one of the most significant recent publications on recognition, Thomas Bedorf’s Verkennende Anerkennung [Disregarding recognition], 2010. In this book, Bedorf formulates an immanent critique of the main trends of recognition theory (intercultural, intersubjective and subjectivising) and develops a new theory of recognition, in which attention to the asymmetrical and triadic nature of social relations prepares a conflict theory of identity claims as origin of the political.

Bedorf’s use of Ricoeur is limited to commentary on Parcours de la reconnaissance – he explores the difficulties in the relation between knowledge and recognition. Yet, this hardly represents the basis for a dialogue; Ricoeur seems to be simply surpassed by Bedorf.

However, taking the subtitle of Bedorf’s book Über Identität und Politik [On identity and politics] as lead, a fertile dialogue can reconstructed by following a detour through Ricoeur’s hermeneutics of the capable human. Here Ricoeur examines the identity of the self, the ethico-political import of which is of primary significance for my paper. The comparison now reveals two much more equal partners in discussion, with similar concerns and methodological orientations. Both authors situate their practical thought in the tension between Aristotle and Kant, both work with a notion of the historical constitution of identity, for both the relation to the third is as constitutive of identity as are the relations with the close-by other. Compared to Bedorf’s immanent critique of the three forms of recognition theory, Ricoeur fares well in avoiding the dyadic simplification of the structure of recognition (cf. institutional alterity), but can also offer valuable insights into the way identity is informed by alterity. Furthermore, when Bedorf describes the “struggle for recognition” as a “Widerstreit von Interpretationen” (12), he invites discussion on the conflict of interpretations.

Ricoeur should thus be considered of more interest to Bedorf’s project than initial impressions would suggest. Two major points of dialogue can be established.

  1. The apparent irresolvable contradiction between Bedorf’s conflict model of recognition and Ricoeur’s exploration of pacified recognition is a misreading by Bedorf. After clarifying the relation between these two positions, Ricoeur’s thought on mutual recognition can be complemented by selectively importing Bedorf’s key analyses on identity, the form of recognition, alterity, risk and the gift – thus giving impetus to further developments of Ricoeur’s social philosophy.

  2. But this dialogue is of mutual benefit. Bedorf’s articulation of politics and the political, derived from his theory of recognition, can be argued to have been anticipated by Ricoeur’s “political paradox”. The development of this central notion of Ricoeur’s political thought in the 1990s (as I have analysed elsewhere), is of greater sophistication than Bedorf’s attempt: (i) in articulating normative considerations with politics, (ii) by acknowledging the limits imposed on political action and responsibility by the tragic nature of action and (iii) in the array of strengths associated with approaching identity via capabilities.

The Changeux-Ricoeur Dialogue - how a ‘third discourse’ may bridge philosophy, science and religion
Michael Wong

Monash University

Melbourne, Australia
In the Changeux-Ricoeur dialogue, What makes us think? , which explores where science and philosophy meet, and whether there is a place for religion in contemporary society, Ricoeur hints at a ‘third discourse’ which may bridge the ordinary language (‘first discourse’) and the ‘specialist’ languages (‘second discourse’) of philosophy, neuroscience, religion and theology.
This paper examines the relevance of this notion of a ‘third discourse’ suggested by Ricoeur in Changeux-Ricoeur dialogue to the problems of dualism, reductionism and secularization.
In the dialogue Changuex the neuroscientist argues against mind-brain dualism, advocates a scientific/materialist reductionism and calls for the replacement of religion with ethics, art and music. In response Ricoeur prefers to address ontological dualism with semantic dualism rather than eliminative reductionism and proposes correctives rather than elimination of the religious.
This paper argues that a ‘third discourse’ in the possible form of a multilayered personal discourse that uses ordinary language and ‘specialist’ languages in a correlative but non-reductive way has the potential to promote explanation and understanding of human experience and overcome the problem of fragmentation of the person. It employs the notions of semantic dualism, methodological reductionism and three correctives for the religious and dialogues with a critical realist theological anthropology to address the challenges of ontological dualism, eliminative reductionism and secularization of culture.

Changeux J-P, Ricoeur P (2000) What Makes Us Think? A Neuroscientist and a Philosopher Argue about Ethics, Human Nature, and the Brain (Translated by M.B. Debevoise). Princeton: Princeton University Press.

1 David Tell, “Beyond Mnemotechnics: Confession and Memory in Augustine,” Philosophy and Rhetoric, Vol. 39, No. 3, 2006.

2 I do not include his final book, Living Up to Death (2009), published posthumously and comprised of drafts and fragments.

0 This paper builds on the work of Rebecca Huskey in Paul Ricoeur on Hope: Expecting the Good. (Peter Lang, 2009)

0 The Symbolism of Evil. (Beacon Press, 1967)

0 See in particular “The Self and Narrative Identity” in Ricoeur’s Oneself as Another. (University of Chicago Press, 1992)

0 See Isaiah 53.

0 See Leviticus 19, Exodus 12, and Hebrews 13.

0 This essay is found in The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur, Charles Reagan and David Stewart, editors. (Beacon Press, 1978)

0 Paul Ricoeur, “Hope and the Structure of Philosophical Systems,” in Figuring the Sacred, trans. David Pellauer, ed. Mark Wallace (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995), 203.

0 C.S. Peirce, Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, ed. Charles Hartshone, Paul Weiss, and Arthur Burks (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1958), 6: 610.

0 William James, Pragmatism, in William James: Writings 1902-1910, ed. Bruce Kuklick (New York: Library of America, 1987), 521.

0 C.S. Peirce, “How to Make Our Ideas Clear,” in The Essential Peirce, Volume 1 (1867-1893), ed. Nathan Houser and Christian Kloesel (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992), 132. My emphasis.

0 Paul Ricoeur, “Freedom in the Light of Hope,” trans. Denis Savage, in The Conflict of Interpretations, ed. Don Ihde (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1974), 414.

0 Paul Ricoeur, The Rule of Metaphor, trans. Robert Czerny (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1977), 199.

0 Paul Ricoeur, “The Hermeneutics of Symbols: I,” trans. Denis Savage, in The Conflict of Interpretations, 288.

0 Paul Ricoeur, “Violence and Language,” Political and Social Essays, eds. David Stewart and Joseph Bien, Athens: Ohio University Press, 1974.

0 Marjorie Suchocki, Fall to Violence: Original Sin in a Relational Theology. New York: Continuum Publishing,12.

0 Actually, in A Theory of Justice ‘economic inequality’ is the second part of the second principle and ‘offices and positions’ are the first part because just as the first principle (‘each person has an equal right to extensive total system of equal basic liberties’) takes precedent over the second principle, the first part of the second principle takes priority over the second part of the second principle. The consequences for this are enormous in explaining how Rawls responds to Marxism and utilitarianism at the same time, and for that matter any other existing school of thought or paradigm at the time he composed his major treatise.

0 Paul Ricoeur, Figuring the Sacred: Religion, Narrative, and Imagination, trans. David Pellauer (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995), 124.

0 Jaroslav Pelikan, Bach Among the Theologians Eugene, Oregan: Sipf & Stock, 1986), 62.

0 « De l'interprétation », in Du texte à l’action, pp. 33-34.

0 Gesammelte Werke 1, p. 462.

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