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Ricoeur’s Hermeneutic as Appropriation: A Way of

Understanding Oneself In Front of the Text

Ruby S. Suazo, Ph.D.


Department of Philosophy
University of San Carlos

This paper will focus on Ricoeur’s project of understanding the self in


contemporary thought. Marsh observes that the later Ricoeur – the Ricoeur in Oneself As
Another generally claims “that selfhood… implies otherness and vice versa.” 1 For
Ricoeur, the project of understanding the self culminates in his defining of the ethical
perspective as “aiming at the good life with and for others in just institutions.”2 Marsh
indicates that this definition has three components: “the self as oriented to the good,
solicitude as defining my life with others in community, and just institutions.” 3
Furthermore, the meaning of the good life is “something that one wishes or hopes for. It
is something that someone is concerned about either for oneself or for another.”4 I argue,
therefore, that the expansion of the self from being concerned with oneself to being
concerned with another does not happen instantaneously. This expansion is a consequent
of the self’s life-long reflective activity.

Ricoeur claims that Jean Nabert’s reflexive philosophy influenced greatly his
philosophizing. Accordingly, reflexive5 philosophy

considers the most radical philosophical problems to those that concern


the possibility of self-understanding as the subject of the operation of
knowing, willing, evaluating, and so on. Reflexion is that act of turning
back upon itself by which a subject grasps, in a moment of intellectual

1
James L. Marsh, “The Right and the Good: A Solution to the Communicative Ethics
Controversy” in Ricoeur as Another: The Ethics of Subjectivity, edited by Richard A. Cohen and James L.
Marsh (New York: SUNY Press, 2002), 224.
2
Paul Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, translated by Kathleen Blamey (Chicago: The University of
Chicago Press, 1992), 180 as cited by Marsh, 224.
3
Marsh, 224
4
Bernard P. Dauenhauer, “Response to Rawls” in Ricoeur as Another: The Ethics of Subjectivity,
edited by Richard A. Cohen and James L. Marsh (New York: SUNY Press, 2002), 210.
5
Kathleen Blamey narrates: “In French, the adjective reflexive incorporates two meanings that are
distinguished in English by reflective and reflexive. On the advice of the author (Paul Ricoeur) I have
chosen to retain the latter in order to emphasize that this philosophy is subject-oriented; it is reflexive in the
subject’s act of turning back upon itself. The other possible meaning should, however, also be kept in
mind.” Kathleen Blamey in the endnote of Paul Ricoeur, “On Interpretation,” From Text to Action: In
Hermeneutics, II, trans. by Kathleen Blamey and John B. Thompson (Illinois: Northwestern University
Press, 1991), 339.

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clarity and moral responsibility, the unifying principle of the operations
among which it is dispersed and forgets itself as subject.6

Ricoeur explains further, “The idea of reflexion carries with it the desire for absolute
transparence, a perfect coincidence of the self with itself, which would make
consciousness of self indubitable knowledge….” 7 However; this desire for absolute
transparency is not intuitively possible. It is only disclosed “through the mirror of the
objects and acts, the symbols and signs.” 8 Consequently, reflection becomes
interpretation.

Reflection as Interpretation

Ricoeur writes that all interpretation aims at overcoming the distance between the
past cultural epoch to which the text belongs and the interpreter himself. To overcome
this distance, the interpreter appropriates the meaning of the text to himself. He makes
familiar a foreign text by making it his own. In so doing, there is a conscious effort on
the part of the interpreter to arrive at a complete understanding of oneself. This,
however, is only possible through his understanding of the other. Thus, hermeneutics is
surmised as “self-understanding by means of understanding others.”9 Self-understanding
by means of understanding others signifies reflection, which must not be qualified as a
blind intuition. For reflection not to be a blind intuition, it must be mediated by the
expressions in which life objectifies itself. As Ricoeur quoted Nabert, the latter says that

reflection is nothing other than the appropriation of our act of existing by


means of a critique applied to the works and the acts which are the signs
of this act of existing. Thus, reflection is a critique. . . in the sense that the
cogito can be recovered only by the detour of a decipherment of the
documents of its life. Reflection is the appropriation of our effort to exist
and of our desire to be by means of the works which testify to this effort
and this desire..10

Ricoeur understands that “the increase in subjectivity... goes hand in hand with an
increase in reflection and meaning. Subjectivity is granted us in and through the great

6
Paul Ricoeur, “On Interpretation,” From Text to Action: Essays In Hermeneutics, II, 12.
7
Ibid., pp. 12 – 13.
8
John B. Thompson, “Editor’s Introduction” in Paul Ricoeur, Hermeneutics and the Human
Sciences: Essays on Language, Action, and Interpretation, edited, translated, and introduced by John B.
Thompson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 17. Cf. Paul Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy:
An Essay on Interpretation, translated by Denis Savage (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1970), 46.
9
Paul Ricoeur, “Existence and Hermeneutics,” The Conflict of Interpretations: Essays in
Hermeneutics, edited by Don Ihde (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1974), 16-17.
10
Ibid., 17-18.

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variety of experiences that have shaped a cultural heritage.” 11 The aim of reflexive
philosophy is “to appropriate in praxis an originary dynamism which grounds human
existence and with which the conscious, practical self does not coincide.”12 Through
reflection, the subject recaptures itself through the expressions of life that objectify it.
Nevertheless, Ricoeur recognizes the risk of the subject’s misinterpretation due to the
setting in of false consciousness. This is why he also emphasizes that reflection is a task –
“the task of equating my concrete experience with the affirmation: I am.”13 This does not,
however, dampen his spirit for he is positive that this is the reason why hermeneutics
becomes relevant. Hermeneutics exists due to misinterpretations.14

Reflexive philosophy becomes pertinent to Ricoeur’s project because it is neither


direct nor immediate. In fact, reflection needs to be doubly indirect for the reasons that
“existence is evinced only in documents of life [and that] because consciousness is first
of all false consciousness, and it is always necessary to rise by means of a corrective
critique from misunderstanding to understanding.”15 Nabert’s ethical philosophy seeks
to recapture the primordial source of human existence, a quest made indirectly possible
through the interpretation of the signs in which the “desire-to-be” is inscribed. This view
implies that there is at least a direct relationship between the understanding of the signs
of the “desire-to-be” and self-understanding. Henceforth, self-understanding passes
through the signs in which the self inscribes itself. Ricoeur believes that there exists a
relationship that is frequently disregarded, the relationship between the act of existence
and the signs in which this act is represented. For Ricoeur, the sign that mediates the
subject and its experience is inscribed in language. Language in turn is also inscribed in
the text.

The Text’s Proposed World

In Ricoeur’s theory of the text, there are two elements to be remembered. First,
Ricoeur wants to overcome the romantic notion of interpretation as understanding the
intentions of the author behind the text. To interpret is to grasp the world opened up in
front of the text. Secondly, Ricoeur develops a concept of the text as autonomous work,
which makes it possible to include a critical moment of explanation in the process of
interpretation.

In this sense, interpretation is put side by side with the moment of ‘understanding’
the situation of the reader apart from the writer. Interpretation thus becomes the
11
John Van den Hengel, The Home of Meaning: The Hermeneutics of the Subject of
Paul Ricoeur (Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1982), 15.
12
Ibid., 15-16.
13
Paul Ricoeur, “The Hermeneutics of Symbols and Philosophical Reflections: II,” The Conflict of
Interpretations, 329.
14
Paul Ricoeur, “Existence and Hermeneutics,” The Conflict of Interpretations, 18.
15
Ibid.

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projection of the ownmost possibilities that the reader can find in the situation. Ricoeur,
applying this to the theory of the text as autonomous, says that “what must be interpreted
in a text is a proposed world which I could inhabit and wherein I could project one of my
ownmost possibilities.”16

Because the meaning of the text is autonomous, it escapes from the psychological
intention of the writer. The truth value of the text is now independent from the writer’s
original intention. The sense of the text as envisioned by the author may now have a
reference different from the situation of the reader. The open-endedness of the text may
vary from one interpreter to another inasmuch as they vary in the projection of their
ownmost possibilities. The re-appropriation of the text becomes variable.

He explains further that “insofar as the meaning of a text is rendered autonomous


with respect to the subjective intention of its author, the essential question is not to
recover, behind the text, the lost intention but to unfold, in front of the text, the ‘world’ it
opens up and discloses.”17

In front of the text, the subject, i.e., both that of the author and the reader,
becomes secondary. 18 What is given primary importance is the matter of the text. By
freeing the text from the subjectivities of the author and the reader, the first task now of
hermeneutics, Ricoeur asserts, is “to seek in the text itself, on the one hand, the internal
dynamic that governs the structuring of the work and, on the other hand, the power that
the work possesses to project itself outside itself and to give birth to a world that would
truly be the ‘thing’ referred to by the text.”19 In short, the task of hermeneutics becomes
twofold: “to reconstruct the internal dynamic of the text and to restore to the work its
ability to project itself outside itself in the representation of a world that [the reader]
could inhabit.”20 This internal dynamic and external projection constitutes what Ricoeur
calls the work of the text.

As a result, Ricoeur resists the dialectic of understanding and explanation which


is the consequent of the two one-sided attitudes of reducing understanding to empathy
and of reducing explanation to an abstract combinatory system.21 To do so, he elucidates
again the meaning of understanding and explanation as follows: “by understanding I
mean the ability to take up again within oneself the work of structuring that is performed

16
Ibid., 142.
17
Paul Ricoeur, “Phenomenology and Hermeneutics,” From Text to Action: Essays In
Hermeneutics, II, (Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1991), 35.
18
Paul Ricoeur, “On Interpretation,” From Text to Action: Essays In Hermeneutics, II, 17.
19
Ibid.
20
Ibid., 18. See also Paul Ricoeur, “What is a Text? Explanation and Understanding”, From Text
to Action: Essays In Hermeneutics, II, 113.
21
Ibid., 19.

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by the text, and by explanation, the second-order operation grafted onto this
understanding which consists in bringing to light the codes underlying this work of
structuring that is carried through in company with the reader.”22 He explains further that
such a resistance leads him to use the very dialectic of understanding and explanation at
the level of the “sense” immanent in the text to define interpretation. He then claims that
this would be his first contribution to the hermeneutical philosophy out of which he is
working.23

Distanciation and Appropriation

“The driving force behind the desire to know is the need to make the world over
in terms that are meaningful.” 24 This is the polar force of the reader’s appropriation.
When the reader chooses to engage the otherness as constituted by a text, he nonetheless
enters into a struggle between appropriation and distanciation. This struggle occurs by
virtue of the productive engagement that happens between the text and the reader. This
productive engagement is seen as the process of redescribing the world, first, of the
reader himself and, second, that of others as inscribed in the text. Amdal considers this as
an interpretive process that “begins with the analytic power of explanation and is then
challenged by the unitary force of understanding.”25 The said engagement of explanation
and understanding is expected to produce the interpretation which in return responds to
the initial need to engage distanciation and appropriation.

Ricoeur employs the theory of the text26 because he finds it as a good guide for
showing that “the act of subjectivity is not so much what initiates understanding as what
terminates it. [Moreover, he takes] this terminal act [as] characteris[ing] appropriation.”27
To reiterate what has been said above, the rejoining of subjectivity is not the one that
supports the meaning of the text. It only responds to the matter of the text as proposed
meanings unfold in front of the text.

22
Ibid., 18 – 19.
23
Ibid., 19.
24
Geir Amdal. “Explanation and Understanding: The Hermeneutic Arc -- Paul Ricoeur’s Theory
of Interpretation”, Cand. Philol. Thesis, University of Oslo, May 2001 [thesis online]; available from
http://folk_uio_no/geira/thesis/thesis_pdf.pdf; 15 March 2007, 61.
25
Ibid.
26
Morrison comments that “a theory of texts is important in Ricoeur's hermeneutic as it offers the
interpreter space for the application of critical tools. True appropriation of a text's meaning is a reflexive
action realized at the intersection of ontological naiveté and critical distanciation.” Bradley T. Morrison. “A
Phenomenology of Marital Dynamics and Pastoral Care” [article online]; available from
http://www.xcelco.on.ca/~btmorrison/ricoeur/Ricoeur&Systems.html; 7 July 2006.
27
Paul Ricoeur, “Phenomenology and Hermeneutics,” Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences,
113.

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Here, distanciation becomes very important. The introduction of distanciation,
first, establishes the autonomy of the text with respect to its author, its situation and its
original reader. Ricoeur also confirms the existence of a second distanciation “by which a
new being-in-the-world, projected, is freed from the false evidences of every reality.”28
He asserts that “distanciation implements all the strategies of suspicion, among which the
critique of ideology is a principal modality. Distanciation, in all its forms and figures,
constitutes par excellence the critical moment in understanding.” 29 In other words,
distanciation is understood as more than a mere distance as it implies a creation of
distance, in order to permit a re-description of reality.

Distanciation as a methodology corresponds to what Ricoeur calls as the first way


of reading a text. Reading, first, “can prolong and reinforce the suspense which affects
the text’s reference to a surrounding world and to the audience of speaking subjects.”30
The first way of reading is referred to as an explanatory attitude. This first reading
confirms the first and second distanciation explained above. The real aim of reading,
however, is borne by the second way, which becomes the real aim because it “lift[s] the
suspense and fulfill[s] the text in present speech…. [It] reveals the true nature of the
suspense which intercepts the movement of the text towards meaning.”31

The text’s movement towards meaning may closely affirm possible imaginative
variation of the ego. With this possibility, a critique of the illusions of the subject is very
much needed. This only happens if and only if the second way of reading a text operates
like a premature appropriation that is directed against an alienating distanciation.
However, if distanciation is taken as a condition of a possible understanding of oneself in
front of the text, then it can aptly be taken as an avenue of the critique of ideology which
organically implies a critique of the illusions of the subject. From this, Ricoeur describes
distanciation as “[d]istanciation from oneself [that] demands that the appropriation of the
proposed worlds offered by the text passes through the disappropriation of the self.” 32

28
Paul Ricoeur, “Phenomenology and Hermeneutics,” Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences,
113.
29
Ibid.
30
Paul Ricoeur, “What is a Text? Explanation and Understanding,” Hermeneutics and the Human
Sciences, 158.
31
Ibid.
32
Paul Ricoeur, “Hermeneutics and the Critique of Ideology,” Hermeneutics and the Human
Sciences, 94. “[T]he concept of ‘appropriation’… demands an internal critique. For the metamorphosis of
the ego… implies a moment of distanciation in the relation of self to itself; hence understanding is as much
disappropriation as appropriation. A critique of the illusions of the subject… therefore can and must be
incorporated into self-understanding. The consequence for hermeneutics is important: we can no longer
oppose hermeneutics and the critique of ideology. The critique of ideology is the necessary detour which
self-understanding must take, if the latter is to be formed by the matter of the text and not by the prejudices
of the reader.” Paul Ricoeur, “The Hermeneutical Function of Distanciation,” Hermeneutics and the
Human Sciences, 144.

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Consequently, the critique on the illusions of the subject is a critique of false
consciousness that can become an integral part of hermeneutics.33

Distanciation abolishes in appropriation “any trace of affective affinity with the


intention of an author.”34 Appropriation connotes understanding at and through distance.
This makes the possibility of integrating appropriation into the theory of interpretation
without introducing again the primacy of subjectivity. 35 Ricoeur ascertains this as he
says:

That appropriation does not imply the secret return of the sovereign
subject can be attested to in the following way: if it remains true that
hermeneutics terminates in self-understanding, then the subjectivism of
this proposition must be rectified by saying that to understand oneself is to
understand oneself in front of the text. Consequently, what is appropriation
from one point of view is disappropriation from another. To appropriate is
to make what was alien become one’s own. What is appropriated is indeed
the matter of the text. But the matter of the text becomes my own only if I
disappropriate myself, in order to let the matter of the text be. So I
exchange the me, master of itself, for the self, disciple of the text.36

Thus, at the very heart of self-understanding, the dialectic of objectification and


understanding, which are first perceived at the level of the text with its structures, sense
and reference, is set in place.

Appropriation: A New Concept of Interpretation

The ultimate aim in reading a text remains the understanding of what it means to
the reader. To understand the text is to interpret it. And, by interpretation, it means “the
concrete outcome of conjunction and renewal.”37 Conjunction and renewal are necessary
elements for the reason that to read is “to conjoin a new discourse to the discourse of the
text. [Furthermore,] this conjunction of discourses reveals… an original capacity for
renewal which is its open character.”38 Thus, “an interpretation is not authentic unless it

33
Ibid., 95.
34
Paul Ricoeur, “Hermeneutical Function of Distanciation,” Hermeneutics and the Human
Sciences, 143.
35
Paul Ricoeur, “Phenomenology and Hermeneutics,” Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences,
113.
36
Ibid. See also, Paul Ricoeur, “Intellectual Autobiography” in Lewis Edwin Hahn, ed., The
Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur (Illinois: Open Court: 1995), 35.
37
Paul Ricoeur, “What is a Text? Explanation and Understanding,” Hermeneutics and the Human
Sciences, 158.
38
Ibid.

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culminates in some form of appropriation (Aneignung), if by that term we understand the
process by which one makes one’s own (eigen) what was initially other or alien
(fremd).”39 As Ricoeur expounds:

By ‘appropriation’, I understand this: that the interpretation of a text


culminates in the self-interpretation of a subject who thenceforth
understands himself better, understands himself differently, or simply
begins to understand himself. This culmination of the understanding of a
text in self-understanding is characteristic of the kind of reflective
philosophy which… I have called ‘concrete reflection’.40

Nonetheless, appropriation implies “a moment of dispossession of the egoistic and


narcissistic ego.”41 It is “the… making-one’s-own, of the ground of one’s existence, the
home of the subject.”42 Thus, the moment of appropriation marks the appearance of the
subjectivity of the reader.

It must be noted, however, that although appropriation marks the appearance of


the subjectivity of the reader,

[t]he act of appropriation does not seek to rejoin the original intentions of
the author, but rather to expand the conscious horizons of the reader by
actualizing the meaning of the text. Although interpretation thus
culminates in self-understanding, it cannot be equated with naïve
subjectivism. Ricoeur emphasizes that appropriation is not so much an act
of possession as an act of dispossession, in which the awareness of
immediate ego is replaced by a self-understanding mediated through the
text. Thus interpretation gives rise to reflection because appropriation is
bound to the revelatory power of the text, to its power to disclose a
possible world.43

39
Paul Ricoeur, “Metaphor and the Central Problem of Hermeneutics,” Hermeneutics and the
Human Sciences, 178. See also Paul Ricoeur, “Phenomenology and Hermeneutics,” Hermeneutics and the
Human Sciences, 113; Paul Ricoeur, “What is a Text? Explanation and Understanding,” Hermeneutics and
the Human Sciences, 159; “Appropriation,” Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences, 185.
40
Paul Ricoeur, “What is a Text? Explanation and Understanding,” Hermeneutics and the Human
Sciences, 158.
41
Paul Ricoeur, Interpretation Theory: Discourse and Surplus of Meaning (Texas: The Texas
University Press, 1976), 94.
42
Van den Hengel, The Home of Meaning: The Hermeneutics of the Subject of Paul Ricoeur, 194.
43
John B. Thompson, “Editor’s Introduction” in Paul Ricoeur, Hermeneutics and the Human
Sciences, 18 – 19. Thompson further explains that “the culmination of interpretation in an act of
appropriation indicates that ontology forms the ultimate horizon of hermeneutics. In endorsing the quest for
ontology, Ricoeur reveals his distance from most Anglo-Saxon philosophies of language, as well as his
proximity to the work of Heidegger and Gadamer. Like the latter authors, Ricoeur considers hermeneutics
to be concerned with the understanding of being and the relations between beings. Nevertheless, Ricoeur
wishes to “resist the temptation to separate truth, characteristic of understanding, from the method put into

8
Even then, following the Husserlian phenomenology, subjectivity is not considered as
correlate of objectivity, that is, a subjectivity that constitutes objectivity. Subjectivity is
grounded on the ontological participation of being-in-the-world. The subject can provide
an epistemological justification and operate methodologically, only because of its
primordial grounding in participation. “The concept of participation breaks with any
vision of a self-constituting subjectivity. Participation implies that it is not the subject
who is the source of the unity of meaning, but something that precedes the subject.”44
Van den Hengel explains that “the sense of human experience is made through us but not
by us. We do not dominate the meaning, but meaning makes us at the same time that we
make it.”45 This assures that appropriation is never equivalent to the idea of an imperial
subject. This assurance, furthermore, is anchored on his insistence that appropriation is
dialectically linked to the objective characteristic of the text.

Ricoeur’s idea of understanding as self-understanding is not the same as the idea


of a self-conscious subject. The meaning of the consciousness is not derived from the
ego; it is derived from something outside itself. Ricoeur explains that

what I appropriate is a proposed world. The latter is not behind the text, as
a hidden intention would be, but in front of it, as that which the work
unfolds, discovers, reveals. Henceforth, to understand is to understand
oneself in front of the text. It is not a question of imposing upon the text
our finite capacity of understanding, but of exposing ourselves to the text
and receiving from it enlarged self, which would be the proposed
existence corresponding in the most suitable way to the world proposed.46

For Ricoeur, the appropriation of the subject, which is the completion of interpretation, is
accomplished through reading. The transformation of the objectivity and autonomy of the
text into an event of discourse for a reader further completes interpretation. This is
accomplished when reading transforms the otherness of the text into an event of
discourse which happens to be a new one for the subject. The transformation is new in
the sense that it is “not a repetition of the original event, but a creation produced at the
behest of the text.”47 The result of appropriation is the drifting away of the text from its
original addressees. In other words, the constitution of the reader’s self is not

operation by disciplines which have sprung from exegesis”. (See Paul Ricoeur, “Existence and
Hermeneutics,” The Conflict of Interpretations, 11.)
44
Van den Hengel, The Home of Meaning: The Hermeneutics of the Subject of Paul Ricoeur, 107.

45
Ibid.

46
Paul Ricoeur, “The Hermeneutical Function of Distanciation,” Hermeneutics and the Human
Sciences, 143.
47
Van den Hengel, The Home of Meaning: The Hermeneutics of the Subject of Paul Ricoeur, 201.

9
contemporaneous with that of the original addressees but with the constitution of
meaning that the text projects.48

Even though the ultimate aim of all hermeneutics is to render one’s own what was
previously considered as alien, appropriation must not lose its existential force. This is to
be so because the aim of interpretation is to actualize the meaning of the text for the
present reader.49 Ricoeur confers that

[a]ppropriation remains the concept for the actualization of the meaning as


addressed to somebody. Potentially a text is addressed to anyone who can
read. Actually it is addressed to me, hic et nunc. Interpretation is
completed as appropriation when reading yields something like an event,
an event of discourse, which is an event in the present moment. As
appropriation, interpretation becomes an event.50

Ricoeur likens this to “the execution of a musical score; it marks the realization, the
enactment, of the semantic possibilities of the text.”51 In other words, appropriation as an
interpretation though commences from reading, it culminates in a concrete act like that of
speech in relation to discourse as its event and instance. Appropriation starts from
looking at the text as having a sense only. Even then, at the moment, a meaning is already
realized in the discourse of the reading of the subject.

Appropriating the meaning of the text implies that an insurmountable


responsibility is placed upon the subject as it might “constitute the primary category of a
theory of understanding.”52 Ricoeur assures all over time that appropriation does not
imply the surreptitious return of the sovereign subject. As he asserts, “[appropriation]
does not purport, as in Romantic hermeneutics, to rejoin the original subjectivity that
would support the meaning of the text. Rather it responds to the matter of the text, and
hence to the proposals of meaning the text unfolds.”53 Furthermore, appropriation loses
its arbitrariness insofar as it is the recovery of that which is at work, in labor, within the
text. What the interpreter says is a re-saying which activates what is said by the text.54

48
Paul Ricoeur, “What is a Text? Explanation and Understanding,” Hermeneutics and the Human
Sciences, 159.
49
Paul Ricoeur, Interpretation Theory, 91 – 92.
50
Ibid., 92.
51
Ibid.
52
Paul Ricoeur, “Intellectual Autobiography”, 35.
53
Paul Ricoeur, “Phenomenology and Hermeneutics,” From Text to Action: Essays in
Hermeneutics, II, 37.
54
Paul Ricoeur, “What is a Text? Explanation and Understanding,” Hermeneutics and the Human
Sciences, 164.

10
Appropriating the text to one’s self-understanding must not be understood as the
culminating point of reading. It however anticipates the metamorphosis of the self. Thus,
reading should end with acting inasmuch as reading effects thought. As Ricoeur
remarkably points out in his intellectual autobiography, Mounier convinces him that “a
flexible connection between… thought and action, without separating them or mixing
them together” 55 must always be effected. This conviction leads him later in life to
elaborate the answers for the two remaining points of his later three problematics. The
three problematics, Ricoeur says, are grouped together as “that of the text…, that of
action…, and that of history.” 56 Ricoeur concludes it however by saying that “it was
action… that occupied the median position between the text and history”57 because “in a
philosophy that was increasingly seen as a practical philosophy, acting constitutes the
core of what … is called being-in-the-world or … the act of inhabiting.”58

References

Amdal, Geir. “Explanation and Understanding: The Hermeneutic Arc -- Paul Ricoeur’s
Theory of Interpretation.” Cand. Philol. Thesis, University of Oslo, May 2001.
Thesis online. Available from http://folk_uio_no/geira/thesis/thesis_pdf.pdf.
Accessed March 15, 2007.

Marsh, James L. “The Right and the Good: A Solution to the Communicative Ethics
Controversy” in Ricoeur as Another: The Ethics of Subjectivity. Edited by Richard
A. Cohen and James L. Marsh. New York: SUNY Press, 2002.

Morrison, Bradley T. A Phenomenology of Marital Dynamics and Pastoral Care. Article


online. Available from
http://www.xcelco.on.ca/~btmorrison/ricoeur/Ricoeur&Systems.html. Accessed 7
July 2006.

Ricoeur, Paul. The Conflict of Interpretations: Essays in Hermeneutics. Edited by Don


Ihde. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1974.

_____. Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation. Translated by Denis Savage.


New Haven: Yale University Press, 1970.

_____. From Text to Action: Essays in Hermeneutics, II. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern
University Press, 1991.

55
Paul Ricoeur, “Intellectual Autobiography”, 9.
56
Ibid., 32.
57
Ibid.
58
Ibid., 38.

11
_____. Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences: Essays on Language, Action, and
Interpretation. Edited, Translated, and Introduced by John B. Thompson.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981.

_____. “Intellectual Autobiography” in Lewis Edwin Hahn, ed. The Philosophy of Paul
Ricoeur. Illinois: Open Court, 1995.

_____. Interpretation Theory: Discourse and Surplus of Meaning. Texas: Texas


University Press, 1976.

_____. Oneself As Another. Translated by Kathleen Blamey. Chicago: University of


Chicago Press, 1992.

Thompson, John B. “Editor’s Introduction” in Paul Ricoeur, Hermeneutics and the


Human Sciences: Essays on Language, Action, and Interpretation. Edited,
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Van den Hengel, John W. The Home of Meaning: The Hermeneutics of the Subject of
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