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PDF Hermeneutics and Phenomenology in Paul Ricoeur: Between Text and Phenomenon

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Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies. Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to explore the concept of hermeneutic phenomenology in Paul Ricoeur's philosophy. A major thesis of this study is that Paul Ricoeur's hermeneutic phenomenology is never freed from religious insights. If in a text like "Hermeneutics and existence", written in , one finds, for the first time, "hermeneutic phenomenology" as an elaborated concept with a specific purpose and a specific area of problems to be solved, ten years later, in "Phenomenology and Hermeneutics" , the aim, the problems and even the method change.

This study will argue that hermeneutic phenomenology is deeply rooted into the problem of evil.

Introduction in: Paul Ricoeur’s Idea of Reference

In other words, hermeneutic phenomenology emerges in the early works of Ricoeur as a "tool" for the perpetual problem of evil, even if, later, hermeneutic phenomenology loses its binds with the problem it emerged from and it becomes a landmark for Ricoeurian thought. Moreover, the paper also argues that Ricoeur develops "hermeneutic phenomenology" in order to find a philosophical method for approaching the religious discourse.

The main thesis of the present study asserts a simple fact: Paul Ricoeur's hermeneutics or, more properly, his hermeneutic phenomenology is never freed from religious not to say theological insights, despite the fact that Ricoeur advocates a different perspective. Thus, the first part of the text, From the problem of evil to self-understanding, will unfold the development of Ricoeur's first account of hermeneutics. Hence, it will point out that the core or the starting point of Ricoeur's hermeneutics is not a philosophical problem the problem of evil.

Consequently, the second part of the study, From self-understanding to interpretation, will emphasize how textual hermeneutics, named philosophical hermeneutics, still holds to a nonphilosophical insight. Perhaps in hindsight he did not emphasize as strongly the flipside, namely, that to become philosophical , hermeneutics requires phenomenology, in order that its interpretive strategies do not become free-floating, merely literary and textual inventions divorced from human experience and "ek-sistence" as well.

Hermeneutics guides the shift in phenomenology as a presuppositionless science in Husserl's sense to an enterprise that is immersed in and seeks to reclaim its presuppositions. Certainly, within the 19 th century, Dilthey paves the way for the development of hermeneutics, as Hegel first did for phenomenology, by introducing that term into the philosophical lexicon as endemic to his dialectical method.

In "Dilthey's Path," Jean-Claude Gens outlines the historical background from which Dilthey developed hermeneutics as the key to grounding the human sciences. Understanding as Verstehen is predicated anew upon such experience, which adds a new level of concreteness from which the meanings relevant to our humanity can be developed, pre-understood, and interpreted. In "Phenomenology and the Givenness of the Hermeneutical Circle," James Mensch addresses this development in three major figures of continental philosophy: Heidegger, Gadamer, and Ricoeur.

Following Dilthey's lead, Heidegger recognized originally that understanding Verstehen requires presuppositions. But understanding always precedes from what is pre-understood, entailing a set of presuppositions, which must be unraveled in the process of rendering that which is understandable, that is, in an act of interpretation. The "back and forth" movement of understanding, which for Heidegger is grounded in ecstatic temporality, proceeds along a circular path, giving rise to the hermeneutical "circle.

Heidegger's student, Hans-Georg Gadamer, appeals to the 19 th century thinker, Friedrich Schleiremacher, in order to resurrect the importance of the "relation of part to whole" to define the trajectory of human understanding The circle of understanding thereby extends to the relation between the Western tradition and the interpreter, thereby separating interpretation and history from their exclusive dependence on their ontological origins. Gadamer's reaffirmation of hermeneutics as focused on texts takes another turn in Paul Ricoeur's attempt to mediate "conflicting" interpretations, which occur across multiple fields of science and literature, theology and psychoanalysis.

Appealing to such thinkers as Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, Ricouer identifies a "hermeneutics of suspicion," which is inherently self-critical. The self-critical character of interpretation honors truth, not by trying to monopolize it on ontological grounds, but by allowing for a "plurality" of interpretations that must always be open to revision Ricoeur reaffirms Heidegger only to the extent that ontology still requires hermeneutics, that is, insofar as the emphasis is always on the "meaning of being" Sinn von Sein , rather than on being as an ideational concept Despite the German roots of both phenomenology and hermeneutics as well as their marriage , we must also acknowledge the evolution that occurs in such French thinkers as Merleau-Ponty, as well as Ricoeur.

Yet, as Arthos argues, Ricoeur's emphasis on "meaning" and its inscriptions in various discourse, e. This connection becomes evident as far back as Ricoeur's famous declaration in Fallible Man that the human being "is the joy of the 'yes' in the sadness of the finite. Between action and passion, production and reception, we are creatures of the in-between, shuttling back and forth endlessly" Heidegger's breakthrough hinges on recognizing that "meaning" cannot simply be conceptualized through theoretically derived categories, but must instead originate through the enactment of lived experience, specifically, the significations that accrue to the temporal, lived-through enactment of human facticity.

Arrien summarizes the evolution of Heidegger's hermeneutics in this way:. The significances Bedeutsamkeiten of life are lived; they express themselves and are always apprehended in this life. Hempel Carl G. New York : The Free Press. Henderson Greig E. Glossary of Literary Theory. Toronto : University of Toronto English Library. Herschel John W. Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press. Hesse Mary. Models and Analogies in Science.

Brighton : Harvester Press. Huskey Rebecca K. New York : Peter Lang. Husserl Edmond. Ihde Don. Evanston : Northwestern University Press.

Author Corner

Jervolino Domenico. Dordrecht : Kluwer. Jung Carl Gustav. Kantorovich Aharon. Scientific Discovery: Logic and Tinkering.

Citations en double

Albany, NY : Suny Press. Kearney Richard. Edited by T.