Paul Ricoeur

(1913 — June 16, 2005 )


Official Academic Homepage
Notice of Death: Philosophia Perennis
Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Sources and implications of his ideological concept
Excerpt from Hermeneutics and The Human Sciences
Texts online
Philosophic voyage
Ricoeur and Derrida
Ricoeur's Husserl in Time and Narrartive
Portrait (German)
Hermeneutics of Suspicion
Paul Ricoeur: links
Overview: Encarta
Bibliography: Kirchenlexicon
Laudatio and Profile


“Hermeneutics seems to me to be animated by this double motivation: willingness to suspect, willingness to listen; vow of rigor, vow of obedience. In our time we have not finished doing away with idols and we have barely begun to listen to symbols. It may be that this situation, in its apparent distress, is instructive: it may be that extreme iconoclasm belongs to the restoration of meaning.” (Freud and Philosophy, 27)

“We feel that interpretation has a history and that this history is a segment of tradition itself. Interpretation does not spring from nowhere; rather, one interprets in order to make explicit, to extend, and so to keep alive the tradition itself, inside which one always remains. It is in this sense that the time of interpretation belongs in some way to the time of tradition. But tradition in return, even understood as the transmission of a depositum, remains a dead tradition if it is not the continual interpretation of this deposit: our ‘heritage’ is not a sealed package we pass from hand to hand, without ever opening, but rather a treasure from which we draw by the handful and which by this very act is replenished. Every tradition lives by grace of interpretation, and it is at this price that it continues, that is, remains living.” (Structure and Hermeneutics, 27)

“All three [Marx, Nietzche, and Freud] clear the horizon for a more authentic word, for a new reign of Truth, not only by means of a ‘destructive’ critique, but by the invention of an art of interpreting.” (Freud and Philosophy, 33)

“Reading is the pharmakon, the remedy, by which the meaning of the text is rescued from the estrangement of distanciation and put in a new proximity which suppresses and preserves the cultural distance and includes the otherness within the ownness” (Interpretation Theory, 43).

“Tradition raises no philosophical problem as long as we live and dwell within it in the naivete of the first certainty. Tradition only becomes problematic when the first naivete is lost. Then we have to retrieve its meaning through and beyond estrangement. Endless struggle with distanciation.” (Interpretation Theory, 43-44)

"The right of the reader and the right of the text converge in an important struggle that generates the whole dynamic of interpretation. Hermeneutics begins where dialogue ends." (Interpretation Theory, 32)

“For Gadamer we must choose between truth or method. Ricoeur, on the other hand, suggests not an opposition, but a dialectical relationship. . . between explanations (method) and understanding (truth) which enable us more adequately to describe the tension between the self and the other, and to remain responsible to . . . explanatory methods.” (David Jaspers, “The Limites of Formalism and the Theology of Hope: Ricoeur, Moltmann and Dostoyevsky," In Literature and Theology, I, 1987, 4; cf. 1-10.)



Select Bibliography

  • Gabriel Marcel and Karl Jaspers. Philosophie du mystère et philosophie du paradoxe. Paris: Temps Present, 1948.
  • Philosophie de la volonté. Trilogy. 1950-61.
    -Vol. 1: Le volontaire et l’ involontaire. Paris: Aubier, 1949; Trans. Erazim Kohak. Freedom and Nature: The Voluntary and Involuntary. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1966.
    -Vol. 2: L’homme faillible 1960; Trans. Fallible Man. Chicago: Regnery, 1967; Ttrans. with an introduction by Walter J. Lowe, New York: Fordham University Press, 1986.
    -Vol. 3: La symbolique du mal. Histoire et vérité. 1955; Trans. Emerson Buchanan. The Symbolism of Evil. Boston: Beacon Press, 1967.
  • De l’interpretations: Essai sur Freud. Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1965; Trans. Denis Savage. Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation. New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1970.
  • “The Hermeneutical Function of Distanciation,” Philosophy Today 17 (1973).
  • Le conflit des interprétations. 1969; Trans. Willis Domingo et al. The Conflict of Interpretations. Ed. Don Ihde, Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1974
  • La métaphore vive. 1975.
  • French 1975; Trans. The Rule of Metaphor. Multi-disciplinary Studies of the Creation of Meaning in Language. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1977; Trans. Robert Czerny with Kathleen McLaughlin and John Costello, S. J., London. London: Routledge/Kegan Paul, 1978.
  • Interpretation Theory: Discourse and the Surplus of Meaning. Fort Worth: Texas Christian Press, 1976.
  • La sémantique de l'action. 1978.
  • Paul Ricoeur, “Explanation and Understanding: On Some Remarkable Connections Among the Theory of the Text, Theory of Action, and Theory of History,” In The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur: An Anthology of His Work, eds. C. Reagen and D. Stewart (Boston: Beacon Press, 1978):149-166..
  • Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences: Essays on Language, Action and Interpretation. Ed., Trans. John B. Thompson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981.
  • Temps et récit. 3 Vols. 1983-85; Trans. Kathleen McLaughlin and David Pellauer, Time and Narrative. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984, 1985, 1988.
  • La configuration du temps dans le récit de fiction. 1984.
  • Lectures on Ideology and Utopia. Ed., Trans. George H. Taylor. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985.
  • Le temps raconté. 1986.
  • À l’école de la philosophie. Paris: J. Vrin, 1986.
  • Du texte à l'action. 1986; Trans. Kathleen Blamey and John B. Thompson. From Text to Action: Essays in Hermeneutics II, Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1991.
  • Le mal: Un défi à la philosophie et à la théologie. Geneva: Labor et Fides, 1986.
  • Time and Narrative, Vols. 1-2, Trans. Kathleen McLaughlin and David Pellauer, 1984-85; vol. 3, Trans. Kathleen Blamey and David Pellauer, 1988. Began in 1981 as a seminar at the University of Toronto and culminated in a four-part study published in three volumes, from 1983 to 1985.
  • Soi-même comme un autre. 1990; Trans. Kathleen Blamey. Oneself as Another. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.
  • A Ricoeur Reader: Reflection and Imagination. Ed. Mario J. Valdes. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991.
  • Lectures I. Autour du politique. Paris: Seuil, 1991.
  • Lectures II. La Contrée des philosophes. Paris: Seuil, 1992.
  • Lectures III. Aux frontières de la philosophie. Paris: Seuil, 1993.
  • Le juste. 1995; Trans. David Pellauer. The Just. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.
  • Réflexion. 1996.
  • Entretiens: la critique et la conviction, 1996; Trans. Kathleen Blamey. Critique and Conviction, New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.
  • L'idéologie et l’utopie. Paris, Seuil, 1997.
  • La nature et la règle, with Jean-Pierre Changeux, 1998.
  • Penser la Bible, with André Lacoque, 1998.
  • La Mémoire, l’histoire, l’oubli. Paris: Seuil, 2000.
  • Le Juste II. Paris: Esprit, 2001.
  • Parcours de la reconnaissance. Paris, Plon,
  • Sur la traduction. Paris, Bayard, 2004.

    Secondary Sources

  • Dornisch, Loretta. “Symbolic Systems and the Interpretation of Scripture: An Introduction to the Work of Paul Ricoeur,” Semeia 4 (1975) 1-22.
  • Klemm, David E. The Hermeneutical Theory of Paul Ricoeur: A Constructive Analysis. London/Toronto: Association of University Presses, 1983.
  • Reagan, Charles E. and David Stewart (eds).The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur: An Anthology of his Work. Boston: Beacon Press, 1978.
  • Vanhoozer, Kevin J. Biblical Narrative in the Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur. A Study in Hermeneutics and Theology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
  • White, Erin. “Between Suspicion and Hope: Paul Ricoeur's Vital Hermeneutic,” Journal of Literature and Theology 5 (1991) 311-21.

  • 1930’s in Paris as student of the Christian existentialist, Gabriel Marcel (1889-1973)
  • 1933-1934, Professeur de lycée à Saint-Brieuc
  • 1935-1936, Professeur de lycée à Colmar
  • 1937-1939, Professeur de lycée à Lorient
  • 1935-45, prisoner of war in Germany; used the time to study the philosophies of Jaspers, Husserl and Heidegger
  • 1945-1948, Involved with the research at CNRS
  • Since 1947, Member of the editorial committee of Esprit
    1948-1956, Professeur d'histoire de la philosophie à la Faculté des lettres de Strasbourg
  • Since 1956, Professeur de philosophie générale à la Faculté des Lettres de Paris
  • 1969, Dean of Faculté des Lettres de Nanterre.
  • 1970, Professeur de philosophie à l'Université de Paris X-Nanterre, and at the University of Chicago (Divinity School).
  • 1971, gives address to Univerisity of Chicago (available in Rule of Metaphor [1978] 315-22)