Discourse and critique in the hermeneutic phenomenology of Paul Ricoeur

David M Kaplan, Fordham University


This work traces the development Paul Ricoeur's recent hermeneutic phenomenology since the late 1960's, and develops the critical element within Ricoeur's recent thought by examining his conceptions of ideology and utopia, and the relationship between hermeneutics and critical theory, in order to elaborate a critical and rationally justified interpretation of human action for the social sciences. Particular attention is paid to Ricoeur's works on metaphor, narrative, and ethics in the context of a critical theory of power, ideology and history. Hermeneutics, if properly conceived, is, at the same time, a critical theory of society geared toward identifying ideological formations and utopian possibilities of liberation. The Habermas-Gadamer debate forms the backcloth for this study by functioning like a hidden dialogue partner that informs our reading of the development of Ricoeur's thought. I propose an extension of Ricoeur's conception of a critique of ideology in two directions, corresponding a phenomenology of the will, and a narrative theory of human action. The result of this extension, or interpolation, is to deepen and clarify a thought path begun by Ricoeur. The basis for a critique of ideological action is a conception of truth that incorporates a Husserlian notion of evidential experience, and a Habermasian notion of truth as consensus. The normative basis for critique is Ricoeur's conception of discourse ethics, which incorporates an Aristotelian conception of the good life, and a Kantian conception of autonomy and deontological moral norm. Ricoeur's model of interpretation and critique surpasses both Habermas and Gadamer, by integrating the Habermasian validity basis of discourse within a broader, phenomenologically grounded conception of human experience and action that emphasizes the creative and imaginative uses of language for interpretation, critique, practical reason, and self-reflection.

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Recommended Citation

Kaplan, David M, "Discourse and critique in the hermeneutic phenomenology of Paul Ricoeur" (1998). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9816348.