Paul Ricoeur's Philosophical Anthropology as Hermeneutics of Liberation
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Paul Ricoeur's Philosophical Anthropology as Hermeneutics of Liberation

Freedom, Justice, and the Power of Imagination

Roger W.H. Savage

  1. 198 pagine
  2. English
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eBook - ePub

Paul Ricoeur's Philosophical Anthropology as Hermeneutics of Liberation

Freedom, Justice, and the Power of Imagination

Roger W.H. Savage

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This book offers a unique account of the role imagination plays in advancing the course of freedom's actualization. It draws on Paul Ricoeur's philosophical anthropology of the capable human being as the staging ground for an extended inquiry into the challenges of making freedom a reality within the history of humankind.

This book locates the abilities we exercise as capable human beings at the heart of a sustained analysis and reflection on the place of the idea of justice in a hermeneutics for which every expectation regarding rights, liberties, and opportunities must be a hope for humanity as a whole. The vision of a reconciled humanity that for Ricoeur figures in a philosophy of the will provides an initial touchstone for a hermeneutics of liberation rooted in a philosophical anthropology for which the pathétique of human misery is its non- or pre-philosophical source. By setting the idea of the humanity in each of us against the backdrop of the necessity of preserving the tension between the space of our experiences and the horizons of our expectations, the book identifies the ethical and political dimensions of the idea of justice's federating force with the imperative of respect.

Paul Ricoeur's Philosophical Anthropology as Hermeneutics of Liberation will be of interest to scholars and advanced students working in hermeneutics, phenomenology, ethics, political theory, and aesthetics.

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1 Philosophical Anthropology, Poetics, and the Philosophy of the Will

The distress philosophical anthropology encounters in raising the pathétique of human misery to the level of discourse gives rise to a sustained meditation on how our fragility and vulnerability affect our power to intervene in the course of the world’s affairs. By taking the pathétique of misery as its non-philosophical source, this philosophical anthropology discovers its own limits in probing the depths of human wretchedness. Unable to redeem the pathos of our mortal condition, the discourse on the intermediacy of the being that we are sets the quest to realize our potential as capable human beings against the evil of violence and injustice. As such, philosophical anthropology is the staging ground for a prolonged inquiry into the challenges that mark out the ethical, political, and juridical terrain of the task for which the idea of our common humanity is the sign.
By taking the inability of philosophical discourse to subsume the pathos of our mortal limitations as my guide, I propose to draw out the connection between the capacities inscribed in the human condition and the aspiration for freedom that vests the task of realizing our common humanity with its moral, ethical, and political force. This aspiration acquires its concrete expressions in the ways that we reply to the violence and injustices that mar the course of historical events. The power we have to surpass conditions and circumstances in which we find ourselves owes its force to our ability to respond to crises, challenges, and exigencies in singularly appropriate ways. The aspiration that first takes hold in the ability we have to move our bodies thus gains its broader extension when, constrained by or subservient to the heteronomous rule of another, we seek to realize our own destinies in accordance with our heritages, convictions, and beliefs. The demand for autonomy, which as the prerogative of the subject of rights binds practical reason to the task of making freedom a reality for all, thus finds its initial anchorage in a philosophical anthropology for which the powers we exercise stand out against the backdrop of the pathétique of human misery.
Ricoeur’s philosophy of the will provides a critical touchstone in this regard. Through calling into question the claim on the part of the subject to proclaim itself to be the master of meaning, the revolution in the theory of subjectivity in which this philosophy plays a part marks a decisive moment in the advent of hermeneutical reason. By centering the world of objects on the Cogito, the first Copernican revolution marks the beginning of philosophy; the second Copernican revolution displaces the subject from the center that the subject professes to occupy as the foundation of the certitude of knowledge and truth. Inasmuch as the “object is for the subject, the involuntary is for the voluntary, motives are for choice, capacities [are] for effort, [and] necessity [is] for consent,”1 this second revolution marks out the limit and horizon of the philosophy of the will. Under the sign of the first Copernican revolution, the reversal of perspective that Ricoeur maintains renders the involuntary intelligible sets the relation between the voluntary and the involuntary in relief.2 Under the sign of the second Copernican revolution, the “deepening of subjectivity … displaces the center of reference [of being] from subjectivity to Transcendence.”3 This decentering of subjectivity thus introduces a poetic dimension into the philosophy of the will by bringing to the fore an incarnate freedom that is specifically human and not divine.

Poetics and the Philosophy of the Will

My interest in Ricoeur’s remarks on the poetics of the will stems as much from the fact that, for him, the philosophy of the will belongs to the future as it does from the way that the vision of a reconciled humanity, which was the intended object of this poetics, figures in a philosophy the anticipated third part of which was left incomplete.4 By bracketing Transcendence, which in the opening pages of the first volume of his projected three-part philosophy of the will he maintains “hides within it[self] the ultimate origin of subjectivity,”5 Ricoeur opens the door to an expansive inquiry into and meditation on the challenges of making this vision a reality. The sense of incompletion owing to the fact that the philosophy to which this poetics belongs has yet to be written counterpoints the one from which philosophical anthropology suffers in the face of its inability to redeem the pathos inhering in the pathétique of human misery. To the degree that the relation between freedom’s actualization and Transcendence resists its systematization, the project outlined by the poetics of the will delineates the horizon of philosophical anthropology’s thematic impulse to “reveal the ground of being as act, as energy, as power and not just as form, essence, logos.”6
For a philosophy of the will as much as for philosophical anthropology, the notion of “being as power and act”7 is the corollary counterpart of a meditation on the intermediary being that we are. Any final decision concerning Transcendence, which Ricoeur stresses a “doctrine of conciliation”8 between the voluntary and the involuntary necessarily entails, is therefore at once bound up with a commitment to philosophy’s deliverance from the hubris of the subject’s claim to posit itself, from the Cogito’s debasement, and from a style of thinking that dares to elevate itself to the level of the absolute. If, as Ricoeur maintains, refusing the necessity of the involuntary as that which is given to us is tantamount to defying the irruption of the “not yet” and the “much more,” the decision regarding Transcendence is in the first instance neither religious nor theological but instead follows the path that is the way of consent. How, Ricoeur asks, can we justify saying yes to an existence that is given to us apart from “passing a value judgment on the totality of the universe… [by] evaluating its ultimate suitability for freedom?”9 Consenting to a life on which the absence of aseity places its stamp is therefore meaningful only because, “in spite of appearances, the world is a possible stage for freedom.”10
If, as Ricoeur tells us, our incarnation as flesh delivers the will from its defiance of the givenness—the gift—of existence as expressed by the wish for absolute freedom, the fundamental choice of philosophy, “either God or I,”11 takes on its specifically philosophical tenor in the acknowledgment of the difference between Being and beings. This difference delineates the scission separating the capacity we have to surpass the real from within, which in the course of my reflections I will attribute to the power of imagination, from a freedom that would be divine. Richard Kearney suggests that Ricoeur’s “probing of a poetic hermeneutic of imagination represents … the ultimate, if discreet, agenda of his entire philosophical project.”12 For Kearney, “Ricoeur’s ultimate wager is [that for] a hermeneutics of creative imagination … creativity is ever-active and never-ending.”13 Drawing on the way that exemplary works and acts break new paths into the heart of the real, I mean in part to explore what role imagination plays in the task for which the vision of a reconciled humanity is a cipher. Our power to affect the world’s course, I will therefore say, draws its force from the capacity for surpassing or transcending the real from within. Transcendence, Ricoeur tells us, “liberates freedom from the fault,”14 the experience of which first takes hold in mythic expressions of sin and evil. Yet, if we live this Transcendence only insofar as freedom is itself liberated from the belief in a sovereign will, Transcendence as a genuine presence acquires a historically concrete dimension only through those works, words, deeds, and acts that give a figure and a body to the good, the right, and the just that we desire to be. Between myths of innocence and eschatological myths, problems and crises demanding a response lay bare those moments of decision when, following a process of deliberation, our actions bring about the “miracle” that Arendt reminds us inheres in every initiative that brings something new into the world.15 The philosophical itinerary that sets the project of freedom’s realization within the limits of an anthropology of the capable human being thus acquires its historical specificity only by reason of the capacities and powers that we exercise in response to the demands of the situations in which we find ourselves.
By asking whether the capacity to surpass the real from within evinced by works and acts that renew our manner of inhering in the world already has a place in a poetics for which the philosophy of the will is a critical touchstone, I intend to oppose the power we exercise in initiating a new course of action to the temptation to master time through elevating thought about history’s temporalization to the level of the absolute. As I will explain at length in a subsequent chapter, this power draws on the imagination’s operative role when, in answer to a difficulty, problem, or crisis, the fittingness of the response places its seal on a work or act’s exemplary value. The paths of freedom’s actualization acquire their ethical and political contours through the mediations that we bring about between the past and the future. When it c...

Indice dei contenuti

  1. Cover
  2. Half Title
  3. Title
  4. Copyright
  5. Dedication
  6. Contents
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. Introduction
  9. 1 Philosophical Anthropology, Poetics, and the Philosophy of the Will
  10. 2 The Practical Synthesis: Character, Happiness, and Respect
  11. 3 Affective Fragility, Vulnerability, and the Capable Human Being
  12. 4 The Wager of Imagination
  13. 5 Singularity, Exemplarity, Universality
  14. 6 Toward a Hermeneutics of Liberation
  15. 7 Conclusions
  16. Bibliography
  17. Index