A Passion for the Possible: Thinking with Paul Ricoeur

A Passion for the Possible: Thinking with Paul Ricoeur

A Passion for the Possible: Thinking with Paul Ricoeur

A Passion for the Possible: Thinking with Paul Ricoeur

Excerpt

The death of Paul Ricoeur brings to a close the brilliant career of one of the best and most important philosophers of the twentieth century. His books and essays have informed and inspired untold numbers of scholars, teachers, and intellectuals around the world, and will continue to do so for generations to come. As Ricoeur wrote, however, in memory of Emmanuel Mounier,

One of the cruelties of death is to alter profoundly the meaning of
a literary work in progress. Not only does the work no longer in
volve a continuation since it is finished in every sense of the word,
but it is also torn away from the dialogue of questions and answers
which situated its author among the living. It will forever remain a
written work and that is all. The break with its author is final; hence
forth it enters into the only history which is possible for it—that of
its readers and the men whom it will inspire. In a sense, a work
attains the truth of its literary existence when its author is dead:
every publication and every edition begins the inexorable relation
ship of living men with the book of a man who is virtually dead.

The “canon” is now closed, and as David Pellauer tells us, “we are able to see how much of what came later was already implicit in, if not already signaled in, [Ricoeur's] early work…. It is now possible, in other words, to trace lines of development in his thought because we know where they . . .

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