Moral Creativity: Paul Ricoeur and the Poetics of Possibility

Moral Creativity: Paul Ricoeur and the Poetics of Possibility

Moral Creativity: Paul Ricoeur and the Poetics of Possibility

Moral Creativity: Paul Ricoeur and the Poetics of Possibility

Synopsis

In Moral Creativity, John Wall argues that moral life and thought are inherently and radically creative. Human beings are called by their own primordially created depths to exceed historical evil and tragedy through the ongoing creative transformation of their world. This thesis challenges ancient Greek and biblical separations of ethics and poetic image-making, as well as contemporary conceptions of moral life as grounded in abstract principles or preconstituted traditions. Taking as his point of departure the poetics of the will of Paul Ricoeur, and ranging widely into critical conversations with Continental, narrative, feminist, and liberationist ethics, Wall uncovers the profound senses in which moral practice and thought involve tension, catharsis, excess, and renewal. In the process, he draws new connections between sin and tragedy, practice and poetics, and morality and myth. Rather than proposing a complete ethics, Moral Creativity is a meta-ethical work investigating the creative capability as part of what it means, morally, to be human. This capability is explored around four dimensions of ontology, teleology, deontology, and social practice. In each case, Wall examines a traditional perspective on the relation of ethics to poetics, critiques it using resources from contemporary phenomenology, and develops a conception of a more original poetics of moral life. In the end, moral creativity is a human capability for inhabiting tensions among others and in social systems and, in the image of a Creator, creating together an ever more radically inclusive moral world.

Excerpt

This book argues that moral life is inherently creative. It claims that creativity is element in not just the expression of moral sentiments, the application of moral principles, or the formation of moral cultures, but also the very activity of living morally itself. This argument is made in large part through an examination and critique of the moral thought of the French hermeneutical phenomenologist Paul Ricoeur, especially in relation to his philosophical and religious poetics of the will. But it also enters into a wide range of both historical and contemporary conversations about the relation of ethics to poetics and the possibilities for human moral transformation. in the process, the book draws new connections between ethics and creativity, evil and tragedy, philosophy and religion, and moral thought and mythology. If moral life is creative at its core, this proposition challenges such oppositions and demands a fundamental rethinking of the nature and meaning of moral life itself.

The present work continues a line of inquiry already begun and to be further extended in the future. This book establishes a metaethical or justificatory groundwork for conceiving of moral life as creative in the first place. This means that it does not propose a complete normative ethics: it does not lay out guidelines for making moral decisions in practice. It is a book about the kind of activity that moral practice is, not the activities themselves that might therefore be morally right. Any detailed normative implications of the present inquiry are left to future works. First it is necessary, given a long quarrel in Western thought between the ethicists and the poets, to show what it could mean for moral life to involve a creative capability at all, a capability so much more readily acknowledged in other areas of human thought and practice.

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