Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

Paul Ricoeur (1913-2005)

Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

Paul Ricoeur (1913-2005)

Article excerpt

27 February 1913, in Valence, France, Paul Ricoeur was inscribed into the spatial, temporal, and social register by his birth certificate, son of Jules and Florentine (Favre) Ricoeur. In several of his works, Ricoeur reflects on our birth certificates and says that our births and deaths are not events for us, but for others. His mother died before he was one year old, and his father was killed a year later in the Battle of the Marne. Paul and his sister, Anne, were raised by their paternal grandparents in Rennes. Paul took his License des lettres at the Univesity of Rennes and then went to Paris to study for the agregation, the competitive exam for a teaching post at a lycee or a university. He was second in the competition and taught in several lycees before being mobilized in the 47th Infantry Regiment at St. Malo in 1939. He was captured by the Germans in 1940 and spent five years in a POW camp in Pomerania. His wife, Simone, remained in Rennes with their three children.

His teaching career began in 1945 at College Cevanol in Chambon-sur-lignon, a village made famous by their protection of Jewish children during the war. He then was called to the University of Strasbourg, where he taught the history of philosophy for eight years. His first major work, Freedom and Nature, was published while he was in Strasbourg. In 1956, he was called to the Sorbonne where his next two works, The Symbolism of Evil and Fallible Man,, were published, along with a collection of his essays, History and Truth. In the early 1960s, he became interested in Freud and read his complete works and wrote his book on Freud and Philosophy. His main argument is that Freud can be read like any other philosopher and that it was not necessary to have been analyzed to understand him. He also claimed that psychoanalysis was a hermeneutic science and that Freud's mixing the discourse of force with the discourse of meaning was not a category mistake but precisely the way the phenomena of psychic experiences had to be described. Finally, his book made scant mention of Jacques Lacan, the leading structuralist psychoanalyst and interpreter of the day. The Lacanians unleashed a torrent of vitriolic attacks on Ricoeur. But this was only the beginning: In 1965, Rieoeur and two other colleagues left the Sorbonne for a new branch of the University of Paris at Nanterre, in the west suburbs. …

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