Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Paul Ricoeur

When I was twenty two my research supervisor introduced me to the books of Paul Ricoeur. My sister in law immediately got the whole set and sent them, from San Fransisco, and thirty years later, I still have them, and read them. I think he influenced me a great deal then, and now, even more so. I started again with  History and Truth. What is significant about this is that Ricoeur sets up the theoretical space for analysing ideologies and polemic. Then, he establishes the validity of universalising philosophical principles, of which classification is one. He uses the Weberian formulation of explanation and understanding, as the two most important principles of philosophical discourse. From this emerges the preoccupation of the dialectical imagination and the possibilities of dialogue. Ricoeur argues that history is about flux and events, but it is also about historicising which is a philosophical event. Because it is premised on this theorising, there is in writing history, selection of events, and more significantly composition. So the objectivity of history depends on the acknowledgement of the subjectivities of the historian. This is the primary premise of Weber's sociology. What happens to ideology and polemics? Ricoeur argues that the ideological cloak shrouds, and there is therefore a deafness to other polemics, other contexts. The significant aspect of this position is really to ask what does the objectification of history do? Ricoeur says that Science reabsorbs the subjective, making humans commodities or objects. And so Art liberates the imagination, and reintroduces coherence and authenticity. Where Science shrouds, Art reveals, but this art cannot be a plagiarism of Social Science, it must depend on its own intuition, its will to be what it  is, is drawn from the source of it's own self, fearful neither of the tyranny of supervision, or of the consumer. Yet art depends on the dialogicity of producer and consumer, and in this interaction, both are made whole.

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