Paul Ricouer, 1913-2005

Via Crooked Timber, I have learned that Paul Ricouer, a truly engaging scholar, has died. The Guardian has this obituary.

“The aim of all Ricoeur’s work – some 20 books and 600 essays in all – was to teach us to feel the full force of authentic intellectual discomfort.

After the second world war, Ricoeur’s aversion to polemics allowed him to be overshadowed by more flamboyant colleagues. For nearly 10 years, he taught history of philosophy at Strasbourg, deliberately immersing himself in a new philosophical system each academic year. So it was with massive prep- aration behind him that he moved to the Sorbonne in Paris in 1957, where he kept a cool head through two decades of raging philosophical warfare.

The Symbolism Of Evil (1960) gave a new formulation to Ricoeur’s sense of philosophical responsibility. His key term now was ‘hermeneutics’, meaning the art of interpretation. . . The purpose of thinking was not to gain knowledge, but to learn to consider the world in the light of our irremediable ignorance.

In the 1960s and 70s, Ricoeur was drawn unwillingly into controversy: he found the so-called structuralist movement philosophically dogmatic, especially in its antagonism to subjectivity and to realities independent of language. His lucid criticisms of such masters as Roland Barthes, Jacques Lacan and Louis Althusser were all the more devastating for their generosity and restraint – qualities that were seldom reciprocated. His powerful, but unlacanian book, Freud And Philosophy (1965) was scandalously neglected in France.”

Here is the obituary from the Telegraph, and one from the BBC.

UPDATE: Scott McLemee remembers Ricouer in Inside Higher Ed.