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Transcendence in the Age of Hermeneutical Reason: On Paul Ricoeur's Poetics of the Will

Transcendence in the Age of Hermeneutical Reason: On Paul Ricoeur's Poetics of the Will

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Published by Randolph Dible
Paper presented in Rochester, NY, at the Society for Ricoeur Studies 2012 conference
Paper presented in Rochester, NY, at the Society for Ricoeur Studies 2012 conference

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Published by: Randolph Dible on Nov 28, 2012
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Transcendence in the Age of Hermeneutical Reason: On Paul Ricoeur’s
 Poetics of the Will 
Randolph Dible November 3, 2012Society for Ricoeur Studies, 2012 Conference, Rochester, NY.ForewordsPaul Ricoeur wrote the “Foreword” to Stephan Strasser’s
 Phenomenology of Feeling: An Essayon the Phenomena of the Heart 
, David E. Wood’s 1977 translation of Strasser’s 1956
 DasGemut 
. David E. Wood chose to translate the German
Gemut 
as “heart,” rather than the moreetymologically appropriate “mood,” Ricoeur tells us, after noteworthy linguistic studies of thesemantic fields, following Strasser’s own semantic studies. I must quote the final paragraph of this Foreword at length:Furthermore, he has Pascal on his side who had already named “coeur” (heart) whatStephen Strasser was to designate as
Gemut 
. If one day the heart could have beenopposed to reason it was not because it is irrational-- according to Pascal, the heart evenapprehends first principles-- but because it does not proceed by means of analysis andargument, rising as it does from the depths of life toward the absolute pole in a singlemovement. Nor was it because everything in the heart is confused-- its levels are easilydistinguished. If the world of feelings is infinite and overflows every systematictaxonomy, nevertheless it allows what Stephan Strasser calls a phenomenological
 
typology. In this way, the heart has its reasons. They are the reasons which, in the finalanalysis, justify the enterprise of a phenomenology and an anthropology founded uponthe circulation between all the affective levels and the bond which holds Bios and Logostogether.I shall thus begin my summoning of the “spiritedness,” the
thumos
, of the young Ricoeur at thecore of his body of work, at the heart of the project: the will. In the
 Forewor
to DomenicoJervolino’s 1990
The Cogito and Hermeneutics
, Ricoeur commends Jervolino’s recognition of Ricoeur’s choice of “I will” over and above “I think” (Jervolino 1990 xii). As he says in
Symbolism of Evil 
, “...the Cogito is within being and not vice versa” (SE 356).
The Philosophy of the Will 
Ricoeur took from Husserl the method of eidetic reduction of phenomena to pure description of essences, bracketing the existential fact and elaborating the essential idea or meaning. The firstvolume of the Philosophy of the Will,
 Le Volontaire et l’involontarie
(
 Freedom and Nature: TheVoluntary and the Involuntary,
) appeared in 1950, and was an application of this method to the phenomena of the will in order to discover its fundamental possibilities. In it, Ricoeur proceedsthrough pure description of eidetic regions: decision and motivation, hesitation and choice,acting and moving, performed skills, emotion and habit, effort, ability, and knowledge, andfinally the phenomena of consent in its contrast to three forms of the absolute involuntary of character (the personality), the unconscious, and life itself. “...my character is the finished shape
 
of my freedom; my unconscious its formless material; my life-situation the foundation whichdoes not build, that is to say, its contingency.” In each case, the voluntary and the involuntaryaspects of the will can only be understood through their reciprocity. Through this description of the reciprocity of the fundamental possibilities of the “I will” over the “I think,” Ricoeur transposes the epistemological dualism of freedom and nature into a “‘dramatic duality’ of thevoluntary and the involuntary under the regulative idea of a
merely human freedom
, that is to say,a freedom not creative but motivated, achieved, and situated by its body” (Ricoeur, “The Unityof the Voluntary and the Involuntary as a Limiting Idea”). The image and counterpart of thismotivated, incarnate, and contingent freedom is the idea of a creative freedom, “a graciousfreedom,” he says, “whose bodily spontaneity would be allied with the initiative which moves itwithout resistance. The athlete and the dancer perhaps sometimes give me a vision of it and alonging for it” (FN 485). But this is already to mention the
 Poetics of the Will 
. The eidetics of the will only offers the neutral and “undifferentiated keyboard upon which the guilty as well asthe innocent man might play” (FM xli). It is a “mediation between the well-known positions of dualism and monism” (Schilpp and Hahn 12), echoing Maine de Biran’s “homo simplex invitalitate, duplex in humanitate.”The second volume of the
 Philosophy of the Will 
,
 Finitude and Guilt 
, is the empirics of the will.It was not completed. The extant volume two consists of 
 Fallible Man
and
Symbolism of Evil 
, both published in 1960. In the
 Preface
to the second volume Ricoeur tells us that he projects athird book on the concrete experience of evil in connection to disciplines such as criminology, psychopathology, legal and political philosophy. In 1964, at the second Lexington Conference

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