The Concept of Second Naiveté in the thought of Ernst Simon and Paul Ricoeur
By Elie Holzer

Published in Languages and Literatures in Jewish Education, Studies in Honor of Michael Rosenak, J. Cohen, E. Holzer & A. Isaacs, Hebrew University and Magnes Press, Jerusalem, (2006), pp. 325-344.

2 The Concept of Second Naiveté in the thought of Ernst Simon and Paul Ricoeur Elie Holzer

Introduction The term Temimut (Naiveté1) appears as early as in biblical language as an adjective describing a quality of three biblical characters.2 It also appears in Deuteronomy, chapter 18, v. 13 in the following general prescription: “ '‫תמי תהיה ע ה‬ ‫“ – ”אלהי‬You shall be wholehearted with the Lord your God.”3 Texts by medieval Jewish commentators reflect two orientations in the interpretation of Temimut. Rashi interprets Tamim as the trait of an individual who adopts a stance of acceptance towards whatever befalls him, with no attempt to inquire into his or her destiny. According to Rashi, in its textual context, the above verse from Deuteronomy implies that people should rely exclusively on God rather than sorcery to provide for their needs. Another interpretation suggests Temimut as a total orientation to God: Even when one wishes to know the future, one should turn to prophets elected by God rather than to sorcerers. Temimut relates, therefore, to a single and sole orientation to God, to the exclusion of other gods and false prophets.4 Neither the Bible nor these commentators, however, elucidate what Temimut actually entails or its potential significance as a mode of religious life. Although it implies some quality of religious attitude, the concept of Temimut has failed to attract serious attention of Jewish thinkers over the centuries, with the exception of Rabbi Judah Loew, known as the Maharal of Prague (1525-1609), who developed the concept of Temimut as a rich mode of active spiritual engagement in life.5

1 2 3 4 5

I translate Temimut as Naiveté instead of innocence or integrity. See Noah (Genesis, 6,8); Jacob (Genesis 25, 27); Job (1,1). Translation from the Stone edition See Rashbam and Sforno. Maharal of Prague, “Netiv Hatemimut” in Netivot Israel Vol. 2, Jerusalem 1971, pp. 205-208.

GA. 1990. . Moreover. the purpose of this article is to discuss and compare Simon and Ricoeur’s understanding of Second Naiveté. Before exploring the heart of the matter. pp. Macon. La Tentation de la Tentation. which are potentially significant for the thinking of religious educators. when. Paris: Les Editions the Minuit. characterized by cognitive elements as well as an attitude towards existential questions. to describe a critically mediated attitude towards the reality claims of religious faith. and the New Yale Theology. Ricoeur. The Second Naiveté. we believe that a comparison of the two highlights several differences. both in his scholarly work. the concept of Second Naiveté has attracted renewed interest among scholars because of its role in the writings of Paul Ricoeur. 7 Mark I. Mercer University Press.6 In his discussion of the attitude of the religious person after having encountered and assimilated some forms of secular and critical worldviews of life. More recently. It is used more specifically in the context of religious beliefs and attitudes. after the collapse of my own First Naiveté. in the writings of Ernst Simon and later on by Emmanuel Levinas. namely the Festschrift in the honor of Michael Rosenak. I can therefore think of no more appropriate title for a contribution to this book. It was Mike who introduced me for the first time to Simon’s concept of Second Naiveté. as well as in his personal life and in his interactions with people. I sought alternatives beyond the existential desert which remained in its wake. Barth. Wallace.7 Despite several similarities in the use of this concept by Simon and Ricoeur. 67-109. 6 E.3 Only in 20th century Jewish thought does the concept of Temimut take an interesting turn. Quatre Lectures Talmudiques. Therefore. “Second Naiveté” appears to express a general state of mind. Simon offers the concept of Temimut Shniya (Second Naiveté). I would like to add a more personal note. The choice of this topic is intimately connected to the book in which it appears. years ago. 1968. as a model for both religious thinking and religious education. Levinas. Mike exemplifies the concept of Second Naiveté.

Thus.” he provides no formal definition of the former. 10 According to Simon. It was Hugo Bergman. Second Naiveté. which he labels later as Temimut Shniya. based on firm (and unexamined) beliefs in a world of good. The first state is a state of innocence (Tom). 135-169 (Hebrew). 9 Simon. it is labeled as “primitive” innocence. Such an organized worldview is free of both engagement in existential questions and experience of existential crises. He grew up in an assimilated environment and became one of Martin Buber’s closest students as a young man. Simon distinguishes between Tom (innocence) and Temimut (naiveté). justice and truth. In the early 1920s. Tel Aviv: Sifriyat Hapoalim. criticism and Second Naiveté are not only possible states or attitudes but three distinctive stages of human-religious development. he illuminates several aspects of Second Naiveté. as described above. 11 Simon also talks about three educational stages towards authentic communication. Although Simon places the characteristics of the Temimut (naiveté). Simon distinguishes among three different states of being11: According to Simon. Simon was an educator. He died in 1988 in Jerusalem. . a researcher and a philosopher. in this form of innocence. when this innocence is attributed to a large group. founded by Buber. 167-168.10 In terms of religious beliefs. In general. Simon takes credit for suggesting the concept of second naiveté.9 At the outset of the article.” p. 135. he became a Zionist.4 Second Naiveté in Ernst Simon’s thought8 Simon discusses the concept of Second Naiveté in his article “Az Eitam. 8 Ernst Simon was born in Germany in the year 1899. see p. See “Az Eitam.” in Haim od Yehudim Anahnu?. He emigrated to Palestine in 1928 but returned to Germany in 1934 to participate in the Centre for Jewish Adult Education. he was active in the Free Jewish House of Learning. or “First Naiveté. Tom may include faith in a God who rules men’s life according to norms of good and justice. or belief in revelation as it is presented in the Holy Scriptures. In the aftermath of World War I. established by Buber and Rosenzweig. in contradistinction to Tom. the language of the Scriptures is perceived as referential to either empirical or spiritual reality. In 1935. 1982. pp. or First Naiveté. who pointed out to him that the catholic philosopher Peter Wust (1884-1940) had already used this term in this writings. Instead. First Naiveté. Tom refers to a situation whereby an individual holds a clear and coherent worldview.” on which our analysis here focuses. “Az Eitam. he returned to Palestine and joined the faculty of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. primarily through a discussion of the writings of earlier philosophers and theologians.

14 15 See for example Leo Strauss. To resolve this crisis. the individual establishes his own knowledge of reality by challenging unexamined beliefs and the authority attributed to traditions in general. which. the Bible as source of normative knowledge). New York: Continuum. according to Simon. 16 Ibid. having lost all former anchors of faith. Ehud Luz. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Thus. and to traditional religious beliefs in particular. It is important to emphasize that. reflection and critique.5 The second state is one of enlightenment. Al Hahumanism Hayehudi shel Akiva Ernst Simon. it is reason and the discovery of the limits of human knowledge which lead man to the threshold of Second Naiveté. such critical reflection brings about a crisis. This is the reason why a major part of Simon’s article retraces 12 One cannot infer from Simon’s writings if reflection and critique function more as a cause or rather as a result of the collapsing of First Naiveté. Natural Right and History. 13 For an analysis and a critic of Enlightenment’s attack on the authority of traditions.13 This critical activity leads to the collapse of the First Naiveté. Jerusalem.” Mehkarei Yerushalyim beMahshevet Israel. . in which man was conceived as an integral part of a macrocosm.12 This state is obtained when one is exposed to modern critical scientific and philosophical thinking. 613-644. 1983. 271-290. is expressed as man’s discovery of the limitations of his own knowledge. which in its subsequent developments led man to acknowledge historical relativism and plurality of forms of life and religious expressions. 2 (4).g. Truth and Method. modern man perceives himself as an autonomous being who shapes and controls his universe. see H. and humanism. Second Revised Edition. In contrast to pre-modern philosophical and religious worldviews. Kant’s philosophy is paradigmatic of man’s inherent inability to know reality “as it is. “Hatemimut Hasheniya.Greek philosophers) or revelation (e. pp.14 However..” Hegel discusses the raising of historical consciousness. either those originating in nature (e. Simon develops what Ehud Luz has described as a form of religious humanism. Gadamer. which is expected to redeem man from total relativism. yet alone. Vol. Scientific inquiry and critical thinking have undermined the status of pre-given truths and norms. Man is then to apply reason in the critical examination of his beliefs.1953. 1996. in modern philosophical writings.g.16 Luz characterizes Simon’s religious thought as an attempt to reconcile religion. pp. G..15 Thus man is sovereign. which prevents the sacrifice of man’s autonomy and dignity by religion.

Although he fully acknowledges the significance of the reflective criticism of life. the newfound positive orientation allows him/her to resist the total claim of critical thinking. Second Naiveté is a state of being. .” p. 142-152. In Second Naivete. 139.18 For man. for example to use the name of God again and to pray. 17 18 19 20 21 “Az Eitam” . having assimilated a reflective and critical state of mind. 22 P. a 19th century catholic thinker. In Second Naivete. P. prayer anticipates its being answered. 167. The Ten Commandments anticipate a society where justice will reign. Plato.”21 At the same time. a concept which Simon adopts from Wust.19 The state of Second Naiveté is also characterized by man’s optimistic future-oriented approach to life. 139-140. 168. in some way. yet refuses to “identify what there is and what could potentially be. P. to go beyond the conclusions of his rational self and explore new realms of meaning. while fear is the impetus for religion and practical engagement. he is again capable of praying. Second Naiveté entails two simultaneous “moves”: on the one hand the person goes back to his initial First Naiveté.”20 “Belief is anticipation. 169. On the other hand he crafts his overall orientation beyond (but not on behalf of) science and rationality. he uses religious language again. drawing the future into the present. reality and of what appears to be a meaningless existence. the sources of song and of faith are reopened. Augustinus. a readiness to revisit one’s childhood experiences. Simon discusses Socrates. On one hand. the person actively seeks a meaning of life that lies behind the here and now of his/her personal existence. Pp. pp.22 Thus. the main characteristics of Second Naiveté are man’s capacity for adopting a stance of both wonder and fear of the world.17 The result is Second Naiveté. wonder is the origin of philosophy and detached analysis. Nicolas of Cusa. According to Wust. Philo.6 how various philosophers and theologians have discussed the concept of docta ignorantia as recognition of the limitations of one’s knowledge. making it possible for man to reconnect to prayer. she or he is realistic about the realities of life. “Shabbat anticipates redemption.

educators of adolescents might consider adolescents’ religious crises constructively. Simon’s discussion of Second Naiveté is presented in general and occasionally.167-168. Simon’s use of the concept appears to be limited in at least two ways. Simon’s view of Second Naiveté offers a productive language for educators’ thinking about religious education. however. However. 135. biographical process. The employment of critical reason provides modern man with a sense of autonomy by which he or she establishes knowledge and values. see pp. 24 P.23 In the introduction to his article. Simon seems to consider all three stages as essential elements in a chronological. Thus. One. rather than in terms of a problem. A more important limitation concerns Simon’s attempts to resolve the crisis and reach Second Naiveté through the use of means which are still grounded in the rational philosophical tradition/paradigm whose total claim on man he tries to overcome. a period of shocking doubts about faith and achievements of critical philosophy and science”. 135. rather than as knowledge or practices. even suggestive language. Educators might also reflect and explore possible pedagogical and curricular elements designed to facilitate the collapse of forms of First Naiveté or the development of a Second Naiveté for adolescents. First. Simon’s sense of the “remedy” appears to be intimately linked to his diagnosis of the problem. it is by the use of reason that reason’s limitations are recognized. For a slightly different description of these three stages. opening up the possibility for a Second Naivete to appear. 24 In the context of education. My translation and my emphasis. may claim that the very nature of Second Naiveté precludes its treatment in discursive language. in terms of a collapse of their First Naiveté. as we said. he says: one will recognize the signs of the long transitional period between the Tom [first naiveté] and the Temimut [second naiveté]. Overall. According to Simon. the concept itself has the potential to engage educators’ thinking about religious education in more subtle terms of overall attitudes and orientations to be nurtured.7 Overall. while discussing the person who has attained Second Naiveté. see p. This undermines its possible uses and expressions in the practices of teaching because it does not explicitly relate to any particular aspect of teaching. . Thus the use of reason 23 Although he stresses that most people might remain at the second stage.

1967. and narratives and religious texts in particular.25 This insight leads him to investigate the broader connection between the interpretation of symbols. contribute to one’s reflection on existence? Ricoeur is willing to speculate as follows: In the to-and fro of interpretation with “the gift of meaning from symbol. that a potential for a Second Naiveté is created. language. Ricoeur points out that the interpretive work on symbols gives rise to thought. Boston: Beacon Press. in general. The Symbolism of Evil. Ibid. The Symbolism of Evil. when it discovers its own limits. we believe that these concepts do capture a major aspect of his philosophical work. Ricoeur uses the concepts of First and Second Naiveté sporadically and wrote no specific essay on the topic of naiveté.8 brings about the collapse of First Naivete because religious language is understood to compete with scientific and historical knowledge. How can the interpretation of symbols. Ricoeur turns to “the 25 26 Paul Ricoeur.”26 In order to better understand the human capacity for meaning and understanding. Religious language and views disintegrate in the presence of the fruits of critical thinking. .. which are man’s signs in the world including myth. We begin by discussing Ricoeur’s core idea that the engagement with symbols and texts. metaphors and narratives. From philosophy to hermeneutics In one of his earlier volumes. However. is a philosophical activity par excellence. Nonetheless. rituals. The concept of Second Naiveté assumes its full meaning when interpretations of (religious) texts and symbols are confronted and challenged. what if man cannot rely on either reason and its very foundations or on religious language and faith experience because his/her motivations seem to involve more than what s/he is conscious of? Second Naiveté in Paul Ricoeur’s Thought Unlike Simon. in a subsequent use of reason. we shall discuss the role they play as a frame of reference in Ricoeur’s agenda. however. 348. and philosophical reflection. To highlight the meaning of these terms in Ricoeur’s thought. p. It is. the philosopher profits in understanding. on the other. modern scholarship and modern consciousness. on one hand. p. 346.

Evanston: Northwestern University Press.”27 In contrast to the excessively generic Cartesian concept of consciousness. similar to the Cartesian autonomous doubting self. language. It is therefore through what Ricoeur calls “the long route” of hermeneutical activity concerning symbols (myth. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. p. p. immediate consciousness is not necessarily genuine consciousness: The cogito undergoes a decentering and does not constitute the locus of reflection or human self-understanding. 29 “It is necessary to renounce the chimera of a philosophy without presuppositions and begin from a full language.” which encompasses symbolic and mythic forms of language.” The Symbolism of Evil. Reflection is an “appropriation of our effort to exist and of desire to be through the works which bear witness to that effort and desire. therefore requires the investigation of linguistic expressions. as well as the phenomenology of religion. . p. 355. Reflection should. 1974.” ibid. 10. In the philosophical hermeneutics of Ricoeur.. Ricoeur is not preoccupied with a definitive starting point of philosophy. Paul Ricoeur. something to think about. language is an adequate starting point for meditation on symbols and the meaning that is inherent in language. which incorporate the fullness of language. . man’s original effort to be is not transparent to himself and must be recovered. knowledge is a gift before it becomes a task.29 In other words. we “shall have a better understanding of man and of the bond between the being of man and the being of all beings. 19. 1970. Although the process of interpretation may never end. it must be received before it can be doubted. Don Ihde (ed. Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation. metaphors and narratives) that man can reach meaning and selfunderstanding30: 27 28 Ibid. p. therefore. For Ricoeur. rituals. as well as metaphorical and narrative language. This is well illustrated by the field of psychoanalysis. In both cases. not be confused with immediate intuition (as with Descartes). The interpretation of symbols.”28 Reflection which leads to self-understanding is thus possible only through the engagement with the expressions of life created by humans. p. 30 The choice for the long route is one of Ricoeur’s important critiques of Heidegger. Ricoeur’s hermeneutical turn is based on the assumption that consciousness is neither the locus nor the origin of meaning.9 fullness of language.. For Ricoeur. but what it gives is occasion of thought. 46. by engaging in hermeneutic activity regarding symbols.). see The Conflict of Interpretations. “The symbol gives. 348.

that the Ego must lose and find itself. 31 Paul Ricoeur.31 This is man’s single alternative for recovering himself. in the widest sense of the word. I am” remains as abstract and empty as it is invincible. actions. Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences. . 264-265. methods and presuppositions of all the sciences that try to decipher and to interpret the signs of man. The hermeneutical function of distanciation. This is why a reflective philosophy must include the results. We can say. breaking away from the proud autonomous modern Cartesian self. institutions and monuments and that objectify it. The first truth “I think. 143. Such is my working hypothesis in philosophy. The Conflict of Interpretations. 1981. because it demands that the learner adopt an attitude of openness and vulnerability vis-à-vis the text and additional cultural signs. in a somewhat paradoxical sense. All reflection is mediated. works. 46. UK Cambridge University Press. there is not immediate self-consciousness. The case of the symbolism of evil is not an exception. p. philosophical reflection becomes hermeneutics: The ultimate root of our problem lies in this primitive connection between the act of existing and the signs we deploy in our works.33 “Concrete reflection” is a fundamental philosophical position that Ricoeur adopts. it has to be “mediated” by the ideas. It has particular significance in the educational context. pp. It is in these objects.32 That appropriation of my desire to exist is impossible by the short path of consciousness. reflection must become interpretation because I cannot grasp the act of existing except in signs scattered in the world. one tributary of the gloomy experience of evil. I call it concrete reflection that is the cogito mediated by the entire universe of sign. The reader is required to “de-possess” and “de-center” himself or herself: It is with Freud and Philosophy that I broke away from the illusions of consciousness as the blind spot of reflection. 32 33 Freud and Philosophy. only the long path of interpretation of signs is open. it must be said that we understand ourselves only by the long detour of the signs of humanity deposited in cultural works. p. Hence.10 In contrast to the tradition of the cogito and to the pretension of the subject to know itself by immediate intuition.

J. However. one must engage in the interpretation of human beings’ signs in the world. irremediably lost: immediacy of belief. But if we can no longer live the great symbolisms of the sacred in accordance with the original belief in them. the very interaction with texts. UK Cambridge University Press. 36 Symbolism of Evil. 106 [my emphasis]. This is also the objective of the study as texts: What would we know of love and hate. 1981. especially religious texts and symbols. Philadelphia: Fortress Press. Thompson (ed. 143. In every way.34 Instead of a direct access to the self. 351. becomes problematic for this same modern person. No simple and direct access to the meaning of these religious symbols and texts exists. we modern men. and what structural analysis discloses as the texture of the text.35 Thus. p.11 that a philosophy of reflection is not a philosophy of consciousness if by consciousness we mean immediate self-consciousness. is the very medium within which we can understand ourselves.). p. if these had not been brought to language and articulated by literature? Thus what seems most contrary to subjectivity. rather than detached rational thought. 35 Paul Ricoeur.” modern man cannot revert to a primitive naiveté: Does that mean that we could go back to a primitive naiveté? Not at all. Mudge. of moral feelings and. When he approaches religious symbols and texts from a stance of “concrete reflection. .” in Lewis S. interpretation is the way by which modern man is to reaffirm life through an honest act of reflective engagement with symbols. we can. communal interpretation. in general.36 34 “Toward a Hermeneutic of the Idea of Revelation. it is by interpreting that we can hear again. of all that we call the self. aim at a second naiveté in and through criticism. 1980. Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences. which are repositories of insights about life. Paul Ricouer’s Essays on Biblical Interpretation. In short. An assessment of reality is attained through symbolic. something has been lost. p.

Marx and Nietzsche. 37 Ricoeur’s concern to find a way to retrieve religious symbols and texts via hermeneutical engagement must. “Critical distance” signifies the reader’s use of various interpretive approaches which create a distance from mythic symbol systems. The Rule of Metaphor. at the same time. the second tending toward a recollection or a retrieval of the original meaning of the symbol.” In a further development of his philosophical work. “Second Naiveté. . “From existentialism to the philosophy of language. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.” a term used by Ricoeur to capture the core idea of his philosophical project . Ricoeur retraces this part of the journey in his own philosophical work: Hermeneutics appeared henceforth as a battle field traversed by two opposing trends. 32-36. namely those sources normally viewed as sources of man’s knowledge and systematic reflection which render the engagement with these texts meaningless when they are approached in a mode of “primitive naiveté. informed by the use of critical models.39 37 38 Freud and Philosophy. 1979. Ricoeur acknowledges that serious hermeneutical engagement with texts must also confront what he has called the hermeneutics of suspicion.38 Thus stated briefly. 318. My problem was to link these two approaches and to understand their relation as dynamic and as moving from first naiveté through critique toward what I called at the time a second naiveté.12 What Ricoeur refers to as the loss of immediacy of belief is modern man’s awareness of scientific and historical criticism. Ricoeur points to three major schools of hermeneutics initiated by Freud. but open to the depth of symbolic meaning. 352. “First Naiveté” signifies a person’s simplistic connection with and acceptance of the symbolic/mythic foundations of the surrounding culture. pp. elucidate how to overcome the reductive explanatory character of the hermeneutics of suspicion. p. the first tending toward a reductive explanation. 39 See also: “For the second immediacy that we seek and the second naiveté that we await are no longer accessible to us anywhere else than in a hermeneutics.” reprinted in Paul Ricoeur.” The Symbolism of Evil. signifies a person’s interpretive stance. p. who share a reductionist hermeneutics of false-consciousness.

scientific knowledge) are means to knowledge attainment and responsible for the inevitable collapse of First Naiveté. we find that the special nature of Ricoeur’s treatment of Second Naiveté is circumscribed in the very practices of the work of hermeneutics. According to Ricoeur. does the potential for Second Naiveté emerge. as well as by the clarification of principles of hermeneutical engagement with texts. Only subsequently. To some degree. Critical Thinking and Second Naiveté. Both attempt to negotiate the challenges posed by modern consciousness to the religious person. both in the text and of the reader. unlike Simon. the modern reader wishing to engage in the philosophical process of self-understanding has no alternative route to Second Naiveté. as distinct from Simon. . Ricoeur’s point. There are. A brief discussion of these elements provides conceptual insights to Second Naiveté in Ricoeur’s philosophy. Ricoeur’s concept of Second Naiveté is not vague: It is informed by both a theory of text and meaning. one must negotiate this uncertainty. however. two major differences between them: for Simon.13 Several interesting comparisons with Simon are appropriate at this point. to attain Second Naiveté. Secondly.40 Moreover. but also for modern man’s philosophical project in general. Second Naiveté is not only a challenge for modern man’s engagement with religious texts. a state in which religious texts “speak” again to the reader. when reason discovers its own limits. As we said in the previous paragraph. Hermeneutics as appropriation of the world of the text Ricoeur has devoted much of his work to an analysis of what occurs when learners engage with text in a manner which contributes to their self-understanding. for Ricoeur the very hermeneutical activity of text study is the philosophical activity par excellence by which man engages in self-understanding. modern manifestations of reason (historical consciousness. The real locus of understanding resides in possible hidden meanings and motivations. Therefore. particularly the hermeneutics of religious texts. however. neither from the perspective of the text (when reason appears in its linguistic expressions in texts). we learned that reason itself cannot be relied on. is more radical: From the masters of suspicion. Both Simon and Ricoeur have a similar conception of a three-phase process: First Naiveté. nor from the perspective of the reader (when he or she engages in reading of a text). 40 This is not to say that hermeneutics is peripheral or secondary.

a text is a work of discourse.14 For Ricoeur. p.). etc. “condemned” to become “de-contextualized” from its original social and historical conditions of production. then. The text is then addressed to an unknown reader and to any reader and is. Hermeneutics. What has to be appropriated is the meaning of the text itself. which means that it is a structured totality and cannot be decomposed into its constituent sentences. Ricoeur’s basic philosophical project is to facilitate an encounter between the reader and text. therefore. This is because texts propose worlds that the reader may inhabit. Fort Worth. see hereunder. rather than in the author’s mind. Paul Ricoeur. . not the historical situation common to the author and his original readers. p. note 52. Texas Christian Press. which is supposed to be hidden behind the text. Interpretation Theory. The reader encounters the “world of the text” which is what written discourse carries within itself: Not the intention of the author. Discourse and the Surplus of Meaning. For Ricoeur’s view about the three dimensions of the interpretive process. 1976. not even their understanding of themselves as historical and cultural phenomena. not the expectations or feelings of these original readers. Ricoeur considers the world of the text as forcing the reader into a new type of distanciation from his or her everyday real life.42 Drawing on Heidegger. According to Ricoeur. beyond reductionism and historical relativism. due to the fact that texts hold the characteristic of distanciation. Through the medium of texts. 92. 138. as well as from the social conditions of the text’s production. plays. Let us briefly examine the meaning of Ricoeur’s statement that interpretation is the appropriation of the world of the text. conceived in a dynamic way as the direction of thought opened by the text. but this discourse is only given in and through the structures of the work. to understand oneself is to understand oneself “before the text” and to be understood by the text. One sense of distanciation is that written discourse permits the “matter” of the text to free itself from the finite intention of the author.”41 The locus of meaning resides in the text itself and its discourse. It opens for the 41 42 Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences. language assumes different forms known as genre (poetics. consists of “the art of discerning the discourse in the work.

48 See The Rule of Metaphor. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. They suggest new insights into reality and offer new ways of orienting oneself in the world. By 43 “Philosophy and Religious Language. See The Rule of Metaphor. Illinois: Northwestern University Press. 216-256. 1991.). Poems feed us existentially by articulating values. For Ricoeur’s discussion of the relationship between language and reality. M.15 reader “new possibilities of being in the world” within everyday reality.43 In interpretation. suspend the functional characteristic use of ordinary language: Instead of providing information about reality. 65-100. Valdes (ed. 112. awakening dormant memories. 1995. p. .”46 In Ricoeur’s own words. it can also engage us with new horizons to explore. What is to be interpreted in the text is a proposed world which I could inhabit and in which I could project my own most possibilities. Wallace (ed. . 173. but rather as the explication of the beingin-the world displayed by the text. p. man’s imagination is at work.45 In studying the creative capacity of language (in metaphorical and narrative discourse). 47 As is indicated by the subtitle title of his book.” in Figuring the Sacred. See also “Hermeneutics can be defined no longer as an inquiry into the psychological intentions which are hidden beneath the text. 44 45 Paul Ricoeur.” A poem evokes feelings and challenges us to change our way of looking at things.”47 Poetry in general. poetic language in the form of metaphoric expressions and narrative language. for the former. p. pp. Evanston. From Text to Action. see The Rule of Metaphor. irrigating adjacent sensorial fields”. “Metaphor and the Semantics of Discourse. one discovers the ability of language to reveal various aspects of reality: “Language in the making celebrates reality in the making. 462. Study 3. and metaphors in particular. Imagination is a rule-governed activity that schematizes semantic fields by “reviving former experiences.).” pp. the polysemic nature of words accounts for the ability of language to hold a “surplus of meaning. they propose a “world. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.44 Ricoeur distinguishes between two domains of semantic imagination.” Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences. 43. p. Interpretation Theory. Mario J. 46 A Ricoeur Reader: Reflection and Imagination. goals and feelings by which we can orient our lives. Discourse and the Surplus of Meaning. and the three volumes of Time and Narrative for the latter. Metaphor is therefore not merely a substitution of a word by another word on the basis of a perceived resemblance48: Live metaphors tell us something more that we did not know before.

The third stage entails an attempt. historical.16 going beyond the world and re-describing reality. to encounter the text again as something that speaks to the reader here and now. even after they have been made distant through the application of critical methods of interpretation. Ricoeur summarized these moments as “naïve understanding. 240. rather then three distinct stages.” pp. exclusively related to a theory of text and leads Ricoeur to engage in the articulation of the process of interpretation. . psychoanalytical). see Rule of Metaphor. Again. Study 8. philological. “Metaphor and Philosophical Discourse..”52 49 50 51 Ibid. The first phase is the naïve. In the second stage.50 Metaphors give new ways to talk about things and therefore they change our sense of reality. Ricoeur’s hermeneutic follows a three-stage method. both requiring and resulting in his distanciation from the text. an ability to have these texts speak to him again? Formally. what amounts to the same thing. the reader applies various methods of critique (e. in order to reach a Second Naiveté. p. however.49 they enable us to look differently at reality: …We cease to identify reality with empirical reality or. the concept of Second Naiveté frames his discussion. sociological. the state of Second Naiveté.. From Text to Action. that we cease to identify experience with empirical experience.” “objective explanation” and “appropriation. A three-fold spiral process of interpretation What principles does the reader use in the practical engagement of texts. is not. however. despite and beyond the critical distanciation. A closer look. 257-314. The ability to hear the text again. as he says. On the relationship between philosophy and the interpretation of metaphors. underlines the need to refine the description of these stages as a fusion of three moments in the hermeneutical process. 11. briefly said.51 This. p. we should be able to “hear” texts again. is the new dimension of text understanding which Ricoeur proposes.g. a dimension by which. noncritical and non-reflective encounter between the reader with the text. These moments have been formulated in different terms.

”53 Lewis Mudge uses the terms of “testimony in the making. 1974. that it has a meaning of its own. Stiver. note 107.” ibid. 52-87. that it is not senseless. Ricoeur endorses Gadamer’s view that understanding is always historical. pp.56 At this stage. 53 David Klemm.17 David Klemm. 74. One of Ricoeur’s important ideas is that the literary forms of religious language cannot be separated from the content they convey: “It is not enough to say that religious language is meaningful. “Preface to Bultman. 76. at this stage. that it makes sense. 1980. However.” Conflict of Interpretations. see P.). pp. Essays on Biblical Interpretation. Lewisburg. the reader seeks to 52 In the context of his later work on time and narrative these stages are discussed as a threefold mimesis. See also Mario Valdes.” in Lewis S. 259-280. 55 David Tracy. Vol. one of Ricoeur’s interpreters. see Dan R. Mudge (ed. 54 Lewis Mudge.” “critical moment” and “post-critical moment. Philadelphia: Fortress Press. pp. 56 See Interpretation Theory: Discourse and the Surplus of Meaning. New Directions in Hermeneutical Theology. 1981. According to Ricoeur.” Journal of Religion 54. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.” Paul Ricoeur. 56-78. Paul Ricoeur . “Paul Ricoeur and the Literary Theory.” “critique” and “second naiveté. 1995.). 1984-88. The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur. Theology after Ricoeur. Chicago and Lasalle Illinois:Carus Publishing Company. especially pp. p. 18-32. See also his claim that in hermeneutics there is an “affinity between a form of discourse and a certain modality of the confession of faith. New York: Crossroad Press. .: Bucknell Press. The reader draws on its forms of literary production and interprets the text in light of its semantic structures. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Penn. p. “Paul Ricoeur on Biblical Interpretation. in that a reader’s understanding is presuppositional and assumes a perspective. 69. 1983. The Analogical Imagination: Christian Theology and the Culture of Pluralism. p.” “explanation” and “understanding.”55 The first stage of textual interpretation entails recognition of the text as a work of discourse whose meaning is different than the author’s original intention in its historical context. Hahan (ed. refers to Ricoeur’s dimension of interpretation as “first naiveté. the reconstructing and the configuration of this initial understanding of reality by the text (mimesis 2) and the final intersection between the world configured by the text and the world of the reader (mimesis 3). For a discussion of the differences between Ricoeur’s accounts of the different stages of the hermeneutical process. The Hermeneutical Theory of Paul Ricoeur. pp. Time and Narrative. and so forth. 151-2. pp. 2001. 1. This is one of Ricoeur’s main critiques of Bultman’s hermeneutic of religious text.” L. We have to say that its meanings are ruled and guided by the modes of articulation specific to each mode of discourse. “Philosophy and Religious Language. all understanding follows an arc which begins with an initial preunderstanding of reality that the reader brings to the text (mimesis 1).”54 David Tracy uses the terms of “understanding. Ricoeur. 75.E. 276-278. 381-401.

Let us emphasize that Ricoeur seeks to combine two dimensions of interpretation. 33. For Gadamer’s view on the question see Truth and Method. Part II. 1997. 58 For the discussion of explanation and understanding. seeking a new possibility to listen to religious language. the reader attempts to capture something of the literary and theological worlds represented by the text. which are important to gain an improved understanding of the relation between the parts and the whole of the text.” P. See also Ricoeur’s article “What is a text? Explanation and understanding. 1978. suspicion is not the last word: Text and context. at this stage. 227. Understanding requires willingness to listen with openness to symbols and indirect (and religious) language. while refraining from any projection of his own beliefs and presuppositions onto the text.). various critical explanatory approaches. p. pp. 59 57 “It is necessary for us to struggle also with the presuppositions of modern man himself. See also: “’Symbols give rise to thought’. p. pp. Ricoeur sees the work of the masters of suspicion not as a stage to be overcome but as an actual and critical stage of the interpretive process.). 59 Therefore.148-164. the reader engages first in skepticism. but by the invention of an art of interpreting… by an exegesis of meaning. the stage of explanation. In other words.18 discover the text’s message about an object of meaning. Explanation entails the willingness to abolish the idols which are projections of the human will. with the presuppositions of his modernity. Charles E.” Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences. New York: Continuum. are applied to test the first understanding for adequacy and coherence. Ricoeur. 171-380. the masters of suspicion clear “the horizon for a more authentic word. but they are also the birth of idols. K. structural analysis or redaction analysis. In positive terms. 145-164. not only by means of a destructive critique.” Freud and Philosophy. In the second stage. p. 72-97.57 Thus. . “The Language of Faith. Thus. faith and understanding are to be maintained in circular tension. see Schleiermacher and Dilthey in The Hermeneutics Reader. for a new reign of Truth. Mueller-Vollmer (ed. Boston: Beacon Press. but is subsequently called into a mode of retrieval. pp. for Ricoeur.58 each of which is inadequate on its own: Explanation alone becomes reductive.” in The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur: An Anthology of His Work. suspicion and critique. namely explanation and understanding. while understanding alone remains vulnerable to illusions of self-deception.” Freud and Philosophy. but understanding can also operate at a post-critical level. Explanation is critical or socio-critical. such as historical criticism. suspicion and belief. Reagan and David Stewart (eds. That is why the critique of idols remains the condition of the conquest of symbols.

Understanding as interpretation is the primordial condition of man and hermeneutics becomes therefore tied to the understanding of being.the constitution of the self is contemporaneous with the constitution of meaning. the reader critically re-appropriates a meaning of a symbol or of a religious text of the past for the present. Ricoeur’s concepts of language. 60 61 62 The Symbolism of Evil.19 In the third stage of understanding. or simply begins to understand himself. I have called “concrete reflection.” Ricoeur offers a hermeneutics of faith as a rejoinder to the hermeneutics of suspicion. 158. In short. on various occasions. therefore. appropriation is not so much an epistemological act (assimilation of knowledge) as it is an ontological act. Second Naiveté occurs at the intersection of the reader’s world and the world of the biblical text.61 According to Ricoeur. 11. Let us emphasize: According to Ricoeur.” I understand this: that the interpretation of a text culminates in the self-interpretation of a subject who thenceforth understands himself better. Hermeneutical engagement with symbols and texts.60 The reader’s hermeneutical activity in engagement with these worlds culminates in the reader’s self-interpretation: By “appropriation. truth and understanding are to be understood in light of the ideas of Heidegger and Gadamer on language. and that explanation is nothing if it is not incorporated as an intermediary stage in the process of self-understanding. p. Having negotiated the two earlier stages. In his “Preface to Bultmann. p. consciousness is not a given but an objective. with Heidegger. p. understands himself differently. . 351. Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences. Moreover.” Here hermeneutics and reflective philosophy are correlative and reciprocal … Thus it must be said… that reflection is nothing without the mediation of signs and works. in hermeneutical reflection – or in reflective hermeneutics .62 543. a transformational experience of the learner with the text. becomes the philosophical activity par excellence which allows the reader to engage in self-understanding. This culmination of the understanding of a text in self-understanding is characteristic of the kind of reflective philosophy which. Ricoeur sees in hermeneutics a mode of being rather than a mode of knowledge. The Conflict of Interpretations.

following Ricoeur’s hermeneutical approach. as we saw.64 Especially for the study of texts in the context of religious education. Moreover. Ricoeur’s treatment of First Naiveté. Man must confront his lack of direct access to himself. with an awareness that the true nature of the human condition is other than (universal) reason and a recognition of man’s limitations. both because it addresses the question of human self understanding in a postmodern world and because it is based on a philosophical argument calling for the need for serious engagement in the study of religious texts. to insights about life and to his inevitable pre-understanding. Netherlands: Kok Pharos. Educational aspects of hermeneutical activity in text study (forthcoming) . Ricoeur. Ricoeur’s thought is not limited to philosophical ideas that might be examined for their implications in practice. Thus. Hettema. The role of Second Naiveté in the overall context of Ricoeur’s thought contains some engaging views for religious educators today. in which faith must be redeemed from its silence in the face of critical and reflective thinking. hermeneutical engagement becomes the crucial human activity for self-understanding. Second Naiveté in Ricoeur’s thought ultimately becomes a form of being. 1993. Back to the Rough Grounds. see Theo L. Given the fact that Ricoeur’s core philosophy is the hermeneutical engagement with symbols and texts. Ricoeur’s insights challenge us to be 63 For a concrete and compelling interpretation of a biblical story. on the other hand. Indiana: Notre Dame. see also Elie Holzer. Kampen. Dunne. criticism and Second Naiveté is especially appealing for educators. examples of questions one should ask and eventual pedagogical devices one may employ. especially in teachers’ concepts of the study of texts as a mere means to acquire only knowledge. also corresponds with the post-modern paradigm. 64 See J. Ricoeur’s hermeneutical thinking obliterates the classical meansends paradigm that often prevails in education. Narrative Theology and Ethics in the Joseph story from the perspective of Ricoeur’s hermeneutics.20 If indeed true appropriation is a form of Second Naiveté. 1996. Reading for Good. because it is grounded in the practices of the hermeneutics of texts. the concept of Second Naiveté can be described as concrete hermeneutical moves. Educational Epilogue Simon’s concepts of reason and Second Naiveté operate in what appears to be a typical modern paradigm.63 In addition.

p. Conflict of Interpretations. and Gadamer (following Heidegger) spoke of the hermeneutical circle as the reader’s prejudices and the text. Aesthetics and Pedagogy in the Thought of Franz Rosenzweig. and its maxim is the “hermeneutical circle” itself of believing and understanding. behind understanding there is the primacy of exegesis and its method over the naive reading of the text. And: “The believer in the hermeneut when he is faithful to the community. .” Freud and Philosophy. by Charles E.” Religious Education. pp. See also “The hermeneutic circle can be stated roughly as follows. in the believer himself they confrontone another: an adult critic and a naïve child who listen to the Word. In our time we have not finished doing away with idols and we have barely begun to listen to symbols.the knot where the symbol gives and criticism interprets .65 In this perspective.” Ricoeur.(…) It is a rational faith. it is necessary to believe. faith that has undergone criticism. Winter 1999. but we must believe in order to understand. but it is a faith because it seeks. See also: “Hermeneutics seems to me to be animated by this double motivation: willingness to suspect. 389..appears in hermeneutics as a circle. 351.. and … the hermeneut in the believer when he does his scientific work of exegesis. it is a living and stimulating circle. 94. post-critical faith. p. Reagan and David Stewart (Boston: Beacon Press. which is precisely what we find challenging for educators. willingness to listen. p. Ricoeur speaks of the circularity of understanding and faith: What we have just called a knot . This is today the dual condition of modern man in whom struggles both a believer and an atheist. Vol. Whereas Schleiermacher spoke of the hermeneutic circle as consisting of the relation between the parts and the whole of a text.” in The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur. to believe. p. Freud and Philosophy. 24-38. 66 67 The Symbolism of Evil.behind believing there is the primacy of the object of faith over faith. for it interprets. it is necessary to understand. 222 . “Subterranean Didactics: Theology.” The circle is not a vicious circle. 27.66 … the second faith of one who has engaged in hermeneutics. vow of rigor. 28. ed. it is interesting to note that Ricoeur’s view of Second Naiveté adds a new and important dimension to the ongoing discussion of the hermeneutical circle in the practice of interpretation. understand in order to believe”such is its maxim.. through interpretation. still less a mortal one. 1978). vow of obedience. a second naiveté (…) “Believe in order to understand. The circle can be stated bluntly: “We must understand in order to believe.67 65 See also Jonathan Cohen. p. my emphasis. To understand.21 sensitive to the practices and the processes of interpretation as a central locus for religious education.

. Second Naiveté is less a concept to talk about as it is a concept to be enacted in the practices of life. The ultimate question becomes how the understanding of religious texts constitutes an activity that enacts as well as facilitates the emergence of Second Naiveté. As I have personally discovered from Mike’s living example.22 If we are to apply Ricoeur’s insights to the context of education. focus is slightly diverted from how religious texts can be understood.