Paul Ricoeur RIP

The French literary theorist and philosopher Paul Ricoeur died this Friday, aged 92.

Ricoeur worked dialectically, drawing upon hermeneutics, phenomenology, existentialism, as well as historical and literary theory, not so much to create theoretical synthesis, but rather to juxtapose the differences of the various ideas. He combined these ideas through what he called a hermeneutic arc – drawn between two antithetical positions, to show how they could go together by linking them together in a way that marks the place of one position in the context of the other.

This unique method of non-synthetic mediation is central to Ricoeur’s thinking, and very enlightening, though sometimes frustrating to read. The way he respects the plurality of voices and questions of others while still searching for his own answers is a surprisingly humble and balanced method of enquiry. Someone out there likens Ricoeur’s mediation of philosophical debates to a good referee calling a game: he doesn??t get in the way of the play and he usually makes the right call.

His work was definitely some of the most interesting and compelling theoretical stuff I’ve read during my time studying Comparative Literature. And the humility and honesty with which he wrote indicates a thoughtful and considerate man whose voice will be sorely missed.

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