Paul Ricoeur - Various Quotations

‘Hermeneutics is concerned with the permanent spirit of language [...] not as some decorative excess or effusion of subjectivity, but as the creative capacity of language to open up new worlds. Poetic and mythic symbols (for example) do not just express nostalgia for some forgotten world. They constitute a disclosure of unprecedented worlds, an opening onto other possible meanings which transcend the established limits of our actual world.’ (‘The Symbol as Bearer of Possible Worlds’, in Mark Hederman [OSB], et al., eds., The Crane Bag of Irish Studies, 1982, p.17. Cited in Bernard McKenna, PGLIB Conference 1998.)

‘Whether it preserves the power of a class, or ensures the duration of a system of authority, or patterns the stable functioning of a community, ideology has a function of conservation in both a good and a bad sense of the word. All the pathology of ideology proceeds frm this “conservative” role of ideology. (From Text to Action: Essays in Hermeneutics, II, trans. Kathleen Blaney & John B. Thompson, Northwestern UP 1986, p.318.)

Mimesis one is this pre-understanding of what human action is, of its sematics, its symbolism, its temporality. From this pre-understanding which is common to poets and their readers, arises fiction, and with fiction comes the second form of mimesis, which is textual and literary.’ (Time and Narrative, Vols. 1-3, ed. Kathleen McGlaughlin & David Pellauer, Chicago UP 1984; see Ricoeur, ‘Mimesis and Representation’, in A Ricoeur Reader: Reflection and Imagination, ed. Mario J Valdes, Harvester Wheatsheaf 1991, p.142.)

‘Ideology must bridge the tension that characterises the legitimation process, a tension between the claim to legitimacy made by the authority and the belief in this legitimacy offered by the citizenry. The tension occurs because while the citizenry’s belief and the authority’s claim shold correspond at the same level, the equivalence of belief with claim is never totally actual but rather always more or less a cultural fabrication. Thus, there is always more in the authority’s claim to legitimacy than in the belief actually held by the group members.’ (Lectures on Ideology and Utopia, ed. George H. Taylor, Columbia UP, 1986, p.13.)

‘The development of new, alternative perspectives define utopia’s most basic function. May we not say then that imagination itself - through its utopian function - has a constitutive role in helping us to rethink the nature of our social life? Is not utopia - this leap outside - the way in which we radically rethink what is family, what is consumption, what is authority, what is religion and so on? Does not the fantasy of an alternative society and its exteriorisation “nowhere” work as one fo the most formidable contestations of what is?’ (Lectures on Ideology and Utopia, 1986, p.15.)

‘A place which exists in no real place, a ghost city; a river with no water; a prince with no people, and so on. What must be emphasised is the benefit of this special extraterritoriality. From this “no place” an exterior glance is cast on our reality, which suddenly looks strange nothing more being taken for granted. The field of the possible is now open beyond that of the actual; it is a field therefore, for alternative ways of living.’ (Lectures on Ideology and Utopia, 1986, p.16.)

‘The kind of neutralisation that constitutes imagination as fiction is at work in utopia. Thus I propose that utopia, taken at this radical level, as the function of the nowhere in the constitution of social or symbolic action, is the ocunterpart of our first concept of ideology. There is no social integration without social subversion, we may say. The reflexivity of the process of integration occurs by means of the process of subversion. The nowhere puts the cultural system at a distance; we see our cultural system from the outside precisely thanks to this nowhere.’ (Lectures on Ideology and Utopia, 1986, p.16.)

‘Though a more uncertain hypothesis, it is also quite possible that ideology and utopia become pathological at the same point, in the sense that the pathology of ideology is dissimulation whereas the pathology of utopia is escape. The nowhere of utopia may become a pretext for escape, a way of fleeing the contradictions and ambiguity of both the use of power and the assumption of authority in a given situation.’ (Lectures on Ideology and Utopia, 1986, p.17.)

‘What confirms this hypothesis that the most radical fucntion of utopia is inseparabel form the most radical function of ideology is that the turning point of both is in fact at the same place, that is to day, in the problem of authority [...] Does not every utopia, the moment of the [O]therm attempt to come to grips with the problem of power itself? (Idem.)

‘First you have the narration of founding events, because most cultures have some original happenig or act which gives some basis of unity to the diversity within the culture. Hence the need to commemorate the founding events [...] We have to keep to that because we have to retain some claims, some convictions that are rooted in the founding events. Secondly I would say that one of the resources of the theory of narrativity is that now we may tell different stories about ourselves.’ (In Richard Kearney, ‘Interview with Paul Ricoeur: “Universality and the Power of Difference”, in States of Mind: Dialogues with Contemporary Thinkers on the European Mind, Manchester UP, 1995, p.37.)

See also David Kaplan: ‘Each is not only inescapable, but inexorably connected to the other. We can never be sure that we are free from the effects of ideology; if we are, we inevitably raise the spectre of utopianism, itself a dangerous, imaginative construct. The cultural imagination is not something we can stand outside of and evaluate. Instead we criticise the negative dimensions of ideology and utopia in terms of the positive dimensions of the other.’ (Ricoeur’s Critical Theory, NY State UP 2003, p.64.)

[Several of the foregoing quoted in Mark Ward, ‘Ideology and Utopia or Structure and Agency: The Productive Imagination as Critique of Culture’, PG Presentation, UU Sept. 2004.]

[ back ]
[ top ]