Volume 82, Issue 3, Summer 2008
How Paul Ricoeur Changed the World
Like Husserl and Heidegger, Ricoeur offers a powerful and original account of what the “world” is and how it conditions our thinking. But it is difficult to recognize Ricoeur’s contributions unless we view them in relation to another aspect of his work: his post-Hegelian Kantianism. Ricoeur tries to steer a middle course between Kant’s and Hegel’s views on this topic. He thinks the idea of the world plays a crucial role in regulating experience, but he tries to understand this idea in a way that is concrete without being totalizing. Ricoeur’s theory of narrative does exactly this. It describes how narratives open up worlds for their readers:
sets of specific existential possibilities that may be incorporated into readers’ lives. When Ricoeur’s account of narrative is viewed in relation to Kant and Hegel, it
sheds valuable new light on many aspects of his work.