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Phenomenology 2010

Volume 5, Issue Part 1, 2010

Selected Essays from North America Part 1

David Leichter
Pages 373-399

The Dual Role of Testimony in Paul Ricoeur’s Memory, History, Forgetting

This paper explores some implications of Ricoeur’s conception of testimony. Testimony plays two roles: it enables us to know what actually happened and it reveals how the past continues to be meaningful. However, these two roles generate a peculiar problem: the meaning of the past, as bearing witness, cannot be exhausted by a narrative account of what happened. Furthermore, since testimony situates a people within a tradition and raises suspicion on such a narrative by showing that it does not fully bear witness to the past, Ricoeur’s understanding of testimony opens a site for ethical and political challenges.

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