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Philosophy Today

Volume 58, Issue 4, Fall 2014

Ricoeur, Justice and Institutions / Ricoeur, la justice et les institutions

Gilbert Vincent
Pages 545-570

Au croisement de l’épistémologie et de l’ontologie
Le concept d’institution chez Ricoeur

Our analysis deals with the concept of institution presented in the seventh and eighth studies of Paul Ricœur’s Oneself as Another. The judgment on institutions found there is somewhat ambivalent: sometimes institutions are understood as a mediation that establishes society and the individual, sometimes it is suspected of imposing itself like an abusive transcendence and of blocking interpersonal relations. To be sure, one does find, in Ricœur, explanations for this ambivalence. History does show that institutions are “fragile,” that they can fail in their mission—the just distribution of different goods–that they can even be criminal. We intend to show here that the idea of an institution, for Ricœur, is shaped by his contrasting evaluation of two major sociologists, Weber and Durkheim (who seem to serve as a foil). We also consider the many reflections in Ricœur’s text about a “just institution,” which testify to his concern for fairness.