Social Imaginaries

Volume 1, Issue 2, Autumn 2015

Timo Helenius
Pages 32-52

Between Receptivity and Productivity: Paul Ricoeur on Cultural Imagination

This essay analyses Ricoeur’s notion of human being that is facilitated by cultural imagination (l’imagination culturelle). Following Ricoeur’s insight in his 1976 essay Ideology and Utopia as Cultural Imagination, this paper proposes that his more extensively examined notion of the mytho-poetic imagination, that extends to the social and practical imagination, is necessarily concretised as culture, or as human action that both receives and produces the cultural reality that is the context of a subject’s action, in order to gain ‘a hermeneutics of the being-able-to-be (pouvoir-être)’. I maintain that Ricoeur’s phenomenological hermeneutics of ‘being able’ is ultimately based on the cultural imagination initiating tradition-conscious change in the social reality that then facilitates the post-critical appropriation of one’s self as capable. In short, I claim that l’imagination culturelle is the basis for a sociocultural poetics of human action and, therefore, a condition for the birth of a situated subject in the positive fullness of belonging.