Volume 19, 2019
On Conflict and Violence
Jason W. Alvis
Ricoeur on Violence and Religion
Or, Violence Gives Rise to Thought
This essay demonstrates Ricoeur’s explication of the various roles religion can play especially in regards to acts of collective violence, and also how his conceptions take us beyond the traditional dichotomies of religion as necessarily violent, or necessarily peaceful. It focuses on three essays where his most formidable reflections on religion and violence can be found: “Religion and Symbolic Violence” (1999), “Power and Violence” (first published 1989), and “State and Violence” (first published 1955). First, the essay hermeneutically describes the intricate relationship between violence and religion within these three essays, pointing to (i) three perils of religion especially regarding communities, (ii) the figure of the magistrate within some religiously motivated political revolutions, and (iii) the danger of ecclesiastical orders demonstrating not only authority but also forms of domination. The essay then phenomenologically ties these three threads together, demonstrating a way of understanding both the promises and perils of religion as it relates to violence, both in the work of Ricoeur and beyond it.