Volume 12, 2007
Philosophical Trends in the XXth Century
Two Theories of Ontological Disclosure
The Metaphoric Representation of Being in Ricoeur's Hermeneutics
How do metaphors and symbols embedded in sacred texts and narratives refigure meaning in the worlds of texts and readers? This is one of the problems that drives Paul Ricoeur's hermeneutic theory, where symbolic language moves beyond the constraints of denotation to enable us to interpret human experience in a plurivocal, rather than univocal ways. In my essay I examine Ricoeur's adherence to a disclosive theory of language, borrowed from Heidegger, and argue that it does not provide an adequate theory of linguistic reference. Ricoeur does not give a structural explanation for how it is that the new meaning provided by metaphors actually impacts upon the cognitive dimensions of the interpretive process. I argue that Hegel's analysis of language is stronger in that it includes a discussion of the perceptual and cognitive stages of understanding, which include moments of hermeneutic "reversal"; here we see how it is that language simultaneously refers to and mediates experience. This might become the basis for developing a stronger explanatory model of the refiguring process which Ricoeur describes.