Though Ricoeur can arguably take some credit for making ""hermeneutics"" a buzzword in graduate seminars, Reagan's passably...


PAUL RICOEUR: HIS Life and His Work

Though Ricoeur can arguably take some credit for making ""hermeneutics"" a buzzword in graduate seminars, Reagan's passably informative, slightly schizoid book isn't likely to increase awareness of the eminent philosopher. Still writing thick, erudite, and deliberative philosophical works at 83, Ricoeur is enjoying a steadily growing reputation as one of the most influential of living French philosophers. Reagan (Philosophy/Kansas State Univ.), who shares with Jacques Derrida the distinction of having had Ricoeur as a teacher, lets his respect for the philosopher and pacifist water down not only the biographic details here but the intellectual side as well. This patchy work is broken up into four unsatisfying sections--a colorless biographical essay, Reagan's own personal memoir of Ricoeur, an uninspired pr‚cis of Ricouer's recent work Oneself as Another, and four interviews. Ricoeur's brand of ""anthropological philosophy"" apart, an intimate, subjective approach would have been justified for a leader of the phenomenological school, even if he insists on the importance of the work over the life. Admittedly, Ricoeur's work tends to be learned, dry, and difficult: an essay on Freud, studies of the symbolism of evil, explorations of the sources of human volition and of time as narrative. But Reagan's glosses are drier still. Ricoeur's life, on the other hand, has crucial moments that Reagan lets pass without much scrutiny: his imprisonment as a soldier in WW II, risky notoriety as a pacifist during the Algerian war, professional battles with fellow philosophers and psychoanalysts in the 1960s, and collisions with student radicals in 1968 while he was serving as a university administrator. A thin book on a dense philosopher, wavering between sycophantic tones and ponderous discourse.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996


Page Count: 160

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996