Ricoeur's theory of narrative as a reformulation of Husserl's notion of intentionality

Paul R Gyllenhammer, Marquette University


Husserl's notion of intentionality is based upon the postulate that consciousness is always consciousness of something . From this basic postulate, a distinct problem arises and to which Ricoeur's theory of narrative offers a response. The problem issues from the question of objectivity . When Husserl explains that consciousness is correlated to something , what he means is (1) that a person grasps something real and (2) that a person grasps this something as do all other people. Husserl, however, never properly incorporates such an intersubjective perspective into the basic formulation of intentionality. Since Husserl always looks to the isolated ego as the source of objective validity, the external world seems to become reduced to the representative acts of consciousness. Ricoeur clearly overcomes this problem by focusing on the issue of linguistic mediation. What Ricoeur highlights is the fact that our intentions toward the world are already supported by a level of cultural achievement. The intending subject is not, therefore, an isolate ego weighing in his or her mind what expression is the best suited for what is intended. Intentions themselves feed on a social context, a culture, or a tradition which all have a presence in the form of written texts or narratives. Texts or narratives support and inform what can be intended. Although this appeal to narrative mediation answers the intersubjective question, we still need to be shown how the objective world is something more than a mere reflection of linguistic or narrative acts. Narrative is a term which has a dual significance: (1) narratives are indeed accounts which people pass on to each other but (2) they are also about reality insofar as they prescribe ways to act in the world. Here Ricoeur incorporates a theory of action into the notion of intentionality: actions are intelligible because of the intentions which permeate them and intentions are correlated to the world insofar as they can be acted upon. In this way, Ricoeur builds into the notion of intentionality an intersubjective component which remains connected to reality through the conscious acts of individuals.

Recommended Citation

Gyllenhammer, Paul R, "Ricoeur's theory of narrative as a reformulation of Husserl's notion of intentionality" (2000). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9991605.