From Eidetics to Hermeneutics: Notes on the Philosophical Method of Paul Ricoeur

William A. Hyatt, Marquette University


In the midst of the contemporary crisis of culture appears the monumental philosophical project of Paul Ricoeur, This crisis is characterized not only by a radical shift in the notion of science,1 and by the emergence of historical consciousness,2 but also by a deeply felt conflict emerging from and challenging the future of man's explanation of man, his world and his destiny, If Thales asked a metaphysical question concerning the ultimate causes of the many things he observed around him, and Descartes, transposing the ground of all such questions, asked, "How do I know any answer is true?"--the modem question (possibly beginning with Kierkegaard) is, "So what?" "Is there, after all, any value to all that is and to all that man knows?" This is the reflective question--for the possible answers are "Yes" and "No" and it is a question for interiority--for man is forced to look to himself and his works for an answer, But what is the answer? Contemporary man is left to struggle with radically opposing styles of interpretation, On one extreme there is interpretation which would cut down and destroy the illusions3 and, at another pole, one which would find man's ultimate destiny in a postcritical faith, a recollection or restoration of meaning,4 It is to the dialectical resolution of these opposing hermeneutics that Ricoeur's work is ultimately addressed, especially in his latest published work, Freud and Philosophy.5