Paul Ricoeur and the Poetic Moral Self

John Wall

in Moral Creativity

Published in print June 2005 | ISBN: 9780195182569
Published online July 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199835737 | DOI:

Series: AAR Reflection and Theory in the Study of Religion Series

  Paul Ricoeur and the Poetic Moral Self

Show Summary Details


There can be no meaning to the notion of human moral creativity without first the ontological possibility for a poetic moral self. In the face of a range of contemporary attacks on moral selfhood, Paul Ricoeur’s “poetics of the will” opens the way for a new postmodern phenomenology of the moral self rooted not in the autonomous ego of modernity, but in a radical religious affirmation or wager of the human capability for making meaning of its historical and embodied world. A careful reading of Ricoeur’s extensive oeuvre over the second half of the twentieth century shows the development of a highly original moral anthropology—combining elements from Edmund Husserl, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Gabriel Marcel, Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, and others—based on a fallible tension of finitude and freedom within the self that is nevertheless capable of giving rise to concrete historical meaning over time in the form of the self’s interpretations of symbols, traditions, and narratives. Ricoeur’s unique hermeneutical phenomenology does not, however, fully articulate the primordiality of human moral creativity itself. The decisive further step that may be taken, by more closely integrating poetics and religion, is to affirm the human self as ultimately capable, in the face of its own idolatrous fallibility, of imitating the mythical world-creative activity of the world’s own primordial Creator.

Keywords: Creator; fallibility; imitation; meaning; narrative; ontology; religion; Paul Ricoeur; self; tradition

Chapter.  18752 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.