Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Religion & Culture / Religious Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Aarne Siirala

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


The following thesis consists of six chapters which serve as an interpretive key to Ricoeur’s hermeneutical thinking. Chapter one consists of a map of the opacity of reflection, elaborates on the relationship of desire to reflection and traces out the different methodological routes that Ricoeur takes toward uncovering the structures of this relationship and the task of becoming a self. Chapter two outlines the problem of the illusions of immediate consciousness. Chapter three is a sketch of a fourfold problem of the symbol and includes some remarks on the role and rule of metaphor in Ricoeur’s later thinking. Chapter four delineates some dimensions of the multileveled problem of language. Chapter five seeks to uncover those problems peculiar to the interpretation of written texts. In it I answer the questions: What do we aim at in the act of interpreting? Does it belong to the finding of the meaning of text to lose oneself, and in this loss to discover both dread, wonder, and an expanded self? Chapter six briefly outlines Ricoeur’s poetics of the will and its relationship to what I take to be the central focus of his hermeneutical inquiry, namely, the task of self-appropriation, which is the end of hermeneutics. What holds these chapters together is the development of finding our way toward the self of self-reflection which is the aim of Ricoeur’s hermeneutical inquiry. An initial look at what is being sought shows a reflection internally bound with the opacity that is desire and the lie of immediate consciousness. A detour is called for because neither reflection nor consciousness prove to be what they first appeared to be. The self that is sought for is found elsewhere and is already dissipated in the world of symbols, language, and texts. The will has already poeticized itself before it ever seeks to retrieve itself. My concluding remarks outline briefly my contention that Ricoeur’s near equation of text and self is an inadequate model for self-appropriation. Self-appropriation is incomplete until one reaches the praxis of an expanded self received from a given text. But prior to praxis one has to make a judgment about the truth or falsity, the goodness or non-goodness of that way of being in the world that the text makes possible for the reader in a given life situation. This incarnation of meaning is a post-hermeneutical issue. I also suggest that a carefully worked out transcendental method will direct our way beyond a relativism of what counts for truth and value. I also criticize Ricoeur’s tyranny of textuality over the other objectifications of the will. Although I accept this paradigmatic use of the text as fruitful, I also think that it raises problems in regard to the possibility of self-appropriation for the pre-textual bushman or the mentally handicapped. Self-appropriation is just as possible for undifferentiated consciousness as it is for highly differentiated consciousness. Even in Ricoeur a certain primacy belongs to the pre-critical faith of naïve immersion in the world of symbol, myth, and custom. Self-appropriation could prove to be an illusion if it is only for the elite at the expense of the many.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season