Ricouer: The Hermeneutics of Suspicion


In “THE HERMENEUTICS OF FAITH AND THE HERMENEUTICS OF SUSPICION“, Ruthellen Josselson provides a clear and concise overview of Ricouer’s outline of the hermeneutic tradition.


Ricoeur (1970, 1981) demonstrates that the hermeneutic interpretive stance, in its derivation from philosophy and interpretation of sacred texts, can be positioned in two different ways. The first positioning aims at the restoration of a meaning addressed to the interpreter in the form of a message. It is characterized by a willingness to listen, to absorb as much as possible the message in its given form and it respects the symbol, un- derstood as a cultural mechanism for our apprehension of reality, as a place of revelation. This type of hermeneutics is animated by faith. By contrast, hermeneutics may be approached as the demystification of meaning presented to the interpreter in the form of a disguise. This type of hermeneutics is char- acterized by a distrust of the symbol as a dissimulation of the real and is animated by suspicion, by a skepticism towards the given. Ricoeur (1970) suggests that it is the latter type of hermeneutics which is practiced by Marx, Nietsche and Freud. All three of these ‘masters of suspicion’ look upon the contents of consciousness as in some sense ‘false’; all three aim to transcend this falsity through a reductive interpretation and critique.


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