Identifying Selfhood

Imagination, Narrative, and Hermeneutics in the Thought of Paul Ricoeur

By Henry Isaac Venema

Subjects: Continental Philosophy
Series: SUNY series, McGill Studies in the History of Religions, A Series Devoted to International Scholarship
Paperback : 9780791446744, 218 pages, September 2000
Hardcover : 9780791446737, 218 pages, September 2000

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Table of contents


1. From Ego to Selfhood: A Question of Method
1. 1 Distanciation and Phenomenology
1. 2 Ricoeur's Critique of Phenomenological Idealism
1. 3 A Hermeneutical Variation of Phenomenology
1. 4 A Dialectic of Phenomenological Hermeneutics

2. Imagination: Mediated Self-Constitution
2. 1 Creative Imaginativity
2. 2 Freedom and Nature
2. 3 Fault and Failure
2. 4 Fallible Man

3. Metaphorical Reformulation: Toward Mutual Selfhood
3. 1 From Semantic of Discourse to the Work of Resemblance
3. 2 The Work of Resemblance
3. 3 Reference and Reality

4. Narrative Imagination and Personal Identity
4. 1 Narrative Identity
4. 2 The Mimetic Arc
4. 3 Narrative Identity Between Art and Life

5. Identity and Selfhood
5. 1 Identity and Language
5. 2 Identity and Sameness
5. 3 Identity, Selfhood, and Ontology

Ethical Reciprocity or Mutuality?
Identifying Selfhood


Traces the decentered formulation of self at the heart of Paul Ricoeur's philosophy from his earliest works to his most recent.


Identifying Selfhood provides the first sustained treatment of the development of Paul Ricoeur's decentered formulation of selfhood from his earliest works to his most recent. For Henry Venema, Ricoeur's affirmation that consciousness is always rooted in the signs, symbols, and texts that precede the hermeneutical project of self-recovery and discovery provides the thread that links all of Ricoeur's philosophical inquiries together. However, as Venema argues, Ricoeur's hermeneutic is caught up in the semantics of identity to such an extent that selfhood is confused and often equated with the textuality of the reflective process and is never dealt with on the intimate level of the reflexive structure of selfhood in relation to otherness. In the end, Ricoeur's formulation of alterity identifies the other within the circle of the self-same.

Henry Isaac Venema is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Messiah College.


"Venema has taken on a significant project in that he attempts to show that there are specific strands of thought that underlie and unify Ricoeur's thinking on phenomenological description, interpretation, understanding, narrative, metaphor, imagination, and selfhood. Helping others understand these textual and thematic interconnections in Ricoeur's writings is a significant contribution to the study of Ricoeur's thought and place in twentieth-century philosophy vis-à-vis Ricoeur's own responses to other major twentieth-century thinkers. 'Selfhood' takes Ricoeur back to some of the very fundamental issues in Husserlian phenomenology that contributed to Ricoeur's philosophical development and points to those issues where Ricoeur distanced himself from specific phenomenological formulations. " — Gayle L. Ormiston, coeditor of The Hermeneutic Tradition: From Ast to Ricoeur

"This book exhibits a good grasp of certain main phases of the development of Ricoeur's thought and thus is not merely a regurgitation of Ricoeur, but quite a creative rendition, and from a questioning point of view. It carries Ricoeur scholarship and interests into discussions that are relevant to continental philosophy today. " — Patrick L. Bourgeois, coauthor of Traces of Understanding: A Profile of Heidegger's and Ricoeur's Hermeneutics