Paul Ricoeur and the Poetic Imperative

The Creative Tension between Love and Justice

By W. David Hall

Subjects: Theology, Religion, Philosophy, Continental Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Theology and Continental Thought
Paperback : 9780791471449, 208 pages, June 2008
Hardcover : 9780791471432, 208 pages, August 2007

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Table of contents


1. Introduction

Situated Reading
Interpretational Structure

2. Agency: The Structures of Selfhood
The Structure of Agency
Capability: The Voluntary and the Involuntary
Identity: Idem and Ipse
Attestation: Acting and Suffering Selves
3. Meaning: The Narrative Configuration of Existence
The Configuration of Meaning
Understanding: Active Receptivity
Possibility: Actuality and Potentiality
Affirmation: A Hermeneutics of Meaningful Existence
4. Practice: Practical Experience and Moral Concern
Practical Experience
Responsibility: Imputation and Solicitude
Ethics: Power and Violence
Witness: Conviction and Fidelity
5. Conscience: Conviction and Fidelity in Theological Perspective
The Testimony of Conscience
Basic Structures: The Logic of Equivalence and the Logic of Superabundance
Configuration: The Golden Rule and the Love Command
Experience: Autonomy and Theonomy
6. The Economy of the Gift and the Poetic Imperative

The Economy of the Gift
Love and Justice
The Poetic Imperative


Looks at Ricoeur’s writings on love and justice, prominent toward the end of his life, and how these serve as an interpretive key to his thought as a whole.


This book addresses the thought of Paul Ricoeur (1913–2005), paying particular attention to the creative tension between love and justice as principle themes in his work. Dealing with these issues chiefly in his writings on religion, Ricoeur explored the tension between the biblical ideals of the golden rule—the religious formulation of a principle of justice—and the love command. Author W. David Hall shows how these ideals continually speak to each other in Ricoeur's work, how they operate creatively on each other, and how each serves as a corrective to the perversions of the other. Hall maintains that although issues of love and justice became prominent comparatively late in Ricoeur's corpus, they provide a sustained trajectory throughout his work and are an important interpretive key for understanding Ricoeur's intellectual project as a whole.

W. David Hall is Assistant Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Centre College and coeditor (with John Wall and William Schweiker) of Paul Ricoeur and Contemporary Moral Thought.


"…offers a well-argued and illuminating discussion of Ricoeur's ethical project … Hall's substantial contribution to Ricoeurian scholarship is especially relevant for readers interested in Ricoeur's theological ethics, ethical hermeneutics, and dialectics of experience. " — Conversations in Religion and Theology

"Hall draws out insights on ethics, selfhood, and a host of other topics from Ricoeur's entire career, making this a worthwhile book for theologians and philosophers interested in hermeneutics, phenomenology, and related subjects. " — Religious Studies Review

"W. David Hall offers a finely textured portrayal of Paul Ricoeur's writings as a thematic unity of hermeneutical phenomenology, philosophical anthropology, and theological poetics. Of singular importance is the author's sustained argument that Ricoeur's theological texts provide an often overlooked context for understanding his wider philosophical project. " — Calvin O. Schrag, author of Convergence amidst Difference: Philosophical Conversations across National Boundaries