Ricoeur's Critical Theory

By David M. Kaplan

Subjects: Continental Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in the Philosophy of the Social Sciences
Paperback : 9780791456965, 236 pages, February 2003
Hardcover : 9780791456958, 236 pages, February 2003

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents


Reference Key to Frequently Cited Texts of Paul Ricoeur


1. Hermeneutics


Phenomenology and Hermeneutics
Discourse and Distanciation
Hermeneutics and Ideology Critique


2. Narrative


Metaphor and Narrative
Narrative and History
Interpretation and Argumentation


3. Selfhood


Freedom and Nature
Speaking and Acting
Narrative Identity and Selfhood


4. Practical Wisdom


Ethical Aim and Moral Norm
Moral Norm and Practical Wisdom
Practical Wisdom and Discourse Ethics


5. Politics


Ethics and Politics
Critique and Conviction
Politics and the Law


6. Critical Theory


Identity and Recognition
Technology and Politics
Globalization and Democracy





The first book-length treatment of Paul Ricoeur's conception of philosophy as critical theory.


In Ricoeur's Critical Theory, David M. Kaplan revisits the Habermas-Gadamer debates to show how Paul Ricoeur's narrative-hermeneutics and moral-political philosophy provide a superior interpretive, normative, and critical framework. Arguing that Ricoeur's unique version of critical theory surpasses the hermeneutic philosophy of Gadamer, Kaplan adds a theory of argumentation necessary to criticize false consciousness and distorted communication. He also argues that Ricoeur develops Habermas's critical theory, adding an imaginative, creative dimension and a concern for community values and ideas of the Good Life. He then shows how Ricoeur's political philosophy steers a delicate path between liberalism, communitarianism, and socialism. Ricoeur's version of critical theory not only identifies and criticizes social pathologies, posits Kaplan, but also projects utopian alternatives for personal and social transformation that would counter and heal the effects of unjust societies. The author concludes by applying Ricoeur's critical theory to three related problems—the politics of identity and recognition, technology, and globalization and democracy—to show how his works add depth, complexity, and practical solutions to these problems.

David M. Kaplan is Visiting Assistant Professor of Humanities at Polytechnic University.