2000Arts and PhilosophyThought and Ethics
Paul Ricœur photo

Paul Ricœur

  • France / 1913-2005
  • Philosopher
  • Professor Emeritus, University of Paris and The University of Chicago

An Philosopher Who Constructed Hermeneutic Phenomenology that Embraces a New Concept of Ethics

While firmly in the tradition of reflexive philosophy, Professor Ricœur has revolutionized the methods of hermeneutic phenomenology, expanding the study of textual interpretation to include the broad yet concrete domains of mythology, biblical exegesis, psychoanalysis, theory of metaphor, and narrative theory. He has had an enormous impact on the philosophical world not only in France but also in Britain and the United States.
*This field then was Field of Philosophy.


Brief Biography

Born in Valence, France
Graduated, Université de Rennes
Entered Université de Paris. Prepared for a certifying examination to be a professor.
Mobilized as the 2nd World War occurred. Spent as a prisoner of war at a prison camp in Poland
Researcher, CNRS
Instructor, Université de Strasbourg. Ph. D.
Professor of Philosophy, Université de Paris-Sorbonne
Professor, the newly founded university, Université de Paris -Nanterre
Returned to Université de Paris-Nanterre as a professor
The concurrent post of professor of the Department of Divinity University of Chicago. Professor Emeritus, University of Chicago
Professor Emeritus, Université de Paris

Selected Awards and Honors

Jean Cavaillés Prix
Hegel Prize, Germany
Gordon Laing Prize, University of Chicago Press
Grand Prix, French Academy
Lucas Prize, Germany
Balzan Prize, Italy

Major Works


Philosophie et la volonté, I II III, Paris, Aubier, 1950-1960


De l’ interprétation Essai sur Freud, Paris, Seuil, 1965


La métaphore vive, Paris, Seuil, 1975


Temp et récit, tome I II III, Paris, Seuil, 1983-1985


Soi-méme comme un autre, Paris, Seuil, 1990


An Philosopher Who Constructed Hermeneutic Phenomenology that Embraces a New Concept of Ethics

Firmly seated in the West’s long philosophical tradition, Professor Ricœur has innovative the methods of hermeneutic, phenomenology, applying the study of text interpretation to several broad domains not previously dealt with by philosophy-examples of this being mythology, biblical exegesis, psychoanalysis, theory of metaphor, and that of narrative-and in so doing he has opened up a new phase in modern philosophy.

Starting out after the war with studies of existential philosophy and phenomenology, Professor Ricœur projected an inquiry into the “eidetics,” “empirics,” and “poetics” of the will in his comprehensively titled Philosophié de la volonté (1950-60) (The philosophy of the will) aimed at a full-scale recovery of the Cartesian cogito. Later, he incorporated psychoanalysis and British and American analytical methods and corrected the idealist tendencies of Husserl’s phenomenology, which he had once studied, to develop his own theory of text interpretation grounded in a subtle “hermeneutic phenomenology.” The fruit of these efforts was La métaphore vive (1975) (The Rule of Metaphor); in it he demonstrated that metaphor is not simply a topic of literary theory, it is a basic phenomenon that is rooted in the very essence of what it means to be human. Similarly, in his three-volume work Temps et récit(1983-85) (Time and Narrative), he not only made it clear that men and women are historical beings who make up stories in time about the conditions that affect their actions, but he also deepened the inquiry into the possibility of a philosophical account of time. Likewise, in Soi-même comme un autre (1990) (Oneself as Another), he constructed an ethics whose the goal is “to live well with and for others in just institutions” by giving due recognition to a self that is open to others, thereby breathing new life into a contemporary ethics that had forgotten the other and was in an egocentric impasse.

Supported by these epoch-making achievements, the philosophy of Professor Ricœur can, in short, be called a philosophy of the creation of meaning through the medium of human nature. On the one hand, it links the traditions of hermeneutics since Dilthey and of phenomenology since Husserl, while, on the other, it develops theories that have opened up a dialogue with modern linguistic philosophy and literary theory. In so doing it has had an enormous influence not only on philosophy but, broadly speaking, across the entire spectrum of the humanities as well. Though Professor Ricœur has constantly returned to the idea that the primary mission of philosophy is the synthesis of the sciences and has ambitiously incorporated the results of these efforts, at the same time he has closed in on a traditional concern of philosophy, using language to give an account of existence, while remaining respectful of the diversity of accounts provided by literature and history. His philosophical ideas open up the possibility of new insights in the coming century.

For these reasons, the Inamori Foundation is pleased to bestow upon Professor Ricœur the 2000 Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy.


Abstract of the Lecture

Critique and Conviction

My interest for philosophy dates from the age of seventeen, when I received my first philosophy lessons and advice on intellectual courage that have stayed with me throughout my life. I then met and regularly saw the philosopher Gabriel Marcel. Decisive reading during captivity formed long term convictions that served as a basis for my first contributions to philosophy. I was in my turn teacher and a happy one in France and the USA.

My lecture will cover my career in general and the development of my thought from my first important study (Le volontaire et l’involontaire) to my most recent work.

I will illustrate my reflections with two examples of practical wisdom so as not to separate speculative wisdom from the practical wisdom used by the flesh and blood wise man. I will use two examples, one in the field of medicine and the other in legal sentencing. Beyond reflection lies personal commitment. This is why I will finish with my reflections – my advice at the end of a long life – on a situation where the problem of man’s relationship with suffering is posed. In this phase where the sick man is approaching death where care aims to no longer heal but the accompany, we should think about the difficult questions of therapeutic life – prolonging medical treatment and euthanasia.

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The Discovery of the Other

Sunday, November 12, 2001
Kyoto International Conference Center
Hisayasu Nakagawa, Member of the Kyoto Prize Committee; Director General, Kyoto National Museum
Coordinator & Moderator
Hiroshi Kume, Professor, Faculty of Letters, Rissho University
Inamori Foundation
Kyoto Prefectural Government, Kyoto City Government, NHK
With the cooperation
Société Franco-Japonaise de Philosophie


Opening Hiroshi Kume
Greeting Toyomi Inamori
Managing Director, The Inamori Foundation
Introduction of Laureate Hiroshi Kume
Laureate Lecture Paul Ricœur Laureate
The Judge and the Historian Confronted to the Representation of the Past
Lecture Yujiro Nakamura, Professor Emeritus, Meiji University; Chairman, Société Franco-Japonaise de Philosophie
The Insights Ricœur's Theory of the Other Reveals to Us
Lecture Megumi Sakabe
Member of the Kyoto Prize Committee; Professor, Faculty of Letters, Obirin University
Narrative Identity and Multiculturalism
Lecture Yasuhiko Sugimura
Associate Professor, Graduate School of Letters, Kyoto University
The Question Who? "The Hermeneutics of the Self" and the Problem of the Other
Closing Hiroshi Kume