Paul Ricoeur and the nazis

Research in Phenomenology 37 (2):219-236 (2007)
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Richard Wolin questions the connection between the philosophy and politics of Paul Ricoeur to make three charges: 1) Ricoeur's version of hermeneutics slides into a relativism of incommensurable perspectives; 2) Ricoeur's "covert agenda" in his recent work, Memory, History, Forgetting is to come to terms with the regrettable choices he made in his youth; 3) Ricoeur left us a written record of his pro-Vichy sympathies that raise questions about the political implications of hermeneutics. Each claim is, however, far from true. Ricoeur's hermeneutics is particularly sensitive to the charge of relativistic incommensurability and avoids it assiduously; his philosophical motivations in writing Memory, History, Forgetting are well known and are more important with respect to the work's merit than his personal motivations; and his early political writings need to be read in light of a broader, life-long attempt to find a balance between the universal and particular in hermeneutics, ethics, and politics



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David M. Kaplan
University of North Texas

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