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Reviews137 OneselfAsAnother, by Paul Ricoeur; translated by Kathleen Blarney; 363 pp. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992, $29.95. Paul Ricoeur's latest book was first delivered in 1986 as the Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh. The introductory chapter, "The Question of Selfhood," discloses the policy which lead die author to exclude the religious content of his lectures from the published text so that his faith would not appear to undergird his philosophy. He also refuses to claim the self-founding certainty of Descartes and the intuitive immediacy of phenomenology—along with, one should add, the intensity of sentiment associated with existentialism and the contumacy of deconstruction. This is sober, morally perspicuous discourse which relies on recondite philosophemes fast fading from today's horizon of cellular phones and MTV. Ricoeur's work is nevertheless engaged with very contemporary problems of narrativity and otherness. Although Ricoeur speaks of his way of philosophizing in terms of a methodological "ascesis," he inexorably marshals everything he knows in his effort to articulate a "hermeneutics of the self." Ricoeur has long sought to bridge the chasm between his own Continental tradition and analytic philosophy . Several chapters in OneselfAs Another call upon Strawson, Searle, Austin, Davidson, and Grice, among others, in an effort to sketch out the semantic and pragmatic core of selfhood. But Ricoeur becomes dissatisfied with analytic methods insofar as they lead to a "closed semanticism . . . incapable of accounting for human action as actually happening in the world" (p. 301). While such methods do contribute an indispensable realismand objective status to philosophic notions of identity and personhood, Ricoeur has to tap other sources for a way to explain the relation between selfhood and sameness, or persistence across time, and its unsettling transformation, or renewal, via encounters with both texts and other persons. What Ricoeur seeks is a practice of attestation associated with a good conscience. The self would have to attest to—testify, tell a story about—its experiences of selfhood and otherness across "a wide range of dissimilar experiences, following a diversity of centers of otherness" (p. 318). His own narrative theory elaborated in Time and Narrative described how the reading process, by leading us into vicarious experiences ofalter-ation and then back to ourselves, enables a dialectic of selfhood and otherness. Ricoeur also embraces Aristotle's notions concerning character and friendship. "The phronimos is not necessarily one individual alone" (p. 273) . Consistency of behavior and the development of habits which would anchor the character of the self are indispensable for the moral conditions of respect and exchange that comprise interpersonal relations. In this context practical wisdom takes the form of "critical solicitude" (p. 273) . In his last chapter Ricoeur turns to Heidegger and Levinas to confront some 138Philosophy and Literature ofthe most ornery issues involved with selfhood and otherness. ForHeidegger's Dasein, the call of conscience comes from itself, not from "being-enjoined by the Other" (p. 351). Ricoeur, who is seldom critical of Heidegger, prefers a more public sense ofindebtedness. Ricoeur's endorsement ofAristotle's theory offriendship points up the position he will take regarding the work ofLévinas. In books VIII and IX of his Ethics, Aristotle described friendship as something reciprocal between two persons,joining them in intimate dialogue for the sake of living weW'vath and for others injust institutions" (p. 351). But, for Lévinas, otherness is something asymmetrical that, as radical exteriority, breaks with the sphere of immanence and intentionality. This exteriority does not encourage friendship so much as sacrifice, intense desire, or excessive responsibility. For Ricoeur the ethical theory of Lévinas sacrifices too much to some "master of justice" (p. 337) . He says that, in many ways, it is a practice ofexcess "to the point ofparoxysm" (p. 338) . But Ricoeur's own meandering practice, less candid and visceral than Levinas's, becomes excessively detached by a methodology which lacks the metaphysical audacity of his (absent) faith. Hiroshima UniversityC. S. Schreiner The Critical I, by Norman Holland; xiv and 262 pp. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992, $35.00. Norman Holland has been a thoughtful and prolific reader-oriented literary critic since his publication of TheDynamics ofLiterary Response (1968; rpt. 1989). In The...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 137-138
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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