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Paul Ricoeur between Theology and Philosophy

Detour and Return

Boyd Blundell

Publication Year: 2010

Paul Ricoeur (1913--2005) remains one of philosophy of religion's most distinctive voices. Ricoeur was a philosopher first, and while his religious reflections are very relevant to theology, Boyd Blundell argues that his philosophy is even more relevant. Using Ricoeur's own philosophical hermeneutics, Blundell shows that there is a way for explicitly Christian theology to maintain both its integrity and overall relevance. He demonstrates how the dominant pattern of detour and return found throughout Ricoeur's work provides a path to understanding the relationship between philosophy and theology. By putting Ricoeur in dialogue with current, fundamental, and longstanding debates about the role of philosophy in theology, Blundell offers a hermeneutically sensitive engagement with Ricoeur's thought from a theological perspective.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Religion


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pp. vii-viii

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

Philosophical hermeneutics has as one its central features an awareness of the effective history that moves under and through every conversation, so it seems appropriate that I identify the effective history that runs under and through this project. The motive force comes from my first sustained en-counter with Karl Barth in a graduate course with the late George Schner ...


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. 1-12

Theology in North America is in a peculiar situation. Despite the large Christian population, academic theologians make no ripples in the public discourse. Not since Reinhold Niebuhr in the middle of the twentieth century has any theologian commanded serious attention from the general public. ...

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Part One The Main Road

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pp. 13-14

The premise of the first part of this book is that the debate on theo-logical method, and particularly theology's engagement with philosophy, that was carried out by the so-called revisionists and postliberals has all the characteristics of a proxy war. Without any disrespect to the key figures in this debate, they have become the most prominent exponents of positions ...

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1 Fundamental Loyalties

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pp. 15-31

Over the course of the twentieth century, there has been a significant shift in academic theology toward an attitude that is resolutely public. This phenomenon gained so much moral momentum that the common antonym in theology for public is no longer private but sectarian. Those unwilling to give publicly accessible arguments are considered not so much wrong ...

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2 Theology, Hermeneutics, and Ricoeur’s Double Life

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pp. 32-54

The relationship between theology and hermeneutics now has its own own Wirkungsgeschichte, and as is the case with many relationships, the lines of communication are strained. New questions arise faster than they can be answered, and the original questions get lost along the way. ...

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Part Two Detour

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pp. 55-56

The second part of this book comprises three chapters that follow the pattern of Ricoeur’s narrative arc: prefiguration, configuration, refiguration. But the three chapters as a whole are a critical detour through Ricoeur’s philosophical hermeneutics, which will return in the third part to an enriched theological discourse. ...

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3 Prefiguration: The Critical Arc and Descriptive Identity

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pp. 57-80

Perhaps the best known of all the many metaphors surrounding Ricoeur’s work is that of the “graft,” in the sense that hermeneutics is grafted onto phenomenology.1 This is a metaphor rich in resonance, harkening back to the apostle Paul’s characterization of the Gentiles as being “grafted” onto the tree of Israel.2 ...

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4 Configuration: The Narrative Arc and Narrative Identity

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pp. 81-104

In the preceding chapter, we established the dynamic of detour and return as central to Ricoeur’s thought. The critical arc passed from a mode of participation (conviction, naïveté) through a mode of distanciation (critique, suspicion) to a mode of critical participation (considered conviction, second naïveté). ...

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5 Refiguration: Ricoeur’s “Little Ethics”

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pp. 105-128

Oneself as Another began with Ricoeur’s delivery of the Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh in 1986, which explored the theme of the “capable person.” A person can speak, act, and narrate, which formed the bases for the first six studies. But a person can also make promises and decisions. ...

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Part Three Return

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pp. 129-130

Having completed our philosophical detour, we now return to the question of theology’s struggle to manage the tension between integrity and relevance. We have new tools to think through this problem: both the critical arc and the narrative arc can mediate theology’s attempt to open to the disciplinary “Other” without sacrificing its own identity. ...

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6 Chalcedonian Hermeneutics

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pp. 131-149

Here I attempt to cash in the wager I made in the introduction, that Barth’s theology and Ricoeur’s philosophy will prove compatible. In one sense, this is a natural pairing because of their similarities: they share not only a Christian faith, but also a background in the Reformed tradition, a dialectical method, an appreciation of narrative, ...

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7 Theological Anthropology: Removing Brackets

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pp. 150-170

In chapter 5, we saw Ricoeur define the ethical aim as “the good life with and for others in just institutions,” but it remains to be seen what constitutes a good life. This definition is the main road of what is perhaps the most accessible example of Ricoeur’s critical arc, ...

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pp. 171-178

There have been a great many detours. We began by articulating the tension between integrity and relevance as it applied to an increasingly disestablished theology. Because theology has been perpetually under attack—and when it is not under attack it is often because it is dismissed as too weak or irrelevant to be worth attacking— ...


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pp. 179-200

Works Cited

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pp. 201-210


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pp. 211-214

E-ISBN-13: 9780253004352
E-ISBN-10: 0253004357
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253354655

Page Count: 230
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Religion