restricted access 12. Love and Justice: A Memorial Tribute to Paul Ricoeur
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220 12.  Love and Justice       A Memorial Tribute to Paul Ricoeur On May 20, 2005, the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur died in Paris at age ninety-two. This chapter is dedicated to his memory. In my view, Ricoeur’s writings and his persona were in complete harmony— something that is not often the case among distinguished intellectuals. I had the good fortune to encounter him at various conferences both in the United States and in Europe and thus was able to discern the human being animating his texts. In 1999 I participated in a meeting held in his honor when he bade farewell to the University of Chicago, where he had taught periodically for many years.1 In my recollection, the traits that were particularly striking were Ricoeur’s genuine modesty and reticence, his passion for inquiry and dialogical learning, and his warm friendliness toward both old and young, philosophers and nonphilosophers. His broad public acclaim never dented his simple humanity. Ricoeur’s writings are voluminous and multifaceted. In their ability to integrate major strands of both Continental and Anglo-American thought, they constitute a kind of summa of twentieth-century Western philosophy. It would be audacious and even reckless to try to present an overview of this far-flung opus in such a brief tribute. Instead, I focus here on a moderately sized text—but one that, in its basic orientation, can claim a certain representative quality. As in a prism, the argument of the text assembles the different facets of Ricoeur’s work into a nodal or central point: the relation between love and justice. The text dates from 1989, the year the University of Tübingen bestowed on the French thinker the Leopold Lucas Prize. It was on that occasion that the recipient delivered a lecture titled Amour et Justice.2 A Memorial Tribute to Paul Ricoeur  221 It seems appropriate to comment briefly on the background of this event. The prize given to Ricoeur had been established in 1972 to commemorate the centenary of the birth of Leopold Lucas. After studying Oriental languages and Jewish history in Berlin and Tübingen, Lucas became one of the leading Jewish scholars and intellectuals in pre-Weimar Germany. In 1902 he cofounded the Society for the Promotion of Jewish Sciences; much later, in 1941, at the age of nearly seventy, he heeded the call of Leo Baeck to join the Institute for the Wissenschaft des Judentums in Berlin. The following year, he and his wife were deported to the concentration camp of Theresienstadt, where he perished in the fall of 1943; his wife died a year later at Auschwitz. In introducing Ricoeur in 1989, Oswald Bayer (professor of philosophy at Tübingen) underscored the appropriateness of awarding the Lucas Prize to the French philosopher. As he observed in his laudatio , the prize was given to Ricoeur “in recognition of his border-crossings mediating between peoples” and in view of his tireless efforts to reconnect “philosophy, psychology, literary theory, and theology” by relying on “phenomenological and hermeneutical traditions.” In the same speech, Bayer also pointed to some concrete border crossings in the philosopher’s own life. Born into an old Huguenot family, Ricoeur grew up in a country torn between agnosticism and the Catholic faith. Captured by the Germans at the beginning of World War II, he spent his years in a prisoner-of-war camp studying German philosophy and translating the first volume of Husserl’s Ideas for a Pure Phenomenology and Phenomenological Philosophy (a steppingstone to his later publications on Husserl).3 In 1947 he became the coeditor of Esprit, a progressive Christian journal seeking to mediate between the Enlightenment and religious faith. During the same period, having accepted an appointment as philosopher in Strasbourg, he encouraged and supported repeated meetings between German and French professors and students. In 1956 he moved to the Sorbonne in Paris, and a decade later he transferred to the University of Nanterre. While still holding the latter position, he entered into a teaching arrangement with the University of Chicago, which for many years involved repeated border crossings between Europe and America. One crucial feature of Ricoeur’s outlook underscored by Bayer was his mediating position between polar opposites or stark antith- 222 A Pedagogy for Our Troubled Times eses. Ricoeur, he remarked, was neither a local chauvinist nor a shallow universalist dedicated to a global melting pot of cultures. “It is a distinguishing quality of the life-work of Paul Ricoeur,” the...


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