Abstracts Ricoeur workshop
Abstracts of Key Note lectures – click here!
Abstracts of paper sessions:
- Jonghyuk Chang
- Marco Franceschina
- Patrik Fridlund
- Dagmar Kusá
- Karl Racette
- Michele Kueter Petersen
- Terhi Törmä
- Anna Seppänen
- Michael Deckard
- Jari Visto
- Susanne Wigorts Yngvesson
- Maria Cristina Vendra
- Björn Vikström
- Timo Helenius
1. Refiguration of narrative identity through eschatological perspective
Jonghyuk Chang, Jena University
Individual stories and memories always emerge from collective history. The individual constitutes his life story through a series of rectifications made on previous narratives of a collective. Due to its open structure, a subject exists in hybridity, insofar as the subject proves to be a place of impure intersections, combinations, interrelated differences and referrals. The constitution of meaning of the self is to be understood entirely in terms of the other, by whom it experiences itself as infiltrated and haunted, but also inspired and enriched, in ambiguous, disparate experiences.
Ricoeur regards history as collective singular which aims reconciliation of the whole humanity. If history is a collective singular, the oscillation of narrative identity between the lower boundary of the dialectic of sameness-identity and selfhood-identity and the upper boundary of the dialectic of self and other is not to be closed by my self-same, but to be kept open by dialogical dimension of self and others to be able to transform this oscillation into a spiral forward movement for reconciliation.
Ricoeur emphasizes the significance of the utopian element being a component of our identity, what we expect and yet we are not. Identity comes not only from the present and past, but also from expectations of the future. In this respect, Ricoeur says our identity is a “prospective identity” that is still suspended and to be hoped for. In this sense, eschatological perspective can function as horizon for re-cognition of others, in that eschatological perspective opens new horizon of memory of ‘seeing differently’ on the one hand and new horizon of expectation of ‘seeing more’ on the other hand. Eschatological perspective transforms the given reality through metaphorical re-cognition of ‘seeing-as’.
2. The memorial writing of W.G. Sebald. A Ricoeurian approach
Marco Franceschina, University of Milan
My intervention focuses on the relationship between peace and understanding with respect to the theme of memorial narrative. I would like to analyse in Ricoeurian terms the literary style of W.G. Sebald, which is linked to the avoidance of oblivion of the Holocaust, the disintegration of Germany and the inexplicable amnesia associated with these events.
This kind of writing contrasts to Aristotelian intuitions: the characters described are not figures of an events unification, and the author cedes his omniscience in favour of an endless search for what must be rescued from human forgetfulness. Author and characters are witnesses to a continuous juxtaposition of fragmentary events that, in the instant of writing, are restored to a human time that is thus not merely a devouring one. Sebald’s novels trace a path with no certainty of a destination, other than that, which never really happened, of the subtraction from an otherwise inexorable destruction – a Natural History of Destruction, as he would say.
Thus, this process could find an echo in the Ricoeurian aesthetic reflection dedicated to the overlap between historical and fictional writing. Specifically, I believe it is suggestively interesting to test its application to Sebald’s narrative modes of memorial writing. In fact, by drawing attention to the above-mentioned intersection, Ricoeur outlines the possibility of the writing of a human time: a time that overlaps, in the moment of being narrated, the quasi-past tense proper to fictional writing on the actual past proper to historical writing, stressing the conditions of possibility of a writing such as Sebald’s. Thus, we should approach Sebald’s work taking seriously what Ricoeur says about this overlap: the construction of a quasi-past of fiction becomes a “revealer of the possible hidden in the actual past”, rescuing them from oblivion and guaranteeing them – although painful and unspeakable – respectful understanding.
- Ricoeur, Time and narrative, 3 voll., University of Chicago Press, Chigago 1990
- Valentini, Vincere il tempo: mito e memoria in Sebald, in «Scenari», Apr. 2020
- Giloldi, W.G. Sebald tra memoria e frammento
- Tedesco, Fuoco Pallido. W.G. Sebald, l’arte della trasformazione, Meltemi, Palermo 2019
- Fuchs & J. J. Long (eds.), W. G. Sebald and the Writing of History, Königshausen & Neumann, Wurzburg 2007.
3. Populist Post-truth Politics, and Ricœur’s Hermeneutics
Patrik Fridlund, University of Lund
Today, we are facing questions of war, abuse of power, and violence, as counterparts to the notion of peace in a very concrete way. To a large extent, the contemporary political landscape seems to be marked by harshness and even hatred in a spiral of polarisation and non-understanding. Peaceful exchanges are seemingly becoming rare, and debates appear to be emphasising a perpetual conflict in which the parties have little or no common ground. In the present situation, phenomena such as ‘alternative facts’, and various conspiracy theories, as well as what is rather broadly labelled ‘post-truth politics’, seem to break the peace and obstruct dialogue and understanding in their way of undermining the idea of a shared reality and rather cherish conflict and division, difference and opposition. In a way, this can be said to be a normal aspect of politics, as the political discourse can be analysed as an exchange of opinions not primarily contributing to a ‘true description of the world’ but rather being a struggle for power. Now, an interesting aspect of Ricœur’s hermeneutical philosophy is the claim that we should rather appreciate that there are different interpretations and that a conflict of interpretations is the condition for human knowledge. In this fashion, one would turn to Ricœur for insights and for guidance regarding action in the contemporary situation. The idea is that Ricœur’s hermeneutics may both illuminate contemporary post-truth politics and contribute to the formulation of new theoretical tools for developing a ground for public debate and political critique. An exploration of Ricœur’s hermeneutics in relation to post-truth politics is called for. In this paper, an outline will be given regarding the question: Can Ricœur’s philosophy around the conflict of interpretations be of help in a situation of post-truth politics, which goes against efforts to build peace and friendship?
4. Memory Work as a Precondition of Just Society
Dagmar Kusá, Bratislava International School of Liberal Arts
The war between Russia and Ukraine will come to an end, eventually, but it has already caused enormous trauma and will impact lives and relations for generations ahead. What lies ahead is the reconstruction of society, healing of memories and broken lives. This paper will offer a Ricœurian approach to the transition goals in Ukraine for the near future.
Ricœur’s approach to a peaceful and just society involves three levels: individual, focusing on a “capable subject,” ethical and responsible, intersubjective, that emphasizes reciprocity and care, and the level of just institutions, which create the normative environment and the neutral “view from nowhere” that allows to War upends all levels of a balanced society, causing injury and trauma on all levels. Personal traumas and interpersonal relations will require working through and healing—process that is closely connected to society’s choices of transitional justice tools and personal capabilities to cope and achieve closure. Ricoeur places high value on forgiveness, which brings release from hate and liberates towards possibility of healing. On the level of institutions, forgiveness however does not enter the plane, as it cannot be legislated, adjudicated or prescribed. Institutions however do form normative base and channels for discourse, for memory work. In the absence of criminal justice, which will inevitably be limited in scope, memory work mediated through institutions will form an important space where personal healing (with the possibility though not inevitability of forgiveness) can take place. This work is not crucial only in relation to individual healing but is a precondition for the rebuilding of a democratic society in Ukraine after the war.
5. Memory and Burial. To make Peace with one’s Past
Karl Racette, Université de Montréal
In his Lectures on the History of Philosophy, Hegel, when presenting the task of the historian, evokes the need to reaffirm the word of Christ: “Let the dead bury their dead; arise, and follow Me” (Matthew, 8:22). For Hegel, the task of the historian is not so much to show an interest in the past for its own sake, but rather to participate in the future advent of truth in history.
In many ways, we can understand Paul Ricoeur’s thought as a firm response to Hegel’s interpretations of the passage quoted. In La mémoire, l’histoire et l’oubli, Ricoeur asserts that Happy Memory (La mémoire heureuse) is the guiding star of the whole phenomenology of memory. The book concludes with the question of forgiveness, a human faculty with miraculous powers: although the past itself cannot be altered, it nevertheless remains open to new reinvestments of meaning. In this context, Ricoeur compares the task of the historian to an act of burial: if, as Walter Benjamin asserts, the historian is unable to wake the dead, he can nevertheless, according to Ricoeur, bury them. The philosophy of history is thus transformed into the work of remembrance and the work of mourning, understood in the light of the power of forgiveness.
The aim of the presentation is to present and develop Ricoeur’s conception of the historian’s task, understood as an act of burial. My analysis of Ricoeur’s work will focus on the question of forgiveness, the work of remembrance, the work of mourning and the fragile possibility of Happy Memory. I intend to show that Ricoeur’s thought illuminates several contemporary issues, e.g., the Canadian neo-colonial context and the need to integrate several new historical perspectives into our common history. In this way, it may be possible to contribute to the task of the historian: to make peace with the past.
6. Ricoeur and the Possibility of Constitutive Ethics as a Path of Peace
Michele Kueter Petersen, St. Ambrose University
Given the priority of the ethical aim and the ethical intention for Ricoeur, this paper explores the meaning of that priority in relation to issues having to do with war, power, violence, and social justice—especially cases of systemic injustice and oppression. Further, initiatives aimed at inclusivity, for example, can be epistemically limited when we consider that sometimes we do not know what we do not know so that intellectual humility is called for. That is, we are continually confronted with new situations, contexts, and circumstances that challenge us to agility in ”living a ’good life’ with and for others, in just institutions.” How is it that we can create space to invite the level of meaningful dialogue, conversation, and engagement required to be with and for the other in the sharing of our humanity even as we disagree and there is miscommunication? How can we mindfully be with and for one another even as we negotiate the challenge of conflict and try to resolve it? A good question to pose is, ”What are we doing when we are doing what we are doing?” which emphasizes an understanding of both person and process as involving mutual discovery and creativity. We can learn to appreciate the different ways we think and approach the task at hand. The possibility of transforming situations wrought with fear and power requires extending hospitality and issuing the invitation to begin again. Ricoeur’s notion of solicitude is an integral foundation in a hermeneutical approach to navigating the nuances of constitutive ethics. Constitutive ethics creates the invitational condition for shared meaning and engagement that makes peace a possibility.
7. The Narrative Identity of Peace. A Ricoeurian aspect on living together in a world of polarized views.
Terhi Törmä, Diocese of Tampere
We live in a world where polarization affects many areas of discussion and decision-making. How to embrace different opinions, experiences and feelings? How to find a way of living together? How to take a step further instead of being stuck in defending stereotypical identities?
Ricoeur’s whole philosophical journey may be seen as a mediation and bridge building between opposing concepts. He has a unique way of constructing philosophical ideas on discussion with other thinkers. This kind of philosophy seems itself a way towards peace and hospitality.
More specifically, Ricoeur’s concept of narrative identity seems quite fruitful to be applied with respect to the notion of peace. In my paper, I propose to think about the narrative identity of peace. Following Ricoeur’s understanding of narrative as composing different kinds of episodes, motivations, situations and actors into one unity, I try to think about how the identity of peace between opposing views also could be formed and thought in a similar way. The idea of narrative identity of peace takes seriously all that is different in a narrative, but it also describes the identity of peace as a unity, something that holds together and is unique and precious as well.
Following Ricoeur might help to renounce from competing who has the best opinion and instead challenge us on construing the narrative of peace among the topics that are hard for us. And as Ricoeur’s theory on narrative is based on the world of action and on the creative capability of language to write and talk about it, it relates the idea of peace to our everyday life instead of theoretical concepts. In a world full of hard discussions, this is something quite inspiring.
8. Peace in business? Applying Ricœur’s vocabulary of recognition in business ethics
Anna Seppänen, CoHumans, University of Helsinki
Business discourse is full of metaphors originating from war: tactics, strategy, dead line… The mechanisms of competition are embedded in capitalism. The anthropological image of selfinterested homo economicus1 orients both the research2 and praxis3 of commercial life. Is peace in business possible?
Experiences of peace between people in business are not evident. Two thirds of Finns witness bullying in their workplaces4. Leaders use up to 7 weeks per year for mitigating the consequences of incivility between employees.5 In many organisations living a good (working) life with and for others seems to be a distant ideal.6
I will explore the notion of peace within and between business organizations with a particular focus on the interpersonal relationships. I derive my theoretical approach from Paul Ricœur’s Course of Recognition.7 In The Course Ricoeur introduces the idea of states of peace as a contrast to the struggles of recognition. A focal social form of a state of peace is gift-giving. Ricoeur draws from Marcel Hénaff8, who argues that the reality of gift exists even if we live in a society permeated by commercial logics.
I will answer the following questions:
- How can the focal concepts of Ricœur’s Course be applied in business ethics in the analysis of intra- and inter-organizational relationships?
- How does Ricœur’s analysis in The Course provide help understand the preconditions of peace in business organizations?
- Which normative moral principles apply when the focal ideas of Course of recognition are applied in business organizations?
I will argue that Ricoeur’s philosophy provides insightful ways for understanding and assessing the ethical quality of interpersonal relationships in business organizations9 but it also has some limitations. As a practical suggestion I will present a tool for the pedagogy of business ethic, building on Ricoeur’s idea of mutual recognition and peace.
1 Persky 1995.
2 Barber 2009, 85-87; Seppänen 2022, 90–98.
3 Wang et al. 2011.
4 Lyly-Yrjänäinen 2016.
5 Pearson & Porath 2009.
6 Ricœur 1990; Wijnberg 2000.
7 Ricœur 2004.
8 Hénaff 2002
9 Tentatively suggested also in Rendtorff 2014 & 2019.
Barber, William J. (2009). A History of Economic Thought. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press.
Hénaff, Marcel (2002). Le prix de la vérité. Le don, l’argent, la philosophie. Paris: Seuil.
Lyly-Yrjänäinen, M. (2016). Työolobarometri Syksy 2015. Työ- ja elinkeinoministeriön julkaisuja. Työ ja yrittäjyys 17/2016.
Persky, Joseph (1995). The Ethology of Homo Economicus. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 9(2), 221-231.
Rendtorff, Jacob Dahl (2014). French Philosophy and Social Theory. A Perspective for Ethics and Philosophy of Management. Dordrecht/Heidelberg/New York/London: Springer.
Rendtorff, Jacob Dahl (2019). Philosophy of Management and Sustainability. Rethinking Business Ethics and Social Responsibility in Sustainable Development. Emerald Publishing.
Ricœur, Paul (1990). Soi-même comme un autre. Paris: Seuil.
Ricœur, Paul (2004). Parcours de la reconnaissance. Paris: Éditions Stock.
Wang, L., Malhotra, D., & Murnighan, J. K. (2011). Economics education and greed. Academy of Management Learning and Education, 10, 643–660.
Wijnberg, Nachoem M. (2000). Normative Stakeholder Theory and Aristotle: The Link Between Ethics and Politics. Journal of Business Ethics, 329–342.
9. Violence and Narrative in Just Institutions: Ricoeur’s Oneself as Another after Marx
Michael Deckard, Lenoir-Rhyne University
It has commonly been understood that Paul Ricoeur’s ’little ethics’ consists of studies 7- 9 of his Oneself as Another. However, his ’little ethics’ is also within a text on embodied and narrative identity. The question of ethics not only runs through Oneself as Another but also many of Ricoeur’s other works, from History and Truth to Love and Justice. Broadly speaking, Ricoeur’s ’ethics’ is not only concerned with the question of narrative and embodiment, but also the question of violence. In situating the question of personal identity as well as narrative to a country’s identity, is there a role for violence in understanding oneself or one’s nationality? How might the question of personal and state identity help us understand ethics and politics as mirroring one another? This paper attempts to do three things. First, I will examine the section of Oneself as Another on narrative in order to frame the question of narrative identity and violence, whether a person’s or a country’s using a few particular case studies, such as Algeria, BosniaHerzegovina, South Africa, and/or Ukraine. Already at this stage, there is the problematic nature of defining the identity of a just institution within the category or power concept, (to follow Weber) ’nation-state’. It thus requires a separation of polis, republic, and nation-state. Second, I will describe what I mean by ‘just institutions’, in which both terms are equally valid and equally problematic. Yet it is scarcely realistic to claim that all institutions are just. However, the goal and aim of justice is necessary. Third, I will give a brief outline of what the meaning of ‘aim at the Good Life with and for Others in Just Institutions’ (see Ricoeur’s Oneself as Another, 169-296) means after Marx. Here, several contemporary Marxists, such as Badiou, Fanon, and Jameson will be read.
10. Doughnut Model by Kate Raworth as a Living Metaphor for Sustainable Future. Some Remarks from A Ricoeurian Perspective.
Jari Visto, STEP Education, The Church Resources Agency
Basic precondition for peace amongst humans and with other species is a livable planet, with all its life supporting systems working together as a whole. Greatest threat to a sustainable future of humankind on this planet doesn’t, however, seem to be lack of scientific knowledge about the current state of planetary ecosystems, but lack of understanding each other as humans and understanding our proper place on this planet. In the 2020s, as polarization, cynical short-term thinking and apathy seem to rise, there is an urgent need for more sustainable interpretations of our being in the world and capabilities to imagine inspiring common utopias of a better future, which could call us to action.
With environmental hermeneutics as my theoretical framework and professional background as a sustainability trainer, I wish in my forthcoming paper to discuss some of the possible outcomes of Paul Ricoeur’s thought for work towards a more sustainable future. In my presentation at the workshop, I will describe and discuss the doughnut model of sustainability, elaborated by a British economist Kate Raworth in 2017, and reflect some of its basic features in the light of Paul Ricoeur’s hermeneutics and metaphor theory.
My basic argument is that although environmental questions per se do not manifest frequently in Ricoeur’s text, his thinking is open and fruitful also in this most topical sphere of socio-political life. For example, ‘doughnut’ by Raworth can be seen as a living metaphor in Ricoeurian sense, which, exactly because of its inner tension, gives food for thought, opens our being in the world in a new way and inspires us to action in our manifold contexts and communities.
Keywords: Paul Ricoeur, Kate Raworth, environmental hermeneutics, metaphor theory, doughnut economy, imagination, utopia, sustainability, environmental ethics.
11. Reconciliation, Ethics, and Mimesis: An Investigation of Swedish Hymns Inspired by Paul Ricoeur
Susanne Wigorts Yngvesson, Professor of Ethics, University College Stockholm
The Swedish priest, poet and hymnwriter Anders Frostenson (1906-2006) once said that a poet writes what he/she experiences is lacking, not what he/she already has accomplished. From that point of view one can understand the poet as an ethicist, as an active creator in the process of shaping the world. The poet, composer or hymnwriter is in this sense, with an Augustinian and a Lutheran perspective, a relational being and a co-creator (cooperator) with God and the world. With a Ricoeurian terminology, the poet practices mimesis, that is an imitative reading (or singing) that involves creative ideas which can aid the interpretation of texts and life (Ricoeur, Time and Narrative, Vol 1, 1990).
Focus, in this paper, will be on the theme of reconciliation in a selection of hymns from the Swedish hymnbook. The analysis will be presented in two parts. First, a mapping of the theme, that is how reconciliation is described in the Swedish Hymnbook (1986) particularly aspects of God-human relations, and ethical aspects towards humans and creation.
Second, Ricoeur’s concept of mimesis will be applied to the material for an interpretation of reconciliation and the process of mimesis. More precisely, the creative perspective of mimesis that “opens the kingdom of the as if” (Ricoeur, 1990, p. 64-70).
The expected result of the final study is twofold, namely a categorization of the theology of reconciliation as it is expressed in the Swedish hymnbook (1986), and a philosophical critique from a Ricoeurian interpretation of mimesis and the as if, that possibly can result in a method-ology for further studies in hymnology.
12. Embodied Peace and the Natural World: Ricoeur’s Phenomenology of Embodiment as an Ecological Maker
Maria Cristina Vendra, University Jan Evangelista Purkyně, Czech Republic
“Peace is always an ethical conquest of the violent will to live” (Freedom and Nature, 118)
Despite the rapidly growing body of secondary literature on Ricœur, there is much more work to be done on his conception of peace and on the application of his reflections about the multiple meanings of this notion to other fields. Whereas scholars have already found him an invaluable source of inspiration for addressing the question of peace in the context of the interreligious and intercultural dialogue, postcolonial studies literature, politics of memory and recognition, theory of justice and institutional studies, the possibility to extend Ricœur’s polysemic idea of peace to the discussion of the relation between ecological consciousness and nonviolence in the field of environmental philosophy remains largely unexplored. My aim is to fill this lacuna by showing that Ricœur’s understanding of peace can help us to rethink the inseparable unity between human beings and the ecosphere. This connection is grounded in the idea of a fundamental commitment to peace between us and the natural world. In light of the multiple and interconnected crises that affect the world of nature (e.g., biodiversity loss, climate change, pollution, depletion of natural resources, waste, artificialization of soils, etc.), the peaceful balance which originally characterizes the whole ecological community has been subverted or even profoundly destroyed by human beings’ actions. The thirst for power over nature considered as a source of exploitable resources, the modern drive to dominate it through technology, and the assumption of the anthropocentric superiority over other species, have led human beings to forget their original belonging to the Earth. Although Ricœur gave to these issues just fleeting attention, he recognized that the problem of reestablishing a peaceful cohesion between human beings and the natural environment is not just a personal task, but it is involved into the management of social relationships and in the discussion of bioethical problems related to life, death, and wellbeing, as matters of public debate and policy.
I will argue that Ricœur’s early phenomenology of the body can illuminate the discussion about the essential relation between human beings and the natural world, as one of belonging and distanciation, familiarity and extraneity. More precisely, I will interpretate Ricœur’s phenomenological account of carnal embodiment as an ecological peacemaker, that is, as offering guiding ideas that can orient us to rebuild a peaceful, just, and productive connection between us and the natural environment in times of unprecedented ecological jeopardy. With reference to the Ricœur’s Freedom and Nature: the Voluntary and the Involuntary, my attempt to consider the embodied nature of the human being as the starting point for rethinking the intertwining between humanity and the Earth has an exploratory character. It can be seen as an introductory step into a broader understanding of the theoretical and practical strength of Ricœur’s phenomenology of the body for environmental philosophy. My investigation will be divided into two parts. (1) First, I will focus on the lived body as the source of the most original needs, motives and values. These dimensions of what Ricoeur calls “the corporeal involuntary” provide the foundation for our voluntary decisions. It is through our corporeal sensibility and affectivity, that we can experience the natural environment as a realm of possibilities allowing for our survival and as a context of limitations to our powers. As such, we can rediscover ourselves as earthlings. (2) The second part will move a step further in discussing the possibility to regenerate our bond with the natural world through the consideration of our freedom as embodied. Specifically, I will argue that our freedom is situated into the space of the purposeful and heterogeneous ecosphere. Embodied freedom will arise here as the corresponding accompaniment of our sense of responsibility towards the world of nature. Our survival, as well as that of all other organisms, basically depends on the engagement with it. Ecological responsibility will be considered in terms of reconciliation, i.e., of restauration of the bond between our embodied condition and the natural environment. To focus on our interrelatedness with nature will allow us to deepen the awareness not just of our vulnerability and transience of life, but also of nature as a vulnerable context calling for protection. We are situated, then, in the natural household as an eco-vulnerable space, by adapting ourselves in creative ways to its environments, rhythms and metamorphoses. We are hosted by nature – though not in an irenic fashion – and we need to actively host it by following the direction of a peaceful hospitability towards a sustainable future.
13. Fragility and fallibility as sources for mourning, reconciliation and hope
Björn Vikström, Åbo Akademi University
In an article from 1949 Paul Ricoeur writes: “violence is always and everywhere”. On the other hand, he has built his thinking on a wager, according to which existence on earth is primordially good and characterized by a superabundance of meaning. This trust in a primordial meaningfulness is also reflected in his confidence in translation and communication across cultural borders – even though all translations remain provisional and contested.
Ricoeur claims that human existence is marked by a fundamental fragility, fallibility and culpability. The subject is a “cogito blessé”, a wounded subject. There is a gap between who we are and who we would like to be or should be. This gap shouldn’t be neglected, but neither bridged, because such a solution would imply that life is totally in our hands. This gap is the space for dreams, imagination, and change (as it signifies that this world could be otherwise) – but also for repentance and longing for redemption and grace. It’s can also, however, be a threatening abyss beyond our control: a “Khora” in Plato’s sense.
What goes for the individual is applicable also to societies and states. There is, and need to be, a gap between utopian visions of a just future, and the everyday reality marked by conflicts between competing interests in a democratic society. Ricoeur is especially critical towards totalitarian attempts to monopolize truth and silence critical voices. Already in his early writings he assigns a hopeful role to “the non-violent Man”, “Franciskan poverty”, and the artist, as troublemakers and prophets that challenges the totalitarian tendencies in the political, economic and cultural spheres.
14. ”The Non-Peace in Self-Affirmation: Occupied Spatiality and the Economic Thing”
Timo Helenius, Åbo Akademi University
Ricoeur insists that both distinguishing an individual self and articulating the relationship between individual selves requires the support of the “objectivity that is built on the themes of having, power, and esteem.” This is why he also calls these aspects of human experience “roots of self-affirmation.” In both Fallible Man and The Course of Recognition, Ricoeur emphasizes in the concepts of having, power, and esteem the fundamentally indirect character of achieving the notion of a self. In other words, there is no original peace in self-affirmation, no immediate intuition of one’s own being. Moreover, the human subject “is constituted only in connection with things that themselves belong to the economic, political, and cultural dimensions.”
In Ricoeur’s analysis, the search for the constitution of the self begins by assuming that the primal identity is formed in self-objectification. In the thematization that recalls John Stuart Mill’s concept of homo oeconomicus, the “economic human,” Ricoeur argues that the self makes of its own self a primordial economic object, that is, it “has” itself by claiming identity in an economic manner: “the ‘I’ constitutes itself by founding itself on a ‘mine.’” This grounding notion of an economic object, or an object of economic interest, also differentiates the properly human needs from the animal “simple needs” (le simple besoin), which are directed towards natural objects, and for which the correlative feeling is an “oriented lack,” as Ricoeur defines the shortage of sustenance indicated by instincts. In contrast to natural objects, an economic object is “an available good” (un bien disponible) that according to Ricoeur is characterized by its very availability “for me.” The affective interiorization of the external, spatially definable relation between the “I” and the economic object is a correlate of this mode of relating.
According to Ricoeur a human being is distinguished from the other animals because the essence of his needs is different, and the difference between these needs is itself brought about by human production in the form of establishing an economic relation to things, that is, treating natural objects as possessions. Consequently, Ricoeur defines human being as the Working Human: “Man, because he produces his subsistence, is a being who works.” According to Ricoeur, it is the working human being who establishes this economic relation to things. Natural objects thus become possessions which connote control and dependence, and which therefore also imply certain “otherness” in the very form of the object “on which I make myself dependent.” This otherness of the object in the occupied space, however, reintroduces the idea of a shattered ego: the possibility of no-longer-having (ne-plus-avoir) forms a breach in the constitution of the economic “I” who works to have and gain sustenance for the self.