Review of Feminist Explorations of Paul Ricoeur’s Philosophy

August 24, 2016


Feminist Explorations of Paul Ricoeur’s Philosophy, edited by Annemie Halsema and Fernanda Henriques, provides an implicit answer to the main dilemma of Feminist theories facing philosophical traditions. These didn’t pay enough attention to discrimination of women and to inequalities; should critical approaches prevail over a close exploration of classic and contemporary texts? How could we re-examine the philosophical canon from gender perspective? In this book, multidisciplinary and multinational, the authors analyze Hermeneutics and, in particular, P. Ricoeurs’s contribution; they explore an alternative version of some practical issues, such as ethical capacities, the quest for recognition, cosmopolitanism, hospitality, and universal principles like justice.

The book brings together updated interpretations of P.Ricoeur’s theory and gender accounts of current and complex questions. It is organized into three sections that draw close hermeneutic Phenomenology to other philosophical voices, from S. de Beauvoir to J. Butler and N. Fraser. It also demonstrates that this dialogue or appropriation was possible and, now, it could continue. (M.T. López de la Vieja, Universidad de Salamanca)

In Feminist Explorations of Paul Ricoeur’s Philosophy, fourteen younger philosophers and feminists lead the mutually productive confrontation between Paul Ricoeur’s hermeneutics and feminist thinking.

The editors point out that though Ricoeur himself did not pay attention to questions pertaining to gender, the articles in this volume show that it not only makes sense to approach his philosophical thought from a feminist point of view, but also that something philosophically new results of this exploration of his thought. The result is very gratifying. What would have pleased Ricoeur more, he who believed when reading the philosophers of the past, ‘in this strange form of contemporaneity, a sort of conversation with the dead yet conducted by the living’? (Catherine Goldenstein, Scientific Counsil and Editorial Committee, Fonds Ricoeur)

Even though Ricoeur himself never engaged a dialogue with feminist thinkers, this important collection of essays demonstrates, in a very convincing way, the rich potential of his thought for feminist theory. For the first time, Ricoeur’s hermeneutics is not only critically approached from a feminist point of view, but his thought proves to be an extraordinary laboratory for the renewal of the concepts and arguments of feminist theory. Thanks to a comparative and fruitful analysis of Ricoeur’s critical hermeneutics and the great names of feminist thinking (Beauvoir, Fraser, Butler, etc.), the various contributors show the interest of this philosophy for feminist reflection, both in regard to the method of thinking (dialogue, conflict of interpretations, creativity of language) and in regard to the topics (the self, identity, justice, recognition, etc.) discussed by the French philosopher. (Jean-Luc Amalric, Etudes Ricoeuriennes/Ricoeur Studies)

By Stephanie Arel