The characteristic features of the later works by Paul Ricoeur (I have in mind his trilogy Time and Narrative and the anthropological summa Oneself as Another) include a 'linguistic turn' - concentration on the philosophical problems of language. The heart of the matter, however, concerns speech and a semiotic system isolated from the context and functioning according to conventionally established rules. Ricoeur considered both the vernacular and linguistic creations within the cultural circuit in the categories of a 'discursive instance' (a term introduced by Émile Benveniste), and as a consequence - within an existential and onto-anthropological perspective as the modus of the human condition: the hermeneutic envisages 'being-in-language' as an inseparable feature of 'being-in-the-world'. 'Discursive instances', i. e. acts of interpersonal dialogue and communication as well as the creation and reading of narrative works in the form of biographies or autobiographies, historiography and literature, poetry and art (mutatis mutandis including normative resolutions, political institutions, social organisations, etc.) are not reduced to the sphere of 'objective facts': the products of cultural creativity and the tools of social communication. From the hermeneutic point of view they are predominantly intermediaries of the self-understanding and self-confirmation of the human subject - his 'self-confirmation in being'. Narrative works in particular - novels - become the determinants of dynamic identity, 'being-oneself' (soi-meme) amidst the variable turns, tenuous connections and chaotic variability of life and history following their courses. The human 'I' emerges in the course of reading and interpreting linguistic products as a 'project' of the different possibilities of 'being-oneself' in a confrontation with 'the other' (un autre): we understand each other only by following a roundabout road amidst the signs of mankind rendered indelible in works of culture. Culture conceived as a human 'world of life' (Lebenswelt) can be, however, both an offer of individual self-realisation and a 'source of suffering' and personal alienation. Can one find oneself at home in this 'world' by 'changing it into speech' which according to Heidegger is the dwelling and refuge of the essence of man? This is the hope placed by Ricoeur in an erudite and extremely extensive hermeneutic 'dialogue' with traditional philosophy, claiming that an interpretation is the response to the fundamental alienation established by the objectivisation of man in the works of the discourse, comparable with the objectivisation that is the outcome of his work and art.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.