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Paul Ricoeur
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Philosopher
    (February 27, 1913-May 20, 2005)
    Born in Valence, France
    Full name was Jean Paul Gustave Ricœur
    Notable for the entwining of hermeneutical processes with phenomenology (the study of phenomena, experiences, and consciousness)
    Theorized that the meanings of texts are always subject to interpretation because the event of speaking disappears while the structure remains intact
    Adopted an existentialism that views man as having the frieedom and will to exist, in contrast to Jean-Paul Sartre's pessimistic view of man struggling against becoming an object
    Fought on the French side during the German invasion of France (1940)
    Writings include 'Gabriel Marcel & Karl Jaspers: Philosophy of Mystery & Philosophy of Paradox' (1947), 'History and Truth' (1955), 'The Symbolism of Evil' (1960), 'The Conflict of Interpretations: Essays in Hermeneutics' (1969), 'The Rule of Metaphor: Multi-Disciplinary Studies of the Creation of Meaning in Language' (1975), 'Interpretation Theory: Discourse and the Surplus of Meaning' (1976), 'Essays on Biblical Interpretation' (1980), 'Time and Narrative' (three volumes; 1983-1985), 'Oneself as Another' (1990), and 'Thinking Biblically: Exegetical and Hermeneutical Studies' (1998)
    Taught at the University of Strasbourg (1948-56), the Sorbonne (1956-65), the University of Nanterre (1965-70), and the Divinity School of the University of Chicago (1970-85)
    Awards received include Prix Cavailles (1951), Hegel Prize (1985), Balzan Prize (1999), Gordon J. Laing Award (1999), Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy (2000), and John W. Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Human Sciences (November 29, 2004)
    Died in Châtenay-Malabry, France
    He failed the École Normale Supérieure's admission examination.
    He criticized the structuralist movement as philosophically dogmatic for its opposition to subjectivity and realities independent of language.
    His criticism of fellow philosophers such as Roland Barthes, Jacques Lacan, and Louis Althusser also landed him in hot water, resulting in the scandalous neglect of his book 'Freud and Philosophy' (1965).
    He foolishly believed that transferring to the University of Nanterre was an opportunity to have smaller classes and greater contact with students, only for chaos to erupt among students because of opposing political allegiances, culminating in the May 1968 riots.
    He was also incapable of ensuring the safety of his students, so he called for police intervention that resulted in battles between police and students.
    He was criticized by his students at Nanterre for being a tool of the French government.
    A student called him an 'old clown' because his philosophy was deemed old-fashioned amidst the rise of a new wave of structuralism.
    His disillusionment with academic life in France meant he faded from its intellectual scene until 'Time and Narrative' was published.
    His theory on texts implies that the meaning of what people have written can end up interpreted in various, even unintentional ways.
    Though well-received by English speakers, 'The Rule of Metaphor' confuses French readers because of different rules of metaphor in the two languages.
    His mother died eight months after his birth. (October 3, 1913)
    His father died in World War I two years later, leaving him an orphan under the care of his grandparents and aunt. (September 26, 1915)
    He was bookish and precocious as a child, which stemmed from his family's emphasis on Bible study.
    He was married to his childhood friend Simone Lejas for 62 years until her death. (August 14, 1935-January 7, 1998)
    He was held as a prisoner of war after his unit was captured for defending France from invading Germans. (1940-1945)
    He had no hard feelings for his time in captivity because he considered it a fruitful moment, when he studied German philosophy.
    He translated Edmund Husserl's 'Ideen I' into French during his captivity.
    His theoretical style combines different concepts to form a complete discourse without diminishing the original terms.
    He advocated on behalf of undocumented immigrants and Muslim women's right to wear scarves in public schools.
    His child Olivier committed suicide. (March 22, 1986)

Credit: Big Lenny


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