On the Legacy of Philosopher Paul Ricoeur

Interview With Carlos Díaz on a Leading 20th-Century Thinker

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MADRID, Spain, JUNE 16, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Paul Ricoeur, a leading philosopher of the 20th century, died serenely in his sleep May 20 in Chatenay Malabry, Paris, at the age of 92.

Ricoeur’s death occurred as he would have liked, sources close to the French thinker told ZENIT. He died at home, not in a hospital. He was spared traumatic suffering and did not lose consciousness. His funeral took place as he requested: It was discreet, and held in his Protestant parish.

Carlos Díaz, founder of the Mounier Institute and professor of phenomenology of religion at Madrid’s Complutense University, knew Ricoeur personally. Díaz said that with his death has silenced one of the last Christian voices of major influence in present-day philosophy.

In July 2003, Pope John Paul II awarded Ricoeur the Paul VI International Prize and acknowledged that the philosopher’s research «manifests how fruitful is the relationship between philosophy and theology, between faith and culture.»

Q: What has been lost with Paul Ricoeur’s demise?

Díaz: With Paul Ricoeur’s death, has gone one of the last Christian voices of greatest reach and authority in today’s world of philosophical thought.

His acceptance is due essentially to the hermeneutic character of his discourse, which was open to all systems, and sought the best in each.

The negative aspect of this attitude is that it pays the price of a certain non-assertiveness, namely, a certain desire «not to stress reason.» In contemporary thought this approach to problems is more acceptable than one that is more open and emphatic.

Q: For what will his legacy be noted and who will carry it on?

Díaz: His legacy — given what was said earlier — will not be disputed exclusively by anyone; rather, he will be remembered as a friendly and kind thinker.

He will not appear with striking signs anywhere. In my opinion, the fact that Ricoeur is one of the important philosophers of our time does not mean that he will mentioned in histories of philosophy, although he will undoubtedly be known by those who are more specialized.

This will be the case because, in my opinion, Ricoeur is more analytical than propositional.

Q: Personally, what aspect of the thinker fascinates you most?

Díaz: First, the faithfulness of his friendship and the recognition of the influence Emmanuel Mounier’s teaching on him.

At a purely human level, when I had the good fortune to meet him, I was impressed by his friendliness, his delicate manner, combined with a certain humorous capacity, which was not expressed, however, in biting criticism. In addition, his humility — I would venture to say his tenderness — to converse with anyone, including the most conceited ignoramuses.

With reference to intellectual dimension, what most impressed me about Ricoeur was his capacity to understand any author in any language; his ability to dissect problems analytically seemed to me almost unsurpassable.

Q: Are we being left orphans of great Christian intellectuals of the stature of Ricoeur?

Díaz: No, not at all. First, because I have already said that his contribution to Christianity as such was not very thematic, and then because, how can we not expect the emergence from the Christian milieu of more theologians, namely, of those who think of the Lord by leaning their head on him?

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