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Title: ‘Examining the theopolitical dimensions of representation: The ‘exception’ in Ricoeur’s hermeneutics’
Authors: Dickinson, Colby # ×
Issue Date: 2009
Conference: From Ricoeur to Action: An Interdisciplinary Conference location:University of Kent, Canterbury, UK date:June 2009
Abstract: The work of Paul Ricoeur has often been focused, albeit in a somewhat limited manner, upon various conceptions of scripture, indeed somewhat marking the developments within his thought through time. From one perspective, he provides a definition of the sacred canonical as a combination (and irresolution) of its univocal and plurivocal elements, offering itself as highly influential in forming the identities of the communities that read it. Yet, what his work has left more unfocused, however, is the manner in which canonical representations, as a central hermeneutical principle, could be said to generate their own exception, and in some sense perhaps acting to stall those very same identities and the boundaries they construct. It might be said, then, that this apparent failure to account for the ‘exception’ at the heart of (political) representational claims (and within a canonical context) significantly affects Ricoeur’s overall portrayal of scripture and its cultural role(s) in western society. The notion of an ‘exception’ in fact has been identified with the ‘messianic’ core of several recent politico-philosophical endeavors (E. Santner, G. Agamben, S. Žižek, J. Butler) and has become a rallying-point for contemporary accounts of political representation seemingly ‘beyond’ hermeneutics. Positing this relationship as a fundamental hermeneutical maneuver, one containing significant political implications, likewise, has remained a less attractive option for the many realms of hermeneutics in general, despite some obvious exceptions (R. Kearney).
By turning to Ricoeur’s contrast between Phariseeism and the Prophetic spirit in his early The Symbolism of Evil, this essay intends to show how the perceivable ‘failure’ to account for the ‘exception’ at the heart of representation is actually a misreading of the hermeneutical project. For Ricoeur, a fundamental canonical tension, present here as a biblical (scriptural) tension, generates the ‘rules’ which are said to govern a hermeneutical field of representation as a whole, ‘rules’ which yet maintain a certain ‘exceptionalism’ at their core. Accordingly, and as one might expect, the tension here illustrated will extend far beyond this early work and toward becoming a foundational principle which Ricoeur will elaborate upon in many and varied ways, though often indirectly, throughout his entire oeuvre. Proceeding in this fashion, this essay intends to portray Ricoeur’s hermeneutical framework as centered upon a dynamic (arche v. telos) which derives in large measure from a biblical-canonical approach (Phariseeism v. prophetism), one that recognizes the (un-resolvable) tensions, or aporias, within a given cultural-canonical representation. This analysis would be in some ways a further development of Ricoeur’s later work on recognition, and yet also another way to acknowledge the often unacknowledged theopolitical (canonical) dimensions of representation.
Publication status: accepted
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Research Unit Systematic Theology - miscellaneous
× corresponding author
# (joint) last author

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