If you have an interest in learning more about Paul Ricoeur but are just encountering him, here are a few ways in.
Two biographical works of note are Charles Reagan’s long essay on Ricoeur’s life story in Paul Ricoeur: His Life and his Work (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), and François Dosse’s full-length biography, Paul Ricoeur: Les Sens d’une Vie (1913-2005) (Paris: La Découverte, 2008). Be sure to get the 2008 edition – There was a less complete earlier edition published in 2001.
A good tip is to start with the essays. Ricoeur often summarized his major themes concisely in programmatic essays that are beautifully condensed and less involved in the secondary literature than the major works, which can be daunting.* Three notable anthologies of the essays are:
•The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur: An Anthology of His Work, ed. Charles E. Regan and David Stewart (Boston, Beacon Press, 1978).
•A Ricoeur Reader: Reflection and Imagination, ed. Mario J. Valdés (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991).
•From Text to Action, trans. Kathleen Blamey and John Thompson (London: Continuum, 2008).
•Paul Ricoeur, “Intellectual Autobiography,” trans. Kathleen Blamey, in Lewis E. Hahn, ed., The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur (Chicago: Open Court, 1995), 3-53.
•Paul Ricoeur, “A Philosophical Journey, From Existentialism to the Philosophy of Language,” Philosophy Today 17, no. 2/4, Summer (1973): 88-96.
•Paul Ricoeur, Critique and Conviction: Conversations with François Azouvi and Marc de Launay, trans. Kathleen Blamey (NY: Columbia UP, 1998).
Paul Ricœur, Primary and Secondary Bibliography, 1935-2008
Compiled and updated by Frans D. Vansina, in collaboration with Pieter Vandecasteele, Uitgeverij Peeters : Leuven-Paris-Dudley, Ma, 2008. The Fonds Ricoeur supplements this volume as new information becomes available from the archives.
The Fonds Ricoeur, which is located in Paris as the official archive of Ricoeur’s estate, has an extensive on-line presence in both French and English. They are constantly updating resources as they organize their vast repository of materials.
Ricoeur scholarship is expanding rapidly, and most monographs and anthologies are thematic. Some of these titles can be found on our bookstore link. Introductory texts of note are:
•David Pellauer, Ricoeur: A Guide for the Perplexed (London: Continuum, 2007).
•S. H. Clark, Paul Ricoeur (Routledge, 1990)./br>
•Mark Muldoon, On Ricoeur (Wadsworth, 2002)/br>
•Karl Sims, Paul Ricoeur (Routledge, 2003).
For more topical introductions, you might begin by looking at:
•Lewis E. Hahn, ed., The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur (Chicago: Open Court, 1995), 828 pp. is a collection of essays about Paul Ricoeur’s philosophy, divided by topic areas, and includes both a 53-page intellectual autobiography and responses to each of the essays by Paul Ricoeur himself.
Ricoeur study conferences and meetings are sprouting up all over the world now. We try to post invitations on our site as they come in to us. The Society for Ricoeur Studies meets annually in North America, usually piggy-backing with the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (SPEP) in the same city and an adjacent time period. SPEP is the largest group in continental philosophy in North America. You are more than welcome to join us.
A helpful resource for studying Ricoeur if you read French is Olivier Abel’s and Jérôme Porée’s Le vocabulaire de Paul Ricoeur (Major Terms in Paul Ricoeur), available through our bookstore link. This book both defines these overarching Ricoeurian concepts and keys their location in the oeuvre. Here are some of the concepts included:
•the social imaginary
•the work of memor
•the sadness of finitude
•the will (volonté)
*An intellectual biographer of Ricoeur noted the challenge: “As a voracious and indefatigable reader himself, Paul Ricoeur’s belated recognition…is due perhaps to the modesty of a philosophy that rarely reads itself from the start during its long detour of commentary and critique.”* Joël Roman, “Paul Ricoeur,” Dictionnaire des Intellectuels Français, Jacques Julliard and Michel Winock, eds. (Paris: Seuil, 2002), 1201.