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2010-03-15
Ricoeur and Jaspers
[I was adding a post on Ricoeur and Jaspers when a simple Frech character from the numpad was taken by Chrome as a request to open a Chrome page in the place of this form. Poof!]
In 1978 a UNESCO volume appeared: "Main Trends in Philosophy" under the name of Ricoeur but as  collaborative project (I do not know where UNESCO is at with web collaboration and philosophy at this time.)  Relevance: our new MN/USA suburban library opened yesterday: the LoC B100 section had 4 introductory books on philosophy of a rather tawdry sort.  Thereafter the B section is full of the occult etc, shelf after shelf.  So I ask myself if this was the sort of book - a UNESCO volume - which I might recommend as suitable for a non-academic library ( I think a teenage would pull a book off the shelf called "Philosophical Arguments for Atheism" but astrology is deemed more relevant, popular, eye-catching for teens and the general reader in this very prosperous suburb.)

I cannot recommend the UNESCO volume: not because it is out-dated with it attention to Soviet philosophy, not just because of it unbalanced attention to Heidegger ( UNESCO?  a philosopher who seems to have taught that philosophy was possible in Attic Greek and then perhaps in Bavarian German?) but because of the total absence of attention to Karl Jaspers.

Q: Jaspers irrelevant? Resp: Recent research in the genetics of psychosis and the inadequacy of DSM-IV have made a reconsideration of views of Jaspers very relevant.  But it is not just that: Jaspers was important to European philosophy for a large part of the 20th Century: he addresses the Buddhist, he can speak to moderate Islam.  But he is absent in the UNESCO volume.

At the time of Ricoeur's death it was routine to see notes that his philosophy begins with Jaspers: not so. The fact is that it is only that his first two books after the war -  when he was relegated to oblivion, but with no public disgrace, by the French minister - are on Jaspers.  Charles Reagan writes that Ricoeur's major work is modeled on Jaspers major work: this I intend to challenge.

Consider the UNESCO volume: the little-known French philosopher, Mikel Dufrenne (whom I never met while at L'UQAM when we were there in the same building, common acquaintances - he seems to have confined himself to art students in their department) is there but Jaspers is not.  The only justification that I can see for Dufrenne at that date is his personal relationship with Ricoeur.  In his last publications, Dufrenne even admits that many of the pages are "dated" (as post-modernism emerges as a movement in the arts, he is still worrying about structuralism dissolving l'homme.)

[in the vanished note I branched here to Ricoeur's visit to Marcel after the war, the choice to have the first book on Marcel and Jaspers, the next book on Jaspers]

My reconstucted detective work:

   - any trace of Jaspers vanishes in the work of Dufrenne - at least as acknowledged influence.
   - Dufrenne - a relative unknown but for his Ricoeur connection - figures in the UNESCO volume
       - the parallel: Dufrenne's failure to acknowledge his debt to Roman Ingarden
           - Dufrenne's self-serving ad hominem against Ingarden - very thinly veiled but followed by a comment revealing that he knew better.

   - Ricoeur on "the gift" - no adequate acknowledgement that this comes from Marcel

   - Ricoeur in the 1957 article writing as if the previous 10 years since Jaspers "Von Der Wahrheit" were not there - the absurd allusions to Camus and Sartre - a less than veiled ad hominem.

  - Ricoeur on the Symbolism of Evil - no sign of Jaspers "Von Der Wahrheit"

My suspicions:
   after the confrontation by Ge Gusdorf, Ricoeur is not publicly exposed but he is relegated by the minister to a backwater.
   Ricoeur's first act to redeem himself is the visit to Marcel - then the book on Marcel and Jaspers, then the book with Dufrenne on Jaspers.

   the Dufrenne's thesis has constant references to the powerful Malraux (so much in this flawed French work renders it useless to a Navajo reader in New Mexico or a Japanese reader on the north island of Hokaido.)  

   in the new hey-day of the existential, Ricoeur and Dufrenne latch onto Jaspers - a safe choice - notoriously the French do not read in German.

   - Dufrenne's work immediately flips to the embodied-subject of powerful Merleau-Ponty at College de France.

   - Ricoeur rapidly outgrows Husserl who is painted against Kant: the tension between Jaspers, Ingarden and Heidegger is absent.

   in spite of all the eulogies, Ricoeur does not come out of Marcel and Jaspers - I see no sign of that in his early essays in ""Histoire et Verite" - not in the 1953 essay which is supposedly relevant to Jaspers' thought nor in his 1957 essay on jaspers and Religion.

  - there is little sign of Jaspers in Fallible Man and even less in the symbolism of evil - there is a total lack of dialogue or dia-logic with the thinking of Jaspers.

  -the strongest counter-claim is that of Charles Reagan to the effect that Ricoeur's main work has to be seen as a recast of Jaspers' main work.

  - a strong counter-claim:  Heidegger often travelled down to Heidelberg to talk with Jaspers when his career at Freiburg was already made - he sat in what had been Rickert's chair, via Husserl,  Yet in Heidegger's published work there is no visible sign of his sitting in silence, listening to Jaspers.

   - irrationality in Jaspers is not hidden away; but Jaspers would be appalled by the idea of the crucifixion as available to all - universal - however disguised the pĂ©lerinage.

   - it was Jaspers' view that Heidegger lacked a recognizable moral character.  But what do we recognize in Ricoeur?  Well, my view is expressed in a biased sort of narrative sketch: I could appeal to Gilbert Harman against character in this explication of a career that brought Ricoeur to Eliade in Chicago.

   thesis: Jaspers thought lies in the background providing a subtle tension in the work of Ricoeur.

   counter-thesis:  Jaspers provided Ricoeur a bootstrap up out of oblivion.

Document: during the unread, Gusdorf goes to Laval in Quebec;  Ricoeur addresses the assembled ( in Les Etats Gen. he has 2 pages)  - the address by Ricoeur is about academe and the professorial guild: there is nothing in this address in this time of stress (he has travelled in from Nanterre for this meeting) that reflects anything of the voice of Marcel or Jaspers.  If anyone is to hear this voice it is someone in the ministry: this is as "candid" as we have Ricoeur in a juncture of history among his peers and the public.

  Obvious: this is worse than ad hominem, this is a smeer.  Response: look for the parallel in political discourse where a critic, once a follower, hears or reads what has a hint - not of a change of opinions but a hint of an abandonment of principles or a revealing lack of principle.

  Documents: the letters of Ge Gusdorf

  Lack of documentation thus far in my notes: any invitations from Ricoeur to Jaspers to speak in France, 1947 to 1957

  Parallel in lack of character: Heidegger taking credit for Edith Stein's editorial work on Husserl papers.

  The theist reader is asked to follow Ricoeur: my reading - following the hints of a man of little or no character in matters of "Gemueth" is foolish if not folly.  Every trend, Ricoeur is there - never the maitre-penseur - always "rodant autours" - 

  Contrast: Ricoeur / Merleau-Ponty  where you might not care for the politics and apologetics of the latter, but it is out in the open.

  Missing documentation: any invitations to Ingarden from Dufrenne; see Ingarden's generous comments on Dufrenne

  Suggestion: look for UNESCO current project on web collaboration for a work on "philosophy in the first decade of 21st Century"

  The suggestion that Jaspers is always there in the background as Ricoeur's foil is prima facie implausible.  A more likely explanation is the concern to dance away from the question of non-theism in Jaspers.


  Ricoeur should be read as a professional philosopher exploiting his common touchstone with theists, deists and Protestants: nowhere in his subtle treatments of symbol do I recall his addressing Heidegger there at a Swiss conference with his swastika in from of Karl Loewith - years after Heidegger would have Arendt believe in his disillusionment.  The swastike comes to us from India and is now a seemingly "polluted" symbol.  It was the badge of the philosopher whom Ricoeur gives such undue attention in the UNESCO volume - baffling for a man of sensititivity and character.

  A meditation on Jaspers 40 years later is missing in Ricoeur - in the Vienna lectures on recognition there is no hint that we can recognize the tension with Jaspers thinking.

  In many ways, Jaspers stands to Heidegger as Arthur Schnitzler stands to Freud, only for Jaspers there is no "Eye Wide Shut" to revive a memory of his life and work.

  In the years following the war, Jaspers was one of the few unblemished public intellectuals among philosophers.  What we are asked to believe is that in the 5 years between 1948 and 1953 that Dufrenne simple lost all interest in Jaspers while embracing Merleau-Ponty.  First possiblity: Dufrenne recognized that Jaspers had failed to appreciate the nature of Husserl's work, but that Merleau-Ponty had ( the embodied subject, the insistent immanence of the reality of objects and situations, i.e., the existential or frankly anthropological reading of Heidegger and the anti-Cartesian reading of Husserl the "rationalist". )  Given the accepted "failure" of Husserl, was not Jaspers thereby vindicated as much as, say, Heidegger?  Unlike Sartre the Cartesian, no such misreading of Husserl and Heidegger could be laid at Jaspers feet.

  One possibility: Jaspers retreat to Basel made him irrelevant on the philosophical scene.

  One possibility: Biemel's turn from the Leuven archive to Heidegger also announced a shift for those riding on the "phenomenological-existential" shirttails.  Ricoeur was spare confrontation with Merleau-Ponty due to the latter's untimely death.  Ditto for Camus.  Sartre rendered himself irrelevant.  The trends that Ricoeur was then free to follow are well-documented.

 The most troubling incident: during the war, Merleau-Ponty advises the young Vietnamese philosopher to go to Leuven but immediately before the war, Ricoeur was free to study German in Aachen and have a short train ride weekends to the archive that was already in Leuven: but Ricoeur goes to Munich, home of the "new" socialism instead.  Explanation: Ricoeur only encountered Jaspers, Husserl and Heidegger in the camp.  Historical question: how did Husserl happen to be available at the camp?  Did Jaspers work remain widely available during the war?  Which library?  Which documentation of its holdings.  There is one small work of Jaspers from the pre-war period which could be reconciled with Vichy.  Was this what they in fact had access to in the camp?

2010-03-15
Ricoeur and Jaspers
The Fonds Ricoeur has the 1954 paper available as PDF: no mention of Jaspers ( the explanation would be that even 15 years later the French readers are still not expected to be reading German.)
The major issue will be archival: are there available notebooks from the camp years on Jaspers "Philosophie" such that one might conclude that Ricoeur had "exhausted" any dialogue by the time of the 1957 article in spite of the 1947 appearance of "Von Der Wahrheit" and Jaspers subsequently having become irrelevant.

Can a case be made via Harman on two fronts: the irrelevance of history of philosophy and the irrelevance of moral character to the reading of a philosopher over the course of 30+ years.  Recognition can as readily by disappointment; suspicion might disguise mere disenchantment.

Having learned French largely to read Ricoeur and then having learned German, as a reader I have made a significant investment in the author: the peculiar relation of Ricoeur to Jaspers is not likely noticing that the plots of a roman policier series are all to familiar to those of another author.  This is about absence - a notable and finally remarkable absence.

The first hint was in something not right in the relation of Dufrenne to Ingarden across 30 years of Dufrenne.

2010-03-17
Ricoeur and Jaspers
This is my note from my look at ad hominem in Mikel Dufrenne:[before expanding this post I am going to go through the deplorable 1957 article on Karl Jaspers by Paul Ricoeur as published in translation in the Schilpp collection "The Philosophy of Karl Jaspers" pp 611-642 when Ricoeur was at U. Strasbourg - it contains some nasty bits right from the first paragraph (it promises "personal questions" but presents "Critical Remarks" as an alternative to a futile opposition of "argument ... opposed to argument" - Ricoeur had not yet become 'hermeneutical' in his approach.  This is not some adolescent rant excused as the errors of the young as we might over-look his stay in Munich or his pamphleteering in the camp: this is at his second university appointment and only one step from the new Nanterre venture - this is the young philosopher attacking Jaspers: the verb "to flee" needs to be checked against the original as Jaspers had not "fled" to Basel and the whole compared to Ricoeur 1947, 1948 and 1954.  The Ricoeur paper in Schilpp is entitled "The Relation of Jaspers' Philosophy to Religion" but the title should be "... to Evangelical Protestantism" or, at the most generous, "... to Christian Religion".  The 1981 reprint exposes Jaspers on Heidegger in an expanded section interposed between pages 75 and 76 as an extended insert.]



A close look at the article also led me to a closer look at other articles in that 2nd edition, especially the remarks of Kurt Kolle on eugenics - that paragraph gives you some idea of what Germany was up against in the decade after WW II  and how France sometimes failed just as did Uni. Marburg and Uni. Muenchen.  I think it helps to understand the decade when you start to look at the manoeuvring required to get ahead in French academe (for a reminder, the WP article on the academic career of a far-right politician in France or the case of Michel Tournier - or the reminders of the faux doctorats of former and current leaders in Eastern Europe, startng with the Ukraine today.)


In hind-sight, the Ricoeur article is scurrilous from the choice of title through the opening paragraph to the closing section and it is this that I want to detail by looking at what he actually says (his advocates, apologists  and commentators both critical and inspired like to say that he got started in Jaspers or that he has this dialog with Jaspers - it is nothing of the kind.)  So I would like to look at some of the key paragraphs in that 1957 paper and then my own translation of his 1954 paper.


I will not want to argue that Jaspers is a philosopher who must be read: I want to argue that Ricoeur is a philosopher who must be read much more closely starting with the period before his hermeneutic style (rhetorical style in Ricoeur seems to me to be the vehicle for his theism - not argument, but style.)


[Jaspers is the first philosopher on whom I ever presented outside a classroom (1973?) and I moved very quickly from him to Ricoeur: but this is not just remorse, but more a reflection on trends and reactions of the time (~1969 - ~2009), for within a year of that first talk  I had also embraced Charles Taylor (following a talk on Roderick Chisholm on intentionality in  'perceiving' -  if my memory serves.)]


While philosophers sometimes lament Locke's style or Heidegger's style or Spinoza's "geometrical" preoccupations or Husserl's dense nest of idiosyncratic terminology, a lamentable style in Ricoeur is very different from, say, the style adopted by Dufrenne in his "Phenomenology of Aesthetic Experience".  Usually we want to say that argument matters, not style; being explicit about assumptions matters, not allusions - but in section IV of his 1957 on Jaspers, Ricoeur opts for the confrontation of interpretations, not arguments.