- Category : Writers-Religion-Philosophy
- Type : ME
- Profile : 3/5 - Martyr / Heretic
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Planning 1
French philosopher, the author of more than a dozen books and several hundred articles that influenced philosophical thought in both French and English worlds. His work dealt with a wide range of philosophical questions with a common backdrop of his original project founded in the '30s, a philosophy of will published in two parts, "Freedom and Nature" and "Fallible Man." An educator, he held university positions in five major world cities.
His life's work concerned itself with what he called "the phenomenon of human life" and incorporated myths, symbols, language, psychology, religion, aesthetics, as well as his theories of evil, of law, of literature. A New York Times obituary said that "these diverse subjects informed his lifelong study of 'philosophical anthroplogy,' an exploration of the forces that underpin human action and human suffering."
His books include "The Rule of Metaphor" (1977), "Memory, History, Forgetting (2004), and "The Course of Recognition" scheduled to be published posthumously in late 2005.
In 1991 he retired from his post at he University of Chicago Divinity School. In 2004 he shared the prestigious John W. Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Human Sciences.
Ricoeur had been orphaned early in life. His mother died when he was seven months old and his father was killed during World War I, when Paul was just a young boy. He and his older sister were raised by their paternal grandparents. The couple were rigorous Protestants, a rarity in Catholic France, and insisted that the children accompany them to church and in bible study. Ricoeur attended the University of Rennes and the Sorbonne, earning his doctorate from the Sorbonne in 1950.
During World War II, he served in the French Army. Captured by the Germans, he spent five years in a German prison camp where he managed to translate from German into French a book of Edmund Husserl, a German phenomenologist. When the war ended, Ricoeur began his teaching career, first at the University of Strasbourg, then at the Sorbonne and the University of Nanterre. In 1971 he joined the faculty of the University of Chicago and lectured widely in the United States. He was known for his pacifist views and was vocal in his opposition to the 1950s French colonialism in Algeria as well as to the war in Bosnia in the 1990s. He lived in a socialist community of Christian intellectuals until his death.
He married a childhood chum Simone Lejas in 1935 and they had five children, four boys and a girl. Sadly one of his son's Olivier committed suicide in the mid-1980s.
On May 20, 2005, at age 92, he died in his sleep in Châtenay-Malabry, outside Paris.