In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Paul Ricoeur

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Other Resources
  • Biographical and Autobiographical Material
  • The Philosophy-of-the-Will Project
  • Phenomenology
  • Metaphor
  • Structuralism
  • Freud and Psychoanalysis
  • Selfhood
  • History, Historiography, and the Historicity of Historical Consciousness
  • Ethics
  • Social and Political Philosophy

Philosophy Paul Ricoeur
David Pellauer
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 May 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 May 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0269


French philosopher Paul Ricoeur (b. 1913–d. 2005) addressed a broad range of philosophical issues over his long career, ranging from phenomenology and existentialism to psychoanalysis, structuralism, hermeneutics, the philosophy of action, the fullness of language, selfhood, ethics and the question of justice, historical consciousness, and the philosophy of religion, always in relation to the history of Western philosophy. He also commented regularly on social and political issues of his day. Having taught both in Europe and the United States, his work is an important contribution to the encounter between Continental and analytic philosophy. His was always a philosophy on the way in that, rather than always addressing the same topic, he sought to pick up and develop questions and problems left open by his earlier work, or ones that had not been recognized at the time. He also sought to respond creatively but critically to new developments in thought, such as structuralism, that changed the context of discussion in his day, giving his work a distinctive dialogical character. Widely translated, Ricoeur’s work has been influential across the world for scholars working in a wide variety of disciplines. In the early 21st century, his commentators generally recognize that the idea of a philosophical anthropology, expressed through the notion of the “capable human being” who seeks to live a good life with and for others in just institutions, can be seen as the guiding thread that runs through and unifies his work.

General Overviews

Many introductions to Ricoeur’s philosophy have been written over the years and are illustrative of Ricoeur’s work as available to the time they were written. Pellauer 2007 and Dosse 2012 are the first to survey the whole of Ricoeur’s published output during his lifetime; Dauenhauer and Pellauer 2011, a Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article, provides a convenient starting point for those coming to Ricoeur’s thought for the first time. Grondin 2013 provides a brief overview in French; Muldoon 2002, Clark 1990, Simms 2003, and Mongin 1994 provide useful introductions of work up to the time of their publication; and Kearney 2004 addresses central themes that run through Ricoeur’s work.

  • Clark, S. H. Paul Ricoeur. Critics of the Twentieth Century. New York: Routledge, 1990.

    An overview of Ricoeur’s work up to Time and Narrative.

  • Dauenhauer, Bernard, and David Pellauer. “Paul Ricoeur.” In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 2011.

    Good place to start for an overview of Ricoeur’s philosophy. First published in 2002; substantially revised in 2011.

  • Dosse, François. Paul Ricoeur: Un philosophe dans son siècle. Edited by France Farago. Paris: Armin Colin, 2012.

    An excellent summary of Ricoeur’s thought that emphasizes its relation to its context and other thinkers who influenced its development.

  • Grondin, Jean. Paul Ricoeur. Que sais-je? 3952. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2013.

    A short introduction to Ricoeur from the French Que sais-je? series.

  • Kearney, Richard. On Paul Ricoeur: The Owl of Minerva. Transcending Boundaries in Philosophy and Theology. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2004.

    An introduction to Ricoeur’s thought in terms of six prominent themes.

  • Mongin, Olivier. Paul Ricoeur. Contemporains 17. Paris: Seuil, 1994.

    Still a useful introduction to Ricoeur’s thought, by a colleague who had worked with him through the journal Esprit.

  • Muldoon, Mark. On Ricoeur. Wadsworth Philosophers. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2002.

    A brief thematic introduction to Ricoeur’s philosophy.

  • Pellauer, David. Ricoeur: A Guide for the Perplexed. Guides for the Perplexed. London: Continuum, 2007.

    An overview of Ricoeur’s work, intended to serve as an introduction to his philosophy.

  • Simms, Karl. Paul Ricoeur. Routledge Critical Thinkers. New York: Routledge, 2003.

    An introduction to Ricoeur’s thought, aimed at students in literary studies.

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