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Paul Ricoeur

WithJoyce Appleby, Elizabeth Covington, David Hoyt, Michael Latham, Allison Sneider

Hermeneutics refers to the criticism of texts, and it became an important part of the battle between philosophes and churchmen in the eighteenth century. Originally involving the study of word derivations and the tracing of references in a given text, hermeneutics has come to refer to the science of interpretation, a scholarly pursuit of meaning not totally dissimilar to the anthropologist’s study of symbolic systems. In this essay, “The Model of the Text: Meaningful Action Considered as a Text,” French philosopher Paul Ricoeur (1913- ), makes an argument that hermeneutics should be used as a model for the social sciences, because social action can be fruitfully approached as a text. A philosopher and linguist, Ricoeur has done more than anyone to reveal the linkages of hermeneutics with both phenomenology and structuralism, and, in the process, has revealed its power in eliciting meaning.