This is to conclude the sequence on Ricoeur’s Symbolism of Evil, and also the larger one on his multi-volume philosophy of will, continued from Freedom and Nature and Fallible Man. The last three-fifths of the current book is devoted to a study of selected topics related to Near Eastern creation myths, Greek tragedy, the myth of the Fall, and Orphic myths of the exiled soul. While any or all of these are potentially interesting, I don’t find much to say about the particular details covered. This work does have the merit of combining a sort of phenomenology-of-religion style discourse with a broad ethical concern. After the brilliance of Fallible Man, though, it seems anticlimactic.

At the end, he reaches the somewhat lacklustre conclusion that “symbols give rise to thought”, and very briefly expands on this. “[T]he task of the philosopher guided by symbols would be to break out of the enchanted enclosure of consciousness of oneself, to end the prerogative of self-reflection. The symbol gives reason to think that the Cogito is within being, not vice versa” (p. 356; emphasis in original). Except for the part about symbols, these are familiar Ricoeurian ideas, but they do not play much of a role in the main body of the current work.

He says philosophy cannot do without presuppositions. I agree we can’t doubt everything all at once. He says it should start from the “fullness of language”, seek a “second immediacy” and a “second naivete”. I do see ethical value in a degree of deliberate “naivete” that deliberately chooses to give the benefit of the doubt. On the other hand, I think immediacy is divided into mere appearance of things that are actually mediated; a trivial quality of appearance qua appearance; and a sort of obscure insistence or resistance that may point out something wrong with our thinking. Fullness of language is just an isolated phrase here; I believe it was discussed a bit in one of the earlier volumes, but can’t find the passage right now. (See also Phenomenology of Will; Ricoeur on Embodiment; Ricoeur on Choice; Voluntary Action; Consent?; Fallible Humanity; Self, Infinity; Symbolism of Evil?; Fear and Suffering; Guilt.)