Long Detour?

I first encountered a thematically important use of the phrase “long detour” in the works of the late Paul Ricoeur, who was especially concerned with problems of interpretation. While keen to avoid any reduction of interpretation to formal or empirical criteria, Ricoeur emphasizes that all sorts of other investigations nonetheless have value for the primary goal of well-rounded philosophical interpretation.

The phrase “long detour” also seems me to strongly characteristic of Hegel’s Phenomenology and Logic.

Even though Ricoeur had deep reservations about the Hegel of mid-20th century scholarship, he nonetheless recognized an affinity between his own concerns and Hegel’s central notion of “mediation”, or non-immediacy as a key to deeper understanding. (When the only Hegel I knew was the Hegel of mainstream mid-20th century scholarship, I used to consider myself an opponent of Hegel. The Hegel who interests me now is much closer to Ricoeur’s fundamental concerns, despite major differences in style.)

“Reflection” was also an important term for Ricoeur, who was a thoughtful reader of both Kant and Fichte. Along with Hegel, he has the rare distinction of combining Kantian values with a serious engagement with Plato and Aristotle. Reflection and mediation both bear witness to an indirectness that is essential in any approach to the highest good and the highest truth.

Joe Sachs writes in his introduction to Aristotle’s Metaphysics that the latter “is a working out of the cryptic claim in Plato’s Republic (509B) that the good is beyond being, and is responsible for both the being of what is and the being-known of what is known. Socrates warns that one cannot see well the greatest of learnable things by means of his images of the sun, the divided line, and the cave, but only by ‘another, longer way around’ (504B). Aristotle’s Metaphysics is that longer way around, not only in its general purpose of uncovering the greatest of knowable things, but also in its particular understanding of the dependence of being on forms” (p. xx).