What is ‘Radical Evil?:’ A Reading of Ricoeur on Kant and Religion 16 December 2014

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The following paper was presented at at the Society for Ricoeur Studies at the University of Oregon, October 27, 2013

PDF Version:  What is ‘Radical’ Evil? A Reading of Ricoeur on Kant and Religion

What is ‘Radical’ Evil?
A Reading of Ricoeur on Kant and Religion


What follows I can best describe as a “lover’s quarrel” anchored, for my part, in deep gratitude and respect.  On the one hand, I will strenuously critique Ricoeur’s reading of Kant, particularly with respect to 1) the ontological status of “radical” evil, 2) the anchoring of morality in violence, 3) Ricoeur’s “deliberative,” hence, consequentialist ethic, and 4) his limiting of religion to historical religion.  On the other hand, the “ontology” of his theory of metaphor as well as the centrality of the “productive imagination” in his theory of discourse are applauded vigorously and can be viewed as thoroughly in harmony with the “ground” of Kant’s ethical reflections, “autonomous freedom,” which will be proposed as a more comprehensive “ground” for morality, and a more adequate “ground” for understanding of religion.

Reflections on the Symbol:  A Quasi-Transcendental Assumption that “Gives Rise to Thought”

I begin my investigation of Ricoeur’s reading of Kant by examining the notion of “symbol.”  I will seek to demonstrate that the pre-figuration, which is the symbolic for Ricoeur, functions in a quasi-transcendental sense that makes symbols a posteriori synthetic judgments and, therefore, hypothetical, not, as for Kant, a priori synthetic judgments that are categorical (I will speak to the difference between a posteriori and a priori synthetic judgment below).