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The Institute for the Liberal Arts

Phronesis, Faith, and the Task of Envisioning a Social Global Imaginary

11th annual meeting for the society for ricoeur studies

About the Society

The Society was founded in 2008 and has 240 members consisting in international scholars, students, independent researchers, and non-academic professionals pursuing research and/or practical application related to the work and thought of Paul Ricoeur (1913-2005).  The Society promotes interdisciplinary scholarship that explores and extends Ricoeur’s studies in areas such as philosophy, religion, jurisprudence, ethics, history, psychoanalysis, literary theory, narrative, rhetoric, aesthetic experience and imagination.  In the spirit of Ricoeur’s work, the Society seeks to foster dialogues across disciplines in the interest of developing broader understandings and insights into the ethical, religious, political and aesthetic issues of our time.  The Society is committed to providing a welcoming forum nationally and internationally for critical engagements with Ricoeur’s philosophy and its relevance for current research across multiple disciplinary spectrums.  The Society is equally committed to encouraging and promoting student involvement in the Society’s activities.

The Society’s annual conference is a collaborative practice of the development of scholars, students, and non-academic professionals. Its panel presentations and the informal conversations, fostered at friendly social events, provide a way of actualizing through discussion the liberal arts educative aim of developing the whole person. In line with Ricoeur’s own philosophical ethos, the conference will spark intellectual inquiry as well as the social and political imagination by way of the several papers presenting on the conference theme. The Society’s annual conference is the life force for Ricoeur scholarship as its aim is to promote the critical development and application of Ricoeur’s thought in view of contemporary questions. The conference also helps students, professional academics, and professional non-academics find and foster common interests and projects in view of international collaboration. As a result of previous conferences, associated societies dedicated to Ricoeur’s thought have developed in Europe, South America, and Asia—respectively, the European Network for Ricoeur Studies, The Ricoeur Research Center (Taiwan), and the Ibero-American Association of Ricoeur Studies. Because Ricoeur’s work has practical relevance to areas outside of philosophy and academia, the conference has provided opportunities for making a significant contribution to non-academic professional fields, such as architecture, business management, jurisprudence, psychiatry, and counselling. In addition to continuing the tradition of inquiry and dialogue, the Society helps to sustain the Ricoeur archive held at the Fonds Ricoeur in Paris, France. It does by way of event collaboration and supporting scholars who wish to visit the archive for research.


Information on Paul Ricoeur, especially in connection with BC: Paul Ricoeur gave the Commencement Address at Boston College in 1975, where his talk drew on the importance of memory in providing an identity for a nation. The address highlights the tension between the experience of the individual student and the demands of creatively participating in society. When related to the Ricoeur’s work as a whole, the address falls between the two foci that frame Paul Ricoeur’s thought and which affirm Boston College’s liberal arts mission to enable its students to develop their capabilities in tandem with the needs of society. These foci are 1) his intentions to clarify the structures and meanings of first-person lived experience, or what is often referred to as his hermeneutics of the self, and 2) his ethical concern for articulating the conditions in which it is possible to conceive and aspire towards a good life with and for others in just institutions. Because Ricoeur’s research is famously inter-disciplinary—engaging in such fields as religion, jurisprudence, ethics, history, psychoanalysis, and literary theory—his contributions often have extensive relevance and application. A classic example of how his work aims at grasping significant and subtle features of the whole person in view of the improvement of society lies in his theory of metaphor. Ricoeur pushes the linguistic account of meaning predication towards ontological and critical relevance. Metaphor simply does not create new meaning but discloses new modes of being via semantic impertinence. Moreover, this creative function is the core element informing the way Ricoeur sees imaginative structures like poetry, narrative, and utopia, enabling its readers to have a critical capacity to engage with socio-political problems and to work towards the good life with and for others in just institutions.