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The Course of Recognition

The Course of Recognition

Paul Ricoeur

Translated by David Pellauer

ISBN 9780674025646

Publication date: 09/30/2007

Recognition, though it figures profoundly in our understanding of objects and persons, identity and ideas, has never before been the subject of a single, sustained philosophical inquiry. This work, by one of contemporary philosophy’s most distinguished voices, pursues recognition through its various philosophical guises and meanings—and, through the “course of recognition,” seeks to develop nothing less than a proper hermeneutics of mutual recognition.

Originally delivered as lectures at the Institute for the Human Sciences at Vienna, the essays collected here consider recognition in three of its forms. The first chapter, focusing on knowledge of objects, points to the role of recognition in modern epistemology; the second, concerned with what might be called the recognition of responsibility, traces the understanding of agency and moral responsibility from the ancients up to the present day; and the third takes up the problem of recognition and identity, which extends from Hegel’s discussion of the struggle for recognition through contemporary arguments about identity and multiculturalism. Throughout, Paul Ricoeur probes the significance of our capacity to recognize people and objects, and of self-recognition and self-identity in relation to the gift of mutual recognition. Drawing inspiration from such literary texts as the Odyssey and Oedipus at Colonus, and engaging some of the classic writings of the Continental philosophical tradition—by Kant, Hobbes, Hegel, Augustine, Locke, and Bergson—The Course of Recognition ranges over vast expanses of time and subject matter and in the process suggests a number of highly insightful ways of thinking through the major questions of modern philosophy.


  • This is vintage Ricoeur. Three lectures on ‘recognition’ which link up the different ways that the concept has figured in philosophical discourse. In the course of this trajectory, Ricoeur makes connections between authors and philosophical themes, stretching over a vast area of time and subject. This rich book gives one a path through much of Ricoeur’s work on language, narration, memory and the self; but it also shows the deep connections between so many disparate discussions. Who would have thought that reading Marcel Mauss could illuminate Mandela and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission? Who could have seen the connections between the modern rage for objectification and the occultation agency, ipse-identity, narrative, dialogicality, and a host of other issues? As with Ricoeur at his best, it suggests a number of wholly different ways of thinking our way through the major questions of modern philosophy.

    —Charles Taylor, author of Sources of the Self


  • Paul Ricœur was Professor of Philosophy at the Universities of Paris (Sorbonne) and Chicago. He is the author of many books, including Time and Narrative, Oneself as Another, and Memory, History, Forgetting.

Book Details

  • 320 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press