Cover of the Cambridge University Press edition
|Translator||John B. Thompson|
|Cover artist||Richard Senior|
|Series||Cambridge Philosophy Classics|
|Publisher||Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, Cambridge University Press|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover and Paperback)|
|ISBN||0 521 28002 8|
Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences: Essays on language, action and interpretation (1981; second edition 2016) is a book by the philosopher Paul Ricoeur, in which the author discusses hermeneutics and the human sciences. The work received positive reviews, praising Ricoeur's discussions of topics such as the debate between the philosophers Hans-Georg Gadamer and Jürgen Habermas. Commentators have noted that Ricoeur modifies views about psychoanalysis expressed in his work Freud and Philosophy (1965).
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (December 2018)
Ricoeur discusses hermeneutics and the human sciences. Topics he considers include phenomenology, structuralism, ideology, texts, speech acts, polysemy, the work of the philosophers Friedrich Schleiermacher, Wilhelm Dilthey, and Martin Heidegger, metaphor, the debate between the philosophers Hans-Georg Gadamer and Jürgen Habermas, and the work of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. He devotes a chapter to "The question of proof in Freud's psychoanalytic writings", discussing subjects such as the failure of psychoanalysis to be recognized as a science and the effects of suggestion on the interpretations made by analysts.
Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences was published in 1981 by Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l'Homme in France and Cambridge University Press in the United States. In 2016, a new edition with a preface by the philosopher Charles Taylor was published by Cambridge University Press as part of the series Cambridge Philosophy Classics.
Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences received positive reviews from the sociologist Anthony Giddens in The Times Literary Supplement, Andrew Edgar in Sociology,The Review of Metaphysics, Neil Lazarus in The Sociological Review, Michael J. Hyde in Philosophy & Rhetoric, W. G. Regier in Modern Language Notes, Malcolm Crick in Mankind, and William Adams in Western Political Quarterly.
Giddens described the book as a well chosen selection of Ricoeur's work and praised Thompson's introduction. He endorsed Ricoeur's critique of structuralism and complimented his discussion of metaphor. Edgar described the book as a useful selection of Ricoeur's recent writings. He expressed the hope that it would contribute to an increase of interest in Ricoeur's work, and credited Thompson with explaining Ricoeur's contributions to a diverse range of fields.The Review of Metaphysics credited Ricoeur with addressing issues relevant to many disciplines and praised his discussion of the development of his thought and his treatment of Schleiermacher, Dilthey, and Heidegger. It also noted that Ricoeur took a different approach to Freud than he had in his earlier work, and complimented Thompson for his useful introduction.
Lazarus wrote that the book was well-written and provided an "excellent introduction to Ricoeur's current concerns." He praised it for the diverse range of topics represented, and for Ricoeur's generosity in discussing other thinkers, including Gadamer and Habermas. However, he criticized Ricoeur for failing to provide an extended commentary "material conditions under which knowledge is produced and disseminated in society". In general, he found Ricoeur reticent on the subject of politics. Hyde praised Ricoeur's discussion of the influence of Heidegger, and of the debate between Gadamer and Habermas. He concluded that the book would be a "valuable resource for English-speaking scholars who wish to familiarize themselves with Ricoeur's thought" and understand its development.
Regier credited Ricoeur with relating hermeneutics to psychoanalysis and other disciplines and with adapting ideas from Gadamer, though he also noted divergences between their approaches. Crick considered the book a difficult but worthwhile work. He wrote that Ricoeur's writings revealed that he had a "rich language model as compared with the severe and restricted analogy employed by structuralism." He credited Ricoeur with making "suggestive remarks on texts, discourse, speech acts, polysemy and metaphor." Adams wrote that the book was part of an exemplary body of work on hermeneutics. He described the theory of the text it presented as "justly celebrated".
John B. Thompson noted in his introduction to Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences that Ricoeur's approach to the "question of the scientific status of psychoanalysis" in "The question of proof in Freud's psychoanalytic writings" differed from that he taken in his earlier work Freud and Philosophy, an assessment endorsed by Ricoeur. Taylor, in his introduction to the 2016 edition of the book, described it as an "interesting collection" and credited Ricoeur with making creative use of hermeneutics.
The philosopher of science Adolf Grünbaum criticized Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences in The Foundations of Psychoanalysis (1984), arguing that Ricoeur wrongly dismissed the charge that psychoanalytic interpretations are undermined by the effects of suggestion. He also argued that Ricoeur, motivated by the wish to protect his hermeneutic understanding of psychoanalysis from scientific examination, mistakenly limited the relevance of psychoanalytic theory to verbal statements made during analytic therapy. He criticized Ricoeur's treatment of the psychoanalytic theory of dreams, arguing that Ricoeur, again motivated by an "ideological objective", wrongly limited its subject matter. Though he gave Ricoeur some credit for moving away from his views in Freud and Philosophy by recognizing the causal character of psychoanalytic explanations, he faulted Ricoeur's discussion of "The question of proof in Freud's psychoanalytic writings", noting, for example, that Ricoeur contributed nothing to the validation of Freud's causal hypotheses.