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Memory, History, Forgetting [Hardcover]

Paul Ricoeur

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Book Description

7 Sep 2004
A landmark work, "Memory, History, Forgetting" examines the reciprocal relationship between remembering and forgetting, revealing how this symbiosis influences both the perception of historical experience and the production of historical narrative. A momentous achievement in Ricoeur's career, this book provides the crucial link between his "Time and Narrative" and "Oneself as Another", and his recent reflections on ethics and the problems of responsibility and representation.

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"His success in revealing the internal relations between recalling and forgetting, and how this dynamic becomes problematic in light of events once present but now past, will inspire academic dialogue and response but also holds great appeal to educated general readers in search of both method for and insight from considering the ethical ramifications of modern events.... It is indeed a master work, not only in Ricoeur's own vita but also in contemporary European philosophy." - Library Journal "Ricoeur writes the best kind of philosophy - critical, economical, and clear." - New York Times Book Review"

About the Author

Paul Ricoeur (1913 - 2005) was the John Nuveen Professor in the Divinity School, the Department of Philosophy, and the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. His books include Oneself as Another, the three-volume Time and Narrative, and The Just, all published by the University of Chicago Press. Kathleen Blamey teaches philosophy at California State University, East Bay and has taught at the American University in Paris. David Pellauer is professor of philosophy at DePaul University.

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The phenomenology of memory proposed here is structured around two question: Of what are there memories? Read the first page
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124 of 126 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book on history so far this century 17 July 2007
By Rev. Cherrycoke - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This, the last book written by the great French philosopher Paul Ricoeur, is an amazing achievement. Readers be warned: this is no easy romp through historiography or memory studies. It is a deeply philosophical meditation on the meaning of history and historicism as an act of remembering, an act of inscribing time, a way of participating in Being, and a way of negotiating competing claims for justice and acts of witnessing. Typical of Ricoeur's argumentation, the book sets out competing definitions (representation vs. recollection, explanation vs. understanding, phantasm and eikon, mneme vs. anamnesis, habit vs. memory, evocation vs. search, retention or primary memory vs. reproduction or secondary memory, reflexivity vs. worldliness, etc.). It does not resolve these oppositions, but painstakingly shows the aporias centralized in the opposition of terms and posits a tentative ethical response. Ricoeur is too smart to posit easy solutions to some of the most profound questions of human existence--mainly, what is history and how can it provide any foundations for knowledge and ethical action in the world? The erudition of this text is massive; Ricoeur references hundreds of theorists and philosophers from Plato to Foucault, from ontology to cognitive science. Predictably for those of us who have grown to respect the humanity of Ricoeur's position, the writing is never arrogant, never one-sided, always on the side of humane negotiation, life, human flourishing. In contrast to politicized polemics of academic historicist theory, this book recognizes, articulates, and teaches one about the almost overwhelming complexity of history as an idea, as a form of memory, and as evidence for witnessing and justice. In contrast to easy but hip pronouncements about the end of history, history as just another form of fiction, and history as "always political"--all implying that history is a tainted vehicle of ideological coercion that we can somehow do without--Ricoeur asks what else we *have* to connect our recollections of meaningful events to any kind of social action and collective sense of being.

If you want an education in some of the major positions in historiography, this book will give it to you, but it is no survey. It is a philosophical work, one that attempts to convey both the difficulty of the question and the necessary tenuousness of any real, ethical solution. Graduate students should be made to read this book if only to teach them what intellectual thought should look like--thought that works its way slowly and carefully through ideas instead of zooming through sources in order to construct a macrocosmic but sexy "new idea."

The incredible care with which analysis is conducted in each of this book's sections makes it impossible to summarize it meaningfully. Ricoeur wants to connect memory, history, and social remembrance in such a way that they avoid the easy, and often dangerous, sidetracks of commemoration or historicism as mere explanation. He wants a humanized history based in lived memory that can be used to create common ground between people as well as viable evidence in the negotiation of justice claims. Whether he gets this is debatable, but the attempt is honorable.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By barryb - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This singular book is actually an inclusive three-volume set of Ricoeur's entire phenomenology. I will review the volumes in order:

In this volume Ricoeur takes the reader through a second journey through his phenomenology, after its first presentation in the 1976 volume by TCU PRESS on "interpretation theory". Therefore we are dealing with the "remembered" on this second journey. And that is why volume three addresses "forgetting".
Beginning in the unconscious, Ricoeur tells us that we are initially engaged in "PATHEMA", OR ENDURING THE SENSATE LIFE AND ITS PRESENTATIONS. Our goal is to eventually form a tupos-model of ideation that can be imprinted within the self and actualized through praxis-based positing. We get a little assistance from counter-blow (Hegel's term) of returning influence from previous phenomenological and semantic experience. Ricoeur calls this the body-state "iconicity". The "EIKON" is rarely let loose of by Ricoeur; and as a body-state, that is experientially the case.
We next move on to "GRAPHE", which is the inscribing of the self with the "pathe-enduring" as a "thought-picture", as a "PHANTASMA" founded on the influence of "EIKON". But it represents a singular kinetic-event.

Up we go to the communal influence next, to the "dokounta-threshold", where the encounter of a succession of kinetic-events is considered. There is the "arising" of a deeper encoded descriptive-model as a result.

Entering into the realm of "volition" and true-subjectivity; we first reach the actual "imprinting of the "TUPOS", as "virtual-ideal-notion". In other words, signs have been named. From here, we "copy" the ideal, while at the same time acquiring the praxis-based possibilities for a "practical-tupos".

From here we enter the cognitive consciousness and the work of semantics. The key moment to realize here is Ricoeur's invention of the concept of "logos-of-indebtedness". We owe those who have gone before us. This underlies all semantic positing and return. The second key aspect of the semantic work is the concept of "collective-consciousness", which constitutes the "surpassing-moment" of transcendence. This is our stepping-up to the "composition-threshold", where we acquire the collection-of-traces" from shared "witnessing-of-truth". Propositional-content & illocutionary-form are exchanged; the "self" is refined to a greater level of understanding. We are ready to return to the unconscious-EIKON and begin again.

Ricoeur's 8 Greek moments of Memory are: 0. [ EIKON ] 1. PATHEMA. 2. GRAPHE. 3. PHANTASMA. 4. TUPOS-TECHNE. 5. TUPOS-PRAXIS. 6. ORTHOS-LOGOS. 7. OPHEILOS-LOGOS. 8. SULLEGO-ICKNE'.

Two important facts need to be understood before proceeding with this review: 1. For Ricoeur, all of life includes an inherent "intentionality". Therefore writing history means writing the "truth" of history, including its "intentionality"; not just repeating facts. 2. This book is a singularity of enclosure consisting of a single phenomenology-structure. This structure cannot change throughout the book. The three sections represent three different "GAZES", or points-of-view concerning this singular phenomenology. Therefore the previous section on "memory" must have its substance sustained and reinforced throughout the discussion of "history.
Ricoeur begins in the unconscious with the quest for the "mnemonic-representation" of history. We want to transition from "atomic-verbal-testimony" to an "atomic-archival-document" so we must shape this verbal testimony into a representation that will eventually participate in a larger "oikoumene" (inhabited-world). We must combine our spatial-picture with our temporal-picture to form a historiography-type "thought-picture". We do this in the unconscious workspsace designated for this constructive work of "thought-drawing. The resources include: horizon of "inhabited-world", the self's internalized declared memory, the perceived structured "geometric space", the "chrono-sophic trace" of otherness or transcendence, & the emerging absolute "here" and "now". We create a preliminary shape of this verbal testimony; remembering we are still being influenced by the "EIKON" of memory and its feedback of return.

We continue on to the communal dokounta-threshold where our offering is to receive "accreditation". Critical judicial questioning takes place along with measuring magnitude through accepted forms of reason. Any false secondary-additions are peeled off and negated at this point. A lexical-network of "thought-materials" emerges that are accredited and archive-ready, for shaping into "atomic-archival-document.

Next we reach the axis-threshold of true subjectivity and "intentionality" is emphasized here. We become the self of "doing" history. As a written-document; elements within testimony are enchained, and all here-say contingencies are negated. The "essential-intended-trace" is preserved in the atomic document.

The final document phase is that of having it "instituted" as worthy for the "compound-archival-book".
The self posits the "irruption" of questioning-possibility"; again intentionality is addressed. The document now exists as an object of true-history. We are ready for the final moments leading to "representation" and the compiled "compound-archival-book" of history.

We must pass through temporal-emplotment first. There have been a plurality of typologies resented in history. These are based on the French idea of "MENTALITIES" (THE GERMAN "world-view"). Emplotment takes up the following triad: our historical-object documents are combined with the "mentality world view" structures (that give us trajectory/horizon); and then we have a further encoded document influenced by the "play-of-scale" (or the different ways that the architecture of history has been evaluated).
This brings Ricoeur to an important moment of clarification: what consists in this "play-of-scale". How does it relate to functioning as a LOGOS? Ricoeur says that the various "mentalities" or "world-views" all have a "sinuous-thread of "singularity that runs through them. Therefore a collective intersubjective unconscious can exist as a "HABITUS-LOGOS".
He concludes with the final phase of historical representation in the transition of archival-documents to archival-book; of the TRUTH of history.
Ricoeur remains consistent with his phenomenological structure and easily deserves a 5-star rating.

The over-arching intent of Ricoeur's phenomenology is to outline the significance and demand for each individual to be involved in writing the "truth" of the intentionality of history. Therefore he posits "forgetting" as the third moment in his triad because it designates the moment of "return" and the demand to revise our discriminations, in order to write a better posited model that specifically addresses the need to overcome human guilt; which Ricoeur perceives as the fundamental problem facing humanity.
Therefore, in this volume, Ricoeur first takes us through the moment of "reflexive-return", which wants to correct a "LACUNA", a "gap" in the collective of traces that has been grasped. But before we return to re-evaluating "traces "and revising our model; we must first pass through the unconscious "body-state" that is undergoing its own "odyssey of development". (Yes; we must continually tune our hearts).
Within the "explored" or "active" unconsciousness, we can evaluate this motivational body-state, and its desire for reaching "FORGIVENESS"; which means our on-going "mournful-struggle" of the work of writing history in a way that will transform other selves into overcoming their guilt and loss-of-self against the uncertainties of living today.
This "forgiveness" has content and an absolute referent: Ricoeur is a Christian. Therefore the absolute referent is the kerygma-of-Christ; but without the necessity of formal church or religion. And is crystallized in the categorical imperative "to love".
When the self takes-up this motivational-base of "LOVE", it is ready to enter the "reserve-of-forgetting". That's right: previous culling and filtering has been retained in memory. Nothing has been permanently discarded. We can still re-evaluate previous motivational-work. We do so through three layers of traces: the material, the structural, and the psychical trace.
We end up with a new assortment of revised "images", and can then re-engage ourselves with the semantic work of writing the trajectory of the truth of history. The cycle continues; because history always interrogates us; and human-guilt always confronts us as the key existential problem.
In a way, volume three was the most enjoyable for me. Volume two probably gave the reader the most "content", but volume three and its centeredness on "motivation" is a challenging treat.
This book is a challenging venture for graduate-level or post-graduate level interest. But, it should not be ignored. Ricoeur died in 2005. These were his dying-words and his legacy. 5 stars for certain. Good luck on your reading.
5.0 out of 5 stars Deep and interesting 21 July 2013
By yolanda garcia - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Love the manner in which he is so complex, yet understandable. He brings many disciplines to bear for all that read this book to reflect in meaningful ways.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice book! 26 April 2014
By dominic yang - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Fast shipment and nice book! This is a classic by a renown French scholar. It's theoretically dense but for those who are interested in issues related to memory and history in academia, it's a must read.
0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A master of thought 21 Sep 2012
By Benjamin Juarez Echenique - Published on
Ricoeur was not only a great thinker, but a master that taught generations how to think. He touched so many fields: history, sociology, philosophy, humanities at large. This is one of his finest books.
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