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“Ricoeur and the Symbolism of Sainthood: From Imitation to Innovation,”

Mei, Todd (2013) “Ricoeur and the Symbolism of Sainthood: From Imitation to Innovation,”. In: Dickinson, Colby, ed. Postmodern Saints of France: Refiguring 'the Holy' in Contemporary French Philosophy. Bloomsbury, London, pp. 139-152. ISBN 978-0-567-17058-3. (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:51768)

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Despite the way we think of saints as belonging to a certain historical period and confronting specific historical obstacles, we tend to see their acts as being universally meaningful, and therefore, that these acts are practices which should be imitated in some manner. However this understanding carries with it a significant difficulty: namely, there is a risk of interpreting the lives and actions of saints as providing rules of conduct to be followed, as if their enactment was an end in-itself. In other words, a simplistic notion of imitation can lead to the problem of voluntarism, where the intention to imitate an action is viewed to be sufficient or equal to actualizing goodness or piety. But there is a further, perhaps more significant problem with this understanding, and this involves how we tend to conflate the performance (or doing) of actions with their meaning. Does an action, especially that of a saint, have a meaning that is identical to its effect? Or, does the action itself produce a sense of meaning that outruns its effect? If the answer to this last question is affirmative, then the actions of a saint can be said to predicate an emergent meaning, that is, a meaning that has not yet been articulated, let alone realized. A saint would therefore be less a figure of convention and more a figure of innovation.

In this chapter, I employ Paul Ricoeur’s theory of symbol to show how, beyond the historical specificity of the lives of saints, their actions can be understood to offer new ways of understanding the possibility for being, which I will unapologetically link to the Christian notion of “the New Being.” My discussion will first include a summary of Ricoeur’s theory of symbol, turning next to an application of this theory to saints and the contrasting context of the Prophet in the Hebrew Bible. The chapter will conclude with an elaboration of a symbolic understanding of action in relation to the New Being.

Item Type: Book section
Uncontrolled keywords: Saint, imitation, innovation, prophet, symbol.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of European Culture and Languages
Depositing User: Todd Mei
Date Deposited: 12 Nov 2015 14:29 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 13:29 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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