Monday, October 04, 2010

Pellauer, David. Review of Scott Davidson, ed. RICOEUR ACROSS THE DISCIPLINES. NDPR (September 2010).

Davidson, Scott, ed.  Ricoeur across the Disciplines.  London: Continuum, 2009.

One may wonder what a collection of essays bearing this title finally has to contribute to specifically philosophical inquiry. It may well be able to show that a philosopher, Ricœur, has had an influence on people working in different fields, or that his writings have influenced efforts in those disciplines, or even, more positively, that there may be something to learn from them that will help in making sense of or evaluating Ricœur's own efforts. In fact, one finds a bit of all three of these possibilities in this work, which means it will be read in different ways by different readers. The most obvious audience will be those concerned with Ricœur's work. People working in different fields may find one or two of the essays relevant to their particular research interests. In the end, though, what this volume shows best is how a philosopher's work can reach across all too often taken for granted disciplinary boundaries in suggestive or even provocative ways. Unfortunately, given the book's price it is more likely to be consulted piecemeal or read cover to cover only as a book taken from a library rather than to find a wide readership, even among dedicated Ricœur scholars. But that seems to be the fate of most essay collections these days. Like similarly priced monographs, perhaps such volumes will find a happier future in the online world, if a more reasonable pricing structure can be determined.

In his introduction, editor Scott Davidson proposes following a suggestion by the Italian philosopher Domenico Jervolino that Ricœur's work can be understood as a way of doing philosophy through language, where this approach is organized in terms of a three stage development that runs from symbols through texts to translation. Each of these stages "develops and expands the treatment of language contained in the preceding paradigm" (2). It is the final stage, translation, that most speaks to the question of the plurality of disciplines and "the task of the interdisciplinary scholar" (5) who serves two (or more) masters in facing the challenge of making two (or more) discourses communicate. Unfortunately, there is no contribution from translation studies to back up this assertion. Still, Davidson's claim is that the contributions in this book do "make a compelling case for the interdisciplinary scope and appeal of Ricœur's work" (10). The question must be to what extent the papers included go much beyond indicating that such an appeal exists. Some succeed better than others, as can be seen from a brief look at what is on offer.

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