Un-Chol Shin

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1. Introduction

In his reply to Peter Kemp's article entitled "Ethics and Narrativity" that explores his thought on the ethical component of narrativity, Paul Ricoeur not only approves the argument of Peter Kemp, but he even goes further admitting the narrative component of ethics. He says,

Ethics is more clearly present on the level of narrative configuration.- - -, the plots of great works of literature, tragedies or novels, are never ethically neutral but constitute tests in the realm of the imaginary of implicit or explicit moral conception; - - - . (1)
According to Paul Ricoeur, ethics and narrativity are inseparable. Not just in great literary works, but even in small stories of everyday life, characters carry in their conversations that express their personal views, values, and preferences all related directly or indirectly to their desires of the good life. The other way of saying is that the good life is always told in narration. Following Aristotle's view, Ricoeur also mentions, "every well-told story teaches something." (2)

Paul Ricoeur is well aware of the opposition to his theory of those who claim that stories are told and not lived; life is lived and not told. For them, stories are purely fictions that have nothing to do with the real life. With the idea of separation of narrative from ethics, in academic community there are scholars who categorize literature with the aesthetic pleasure of emotion and ethics with the rational foundation of the universal principle of human life. They hesitate to mix emotion and reason together. Ricoeur is well versed in the history of philosophy from Ancient Greece down to the contemporary Western world and also in the differences between the Athenian and the Jerusalem approaches to religions to other aspects of human life. He is an interdisciplinary thinker and seldom remains in a narrow view or a fixed idea. His mind is always open to new ways of thinking and appropriate them effectively in the development of his own grand philosophy. Before the publication of the complete three volumes of Time and Narrative in l985 where the discussion of ethics and narrative is presented not systematically but at least together in the third volume, (3) Paul Ricoeur for a long time was interested in the hermeneutics of text which involved him in many related subject areas of language such as signs, symbols, meanings, speech, writing, reading, explanation, understanding, etc. These subject areas are all closely related to his major concerns as a philosopher in the concepts of self, freedom, hope, action, ethics, society, utopia, history, etc. In his early philosophy, narrative and ethics as philosophical issues were rather treated in a larger context of text and action. Narrative is a written text, and ethics cannot be thought separately from action. When we trace changes of his intellectual concerns from his early philosophy to this date, we notice that his concern in his later philosophy has moved from text to action along with the concept of time. His concern in time, however, led him to combine time and text which are found working together in narrated time. Narrated time distinguishes itself as human time that is different from natural time. Unlike natural time, human time is filled by human actions whose meanings cannot be communicated historically unless they are inscribed in a written form that is text. At this point, Ricoeur begins to see action as text. Comparing action to text, now he develops the hermeneutics of action that is intelligible and thus reflectable.

Actions can be written down, but not necessarily in a narrative form. Paul Ricoeur understands it. According to him, however, ethical actions are written in a narrative form. In this paper, I will explain why and how they become narratives. Scholars in literature would never accept the idea that treats the role of literature serving philosophical ideas including ethical ideas. Literature will be then reduced to propaganda documents. Ricoeur understands thoroughly the role of literature independent of any personal or ideological view. The very reason he relates ethics to narrative is that, he believes, ethics is not universally acceptable moral codes of human behaviors that many modern philosophers including Kant have upheld even to this date. Against the majority view of philosophers on ethics, Ricoeur believes that narratives, especially great works of literature, can provide readers (obviously college students) more effectively and convincingly with ethical intelligence. I will try to explain his argument as effectively and convincingly as I can so that we, as teachers of literature, can teach literary works as the foundation of ethics to our students, not as ethical agents, but as good citizens who train the future good citizens for the good society as envisioned by Aristotle.

With ethical intelligence that readers acquire from great literary works, however, there is still doubt whether or not they can really act all the way to bring peace to this world with a great sense of ethical responsibility. Among the 20th century philosophers who take ethical responsibility seriously, none could be more serious than Emmanuel Levinas. The philosophy of Levinas is less known to American scholars than that of Paul Ricoeur. But certainly no one can deny that both Levinas Ricoeur have been two great ethical philosophers during the past few decades in France. Levinas╣ philosophy is more radical than Ricoeur in terms of demanding ethical responsibility of the self to the other. I will end this article with an explicit explanation, based on Levinas' theory, of how students can face the "face" of the other in reading the works of literature and realize their ethical responsibilities to the other.

2. Hermeneutics of Text

Ricoeur's hermeneutics of text is directly related to the question of self-understanding. For Ricoeur, the aim of hermeneutics is for self-understanding. For teachers of literature, it means that the aim of helping students read and interpret works of literature is for their self-understanding. Ricoeur states explicitly, "there is no self-understanding that is not mediated by signs, symbols, and texts."(4) To think on what I am is the age-old question in reflexive philosophy. That is also one of the central questions in Ricoeur's philosophy. He does not accept the Cartesian theory of cogito. According to him, the self "I" cannot think directly what "I" am. It has to go through media such as signs, symbols, and texts. In other words, the subject has no direct consciousness of itself. The direct consciousness of itself to the subject means that the subject is intuitive and transparent. Ricoeur points out that in traditional reflexive philosophy, "the idea of reflexion carries with it the desire for absolute transparence and a perfect coincidence of the self with the self." (5) He rejects this idea. The reflecting subject has meaningful access to his or her own existence only through the detour of signs, symbols, and texts. He makes his points quite clearly when he says,

Reflection is blind if it is not mediated by what Dilthey called the expressions in which life objectified itself. (6)
Traditional reflexive philosophy viewed the definition of the subject as something of foundational that could be obtained by the direct presence of the subject to itself and meaning of the subject's existence depended on that definition. But Ricoeur denies this ideas, because meaning of the personal life does not originate in the conscious, reflecting subject. In other words, meaning is not constituted in the reflecting subject. It comes to the subject from the outside, from the encounter with certain thought-provoking symbols mediated by the culture in which the subject lives. Meaning is the result of that encounter and then appropriated to the subject by its effort. Ricoeur argues that genuine reflection of the subject by the subject, which means self-understanding, is not something to be completed intuitively from within. It is a dynamic process that can be accomplished through the mediation of "what Dilthey called the expressions in which life objectifies itself". Those expressions are signs, symbols, and texts. They are cultural media that require our interpretations to understand their meanings.

Interpretation of cultural media for self-understanding is a complex issue. To understand this issue requires the knowledge of the roles that language plays in human life. This complex issue is, however, summed up succinctly by Gary B. Madison in the following long passage:

The reflecting subject in search of meaning, self-understanding, a linguistic subject, a subject which is given to and which knows itself by means of the language it inhabits. And language, when goes beyond a merely structural approach and considers units of discourse of a sentence or longer in length, does not exist in a void. The characteristic of those autonomous linguistic entities called literary texts (whose meaning is not to be explained subjectivistically, in terms of authorial intention) is that they refer to a world, a world which they themselves project or bring into existence by means of their own literary devices. The task of interpretation or hermeneutics is to reconstruct the internal dynamic of a text so as to make manifest the world which it projects. This world is a possible world, one which I as reader, could inhabit. In opening up worlds which express possibilities of being, literary texts generate meaning, allow for self-understanding. In revealing possibilities of being, texts further our self-understanding, for what we essentially are is what we can become, the being otherwise and being more that are the objects of effort and desire, the two basic characteristics of the act of existing. (7)
The primary condition of all human experience is language. We articulate our experiences by means of the language. We articulate our desire by language. We are the linguistic animal. We bring all our experiences to language. Mediations by signs, symbols, and texts are all carried out by the language that has structural units with words, sentences, and texts. According to Ricoeur, the basic linguistic unit for self-understanding begins with a sentence that has a subject who speaks to someone something about something. This speech act is called discourse, and it is an event that includes someone speaking to someone about something. That something refers to a world which it describes. That means, there is "the advent of a world in language by means of discourse". (8) But the discourse of speech act as an event takes place in time that is fleeting and transitory. The speech act itself disappears quickly, but its meaning remains as the result of discourse. In other words, the event is rescued in its meaning. Ricoeur says, "if all discourse is realized as an event, all discourse understood as meaning". (9) Text that is made up of multiple sentences expands the meaning further. Meaning is the world that is objectified by the linguistic expression of discourse. In discourse, text allows the reflecting subject as reader to understand itself.

Before getting into the discussion of text more in detail as discourse, I need to explain some distinctive differences between the discourse of sentence and that of text. First, sentence can be a speech-act whereas text is normally in written form. That means, there is change in discourse from speaking to writing. In the discourse of speaking, the listener is in the same environmental situation with the speaker whereas in the discourse of writing the reader of the text is now in a distance in terms of time and place from the author of the text. The reader of a text cannot ask the author questions of the textual meaning that the listener can make in the speech act being situated in the same place. Due to the distance, the reader now has to interpret the textual meaning. This distance is strictly speaking the beginning of the hermeneutics of text.

Secondly, Paul Ricoeur treats the written discourse distinctively as a work. He says,

..., the work is submitted to a form of condition that is applied to the composition itself, and that transforms discourse into a story, a poem,an essay, and so on. This codification is known as a literary genre; a work, in other words, is characteristically subsumed to a literary genre. (10)
As a work, the text is composed in a unique arrangement of a sequence of sentences. It is a product of labor, and the author is regarded as "the artisan of a work of language", (11) that is expressed in style which determines the uniqueness and individuality of the text. With the establishment of style, the textual meaning gains its autonomy from the intention of its author. In other words, the textual meaning surpasses the psychological meaning of the author. Now we understand that text is discourse which is "wrought". It is a work the idea of which will illuminate the sense in which action can be regarded as a work. This aspect of action will be explained in the next section.

The third distinctive difference is that in the spoken discourse the world referred by the speaker is ostensively situational to the listener since they are in the situation of face-to-face communication. But in the written discourse the world of reference is no longer ostensive. The text creates the world of non-ostensive reference. For Ricoeur, all literary works create the world of non-ostensive reference that is presented in front of their readers. Understanding of this world requires an interpretation of the textual meaning.

How is then the understanding of the textual meaning related to self-understanding? Ricoeur borrows the concept of understanding from Heidegger and explains it as follows:

Here we rejoin one of Heidegger's suggestions concerning the notion of Verstehen. Recall that, in Being and Time, the theory of "understanding" is no longer tied to the understanding of others, but becomes a structure of being-in-the-world. More precisely, it is a structure that is explored after the examination of Befindlichkeit [state of mind]. The moment of "understanding" corresponds dialectically to being in a situation: it is the projection of our own most possibilities at the very heart of the situations in which we find ourselves. I want to retain from this analysis the idea of "the projection of our own most possibilities", applying it to the theory of the text. For what must be interpreted in a text is a proposed world that I could inhabit and wherein I could project one of my own most possibilities. That is what I call the world of the text, the world proper to this unique text.(12)
Ricoeur states in this passage two things with emphasis: first, the moment of understanding corresponds dialectically to "the projection" of our own most possibilities and, secondly, the world of the reference in a text is "a proposed world" of our own most possibilities. It is a possible world in which I can inhabit. This world is elaborated as follows:
The world of the text is therefore not the world of everyday language. In this sense, it constitutes a new sort of distanciation that could be called a distanciation of the real from itself. It is this distanciation that fiction introduces into our apprehension of reality. We said that narratives, folk tales, and poems are not without a referent; but this referent is discontinuous with that of everyday language. Through fiction and poetry, new possibilities of being-in-the-world are opened up within everyday reality. Fiction and poetry intend being, not under the modality of being-given, but under modality of power-to-be. Everyday reality is thereby metamorphosed by what what could be called the imaginative variations that literature carries out on the real. (13)
According to Ricoeur, a text is the medium through which readers understand themselves. I have explained so far the hermeneutics of text that is directly related to narrative ethics in the philosophy of Paul Ricoeur. How are they then related to each other? This question is the main issue that will be explained in the next section.

3. Narrativity and Ethical Intelligence

In 1971, Ricoeur wrote an article called "The Model of the Text: Meaningful Action Considered as a Text". (14) As the title of the article suggests, action, particularly meaningful action, according to him, is hermeneutical as much as text is. Ethics is intersubjective action as speech-act is, and its meaning surpasses event. Meaningful action, which includes ethical action, can be an object for our study only on the condition when it is objectified equivalent to the discourse of the written text. Without being objectified, action cannot be investigated and its meaning cannot be intelligible. Meaningful action is not natural action. It is a work just like discourse and thus it has propositional content which can be understood by anyone.

Ethics, as meaningful action and work, constitutes human time, against natural time, the process of which is found in narrative text. In narration, plot organizes multiple events into an intelligible whole. There is no organizing process of events without ethical choices and moral evaluation of each event involved in narrative. Ethical implication is always found in the story of a person's life. A story cannot be meaningful without assimilation of ethics. In this sense, as already pointed out at the very beginning of this article, Ricoeur does not want to break between narrativity and ethics. Especially in self-understanding, they are inseparable. In this section, I would like to elucidate why and how they are so by explaining Ricoeur's concepts of narrative for self-understanding in terms of human time and ethics in terms of narrative.

Scholars of Ricoeur's philosophy would accept Time and Narrative as his greatest philosophical work. It evolved from a seminar he taught at the University of Toronto in l981 and was published in 1983 - 5 in three volumes. As the title of the book suggests, the major theme of the book is to provide an answer to the question of human time that exists only through narrative expression. Ethics is treated here, not as a major theme, but a meaningful social action that also takes place in human time. Ricoeur tries to understand human time as recognized by Augustine who refused to identify it with natural time, the physical movement of objects. Then how can we recognize human time? This question was not raised by Augustine. Ricoeur explains it in terms of Aristotle's concept of plot or "emplotment" which recognizes the concept of reality by staging a kind of creative imitation that is called Mimesis. Aristotle recognized the logical process of a plot that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Ricoeur substantiates Augustine's concept of human time with Aristotle's concept of plot. The conjunction of these two concepts brings forth a creative mimesis in place of the static concept of imitation.

The creative mimesis is then enlarged by Ricoeur into three stages of mimesis: mimesis 1, consisting of the preunderstanding of the world that the story imitates first. All writers of stories have this preunderstanding that is related to prefiguration in narrative process. Mimesis 2, which is the composition of the plot itself by the writer arranging words and sentences into a narrative, is called configuration. It renders the prefigured world meaningful and intelligible by configuring (through composition and synthesis of) discordant events into a unity, an intelligible whole, a muthos, or a narrative. The act of making a plot is a synthetic act of the productive imagination that creates a possible world of the text in which readers can inhabit.

The possible world of the text now leads the readers to mimesis 3 which is the application of the plot. It is called refiguration. In this stage, reading becomes a synthetic act that brings unity to the discordant experiences of temporal existence. Readers themselves identify with narrative meaning. Because the subjectivity of a reader "is neither an incoherent succession of occurrences nor an immutable substance incapable of becoming. It is exactly the kind of identity with the narrative composition alone, by means of dynamism, can create". (15) In this refiguration, the reader appropriates the possible world opened up by the narrative. In this sense, our self-understanding as the reader of the narrative "presents the same traits of traditionality as the understanding of a literary work does. In this way we learn to become the narrator of our own story". (16) We become the implicit author of our own story. The act of reading (mimesis 3) appropriates the world of the text (mimesis 2), and the lived world of the reader (mimesis 1) is thereby refigured. In this act, narration breaks its own linguistic structure, because of aporias that inhere in temporal experience. These aporias are important since they mark the transition from narrative to ethics.

Although Ricoeur states clearly that there is "no break between the narrative component and the ethical component of the self", the last thing that many teachers of literature want to hear is the idea claiming ethics as the foundation of narrative. They would surely love to hear the opposite of this idea: ethics is founded on narrative. This argument would be frowned this time by many moral philosophers. Regarding this issue, Ricoeur takes no position. He makes no discussion on them based on the foundational priority. But both of them are mutually indispensable in his philosophy in order to achieve their common goal that is for a person to become a good "self" with narrative intelligibility. This common goal of becoming an ethical self begins for Ricoeur with his notion of freedom.

For Ricoeur, the self includes the notion of freedom. In other words, "I can" is in "I am". Freedom is at the heart of ethics. Without it there is not self, either. As the self cannot know itself directly, freedom cannot possess itself, either. Ricoeur says, "I will say that freedom can only attest to itself in the works where it objectifies itself", (17) that means, it is a hermeneutical phenomenon which can be understood only by the mediation of its own works. He says further, "The whole problem of ethics is born from the question, what does it mean for someone to attest his freedom? It means to devote oneself to doing and not seeing. Therefore it is the whole problem of an appropriation by means of the work". (18) Devotion oneself to doing requires intention that involves one's desire to do something which would be the objectified work of the intentional doing for freedom. Since freedom requires intentional doing for its achievement, it is a "project". This project can be fulfilled only by an action. As a project, it is also a vision that requires the activity of imagination.

At this point, we need to remind ourselves that the common goal of narrative and ethics is for a person to become a good "self". Based on Aristotle's concept of ethics, the idea of a good "self" cannot be separated from the good life is a good community. That good life is the life of freedom which is a project and a vision that requires the activity of imagination. This activity of imagination searching for a good life is none other than the configuration process of mimesis 2 among the Ricoeur's three stages of mimesis. It is the act of the productive imagination that creates a possible world of the text in which readers can inhabit. That act is the act of making a plot of narrative. Peter Kemp explains how this imagination fulfills the ethical intention in narrative as follows:

This imagination is not possible without narrative, because without emplotment there would be no sense in unfolding some models for action. Thus ethics must necessarily be the narrative configuration of the good life. Had this not from the start been configurated by stories, it would not have been capable of being integrated either into the author's work or into those of the historian as that vision which would never affect the reader in an ethically neutral manner. It would have the same effect as a foreign body in the eye. (19)
What is certain now regarding the work of ethical imagination is that it does not follow morally established rules and norms. For Ricoeur, as Ted Klein mentions, "the idea of ethics is more basic and more complex than that of morality, which means conformity to duty without regard for desires". (20) Ricoeur in his reply to this particular statement of Ted Klein says, "Ted Klein has no difficulty in recognizing the Aristotelian cast of this plea for the primacy of the ethics of the good over the morality of obligation". (21) Ricoeur accepts the Aristotelian concept of "the primacy of the ethics of the good over the morality of obligation". We can now clearly understand why narrative and ethics are inseparable and mutually indispensable in the philosophy of Paul Ricoeur.

According to Ricoeur, ethics becomes much more meaningful when we assimilate it with a vision than with a certain moral rule. This does not mean, however, he believes entirely in the narrative power for the solutions of social problems. Although he recognizes the inseparability of narrative from ethics, he warns strongly in his reply to the article of Peter Kemp with the following words, "I will not say that exemplary narratives can by themselves found ethics". (22) He believes in the subordination of the obligatory act to the "good" since the good is rooted in human desire to live a good life. This good life, as already mentioned, cannot be achieved without freedom, and a good life, although it begins as the primary concern of the self, the first person singular, the ethical intention for freedom requires "the dialogical position of freedom in the second person". (23) Based on Ricoeur's concept of the self, "you are" includes "you can". Ricoeur's ethics requires inclusion of the idea of the second person's freedom. Without recognizing the freedom of "you", the other to me, there is no good community or good society. The idea of good society also requires the extension of freedom from the second person even to impersonal institutions which open the area where moral laws can be inserted into the conceptual network of ethics. In Ricoeur's philosophy, the place of moral law is secondary to ethics the aim of which is to actualize a vision. This vision is a possible world or a proposed world that works of great literature reveal best to readers. When the readers interpret those works, as they come to stand before the revealed world, the text allows them to recognize themselves in certain possibilities of existence. This recognition never takes places ethically neutral since it transforms them into becoming individually a good person, a good "self", through self-examination that enhances their ethical intelligence.

4. Ethical Responsibility

I have explained so far how understanding of narrative, which is the hermeneutics of text in Ricoeur's philosophy, enhances ethical intelligence of readers and help them make ethical choices for their good life. Now one can raise a question in terms of ethical responsibility: is ethical intelligence for making ethical choices good enough to have a good life for human existence? Ethics is not just an abstract idea. It is an action with a purpose and the intention to achieve the purpose. It is a good-oriented action. If a goal ethically justified, are we not responsible or obligated to act for it? Ricoeur certainly takes this question positively. Ethics is also an inter-personal action. He wants the other person to have freedom as much as he has. Any force or violence that limits or lessens the freedom of the other is ethically wrong, and moral law should enforce the reduction of violence. Since it is inter-personal, how much are we responsible for the freedom of the other? When I am not free myself, can I want the other to be free? When I know I am not free, am I able to know that the other is free? Despite all the convincing arguments Ricoeur makes for his concept of ethics, those questions just raised above certainly made him feel uncomfortable with his contemporary philosopher Emmanuel Levinas. Both of them have been two great hermeneutic philosophers in France during the later part of the 20th century. One of main differences between their philosophical views, however, lies in their understanding of the nature of ethical responsibility of the self to the other. For Ricoeur, with his emphasis on self-understanding as the aim of hermeneutics of text, the affirmation of the freedom of the self precedes the affirmation of the other's freedom. This order from the self to the other is the opposite to Levinas╣ concept of ethical responsibility. For Levinas, the self is responsible to the other even before the self is born. In this case, the self has no knowledge of the other, and yet the self is still responsible to the other. This concept of responsibility is certainly radical to many modern philosophers. How did Levinas come to have this radical concept of ethical responsibility? In order to understand it, we need to examine first his philosophical approach to this issue.

Levinas' concept of ethical responsibility is certainly radical especially to those who are familiar with the ontological approach to ethics represented by Heidegger in this century. In Heidegger's ontology, priority is given to an understanding of Being over an understanding of the relationship among persons. This means that the relationship among persons is subordinated to the knowledge of Being. By giving priority to the subject's knowledge of the being of the other over the subject's obligations toward the other, Heidegger's ontology fundamentally allows the subject to have freedom over any ethical relationship it has toward the other. It also means that the being of the other is always understood in the subject╣s consciousness through the inter-position of impersonal Being. In other words, the other is comprehended within the already established boundary of Being. Therefore, the subject cannot understand the fullness of the other's alterity. It reduces the other to more of the same as the subject╣s consciousness of the other. Eventually it leads to the subject's control of the other. In ontology, according to Levinas, the subject has a totalizing power over the other. With it, ontology insulates and protects the subject from the possible challenge and criticism that the other can make and at the same time it allows the subject to enjoy exercising the totalizing power over the other. According to Levinas, therefore, ontology is the philosophy of injustice. What would be then the political consequence of this philosophy? Levinas insisted that Heideggerian ontology leads inevitably to the tyranny and injustice of the state.

With the Jewish background in his philosophical thinking, Levinas could not accept the primacy of the ontological subject over the other. Instead he insisted on the recognition of the irreducible other. According to him, the other is represented by his or her face in the most concrete, ordinary, simple, and everyday life when the subject meets the other. What is then the other? The notion of the other is one of the major ideas in Levinas' philosophy. Adriaan Peperzak explains it in the following terms:

The other transcends the limit of (self-)consciousness and its horizon; the look and the voice that surprise me are "too much" for my capacity of assimilation. In this sense, the other comes toward me as a total stranger and from a dimension that surprises me. The otherness of the other reveals a dimension of "height" (hauter): he/she comes "from on high". (24)
If the other "transcends the limit of (self-)consciousness" and "reveals a dimension of 'height' ", one can still raise a question about what it can be. According to Levinas, it is in the irreducible idea of the infinite that he makes a reference to Descartes. Levinas accepts Descartes's idea of the infinite that surpasses our capacity of conception. There are two significant features in Descartes's view of the infinite: first, the idea of the infinite is in temporal terms, prior to the idea of self; and the second, the infinite apprehended exceeds any idea we may have of it. These features are exactly what makeup the notion of Levinas' the other. Therefore, it is not a concept. When we see the face of the other, our conception of it is disrupted by it. The face of the other demands not to confine it in the consciousness of the subject. In other words, the subject should not put or make the other in the sameness of the subject. It is tantamount to killing the other. That is why the other demands the subject: "you shall not kill". It is the ethical responsibility of the subject to the other.

Because the other cannot be defined and thus has no place in the finite reality, it suffers. That is we must experience it as something suffered. It comes to us as a total stranger. The other shows its infinity as the most poor, naked, and vulnerable of all weakness. This human face has no defense at all. The face is defenseless and powerless. The ego-centered subject, the "I", can easily ignore it and kill it. But once the irreducibility of the other is recognized, the I cannot avoid it. There is authority in it. It is not unusual that authority is often without power of force. According to Levinas, the face is actually an authority itself. "You shall not kill" is the commandment coming from this authority. It demands that I respond, not just with an ordinary response, but with the greatest sense of responsibility since it is coming from the idea of the infinite as if it comes from God.

I have tried to explain rather briefly but concisely Levinas' concept of ethical responsibility. Even with this brief explanation, we can understand why Ricoeur, with his concept of the primacy of the subject's freedom in order to understand the freedom of the other, feels uncomfortable with such a strong demand of ethical responsibility coming from the other. Ricoeur, however, recognizes that the demand of ethical responsibility cannot come from the subject itself. The aim of ethical intention is rooted in the desire to have a good life which is the proposed world revealed by a narrative. That is a possible world in which the self can inhabit. For Ricoeur, since the self of "I am" includes "I can", it is a "promised" good self, not a given good self. Thus, the self is what is to be achieved and is not the source of the good. How can it then be achieved? When the reader's mind is opened by the promised world of a narrative text which is a work of literature, the reader's mind is transformed from the ego to the self. In other words, a narrative text has the power to transform its reader's mind. This power acts like a solicitude for the reader to achieve its "good" self. The solicitude is not as strong as the commandment of Levinas' the other. And yet, Ricoeur truly believes in the ethical response of the self to the other as the way to transform the self into the good self rather than obligation of the self to moral law.

For Ricoeur, the ethical response to the other is also a reaction against violence in society. This means that ethics presupposes the freedom of the good, and this good is the source of ethics, not violence. In other words, for the disclosure of the good, violence has to be negated and is overcome with ethical intelligence that enhances self-understanding.

Since this experience of the self-transformation of the reader was already explained in the preceding section, now I would like to end this article with the discussion of ethical responsibility that is experienced by the subject in Levinas' philosophy. As already explained, in Levinas' philosophy, the other whose face is met by the self is powerless, defenseless, and the weakness of all weak. It is vulnerable, fragile, and can be killed anytime by the subject. But it commands the subject with authority: "you shall not kill". According to Levinas, however, the self is true to itself only when it responses to this commanding voice of the other who is also the idea of the infinite. To this commanding voice coming from the weakness of all weak and yet from the idea of the infinite, I, the self, with the sense of the obligation that is imposed on me, cannot but always feel guilty for not being responsible enough and my response is always late. Since I am responsible to the other even before I was born, I now live for the other in passivity. I am hostage to the other. And yet, I will never be able to fulfill my responsibility at all. It humiliates me and injures my egocentrism. This implies pain and suffering. In carrying out the ethical responsibility for the other, pain and suffering are essential to the self.

For the I who faces the other is to expose oneself to the other's judgment. To agree to speak or to enter into conversation with him means to agree to be judged. The other now has the right to question me. I have the responsibility to answer his question. At a deeper level, in terms of psychology, the presence of the other to me is to call a halt to the availability of my consciousness. Consciousness is put into question by the other. In other words, the other is not reflected in consciousness. Levinas' ethical responsibility to the other, therefore, is with the self long before Ricoeur's ethical intelligence takes place in the self. From Levinasian point of view, even ethical intelligence as the product of consciousness is put into question by the other.

If consciousness is put into question by the other, how can our students in reading works of literature experience the presence of the other in the text? According to Levinas, students as readers do not experience the presence of the other in the fiction after having read or in the middle of reading it. They do not learn ethical responsibility after reading what it said about it. The other in the story assigns the self, the reader, to ethical responsibility before the self willingly chooses it. So the text commands the reader to act responsibility even before he or she has a chance to be conscious of it.

Works of literature, as written texts, represent the world that is already said. It is the world of statement and logically unified reality, where words can find readily their identified meanings. It cannot, however, express the other that comes from the infinite in terms of time, the past that has not been the present and the future that will never be the present. The world of the said is the space of the synchronic time. In facing the other that always comes to me at the present from the infinite, the self stands ready to be judged by the other. Levinas calls the exposure of the self toward the other the "saying", that cannot be reduced to the language of the said. Ethics is an act. Facing the other itself is the performative stating of ethical responsibility that the self cannot refuse the approach of the other to it.

Finally the question is: will our students experience the performative stating of the saying? Now I would like to conclude this article with the answer to this question given by Adam Zachary Newton in his latest book called Narrative Ethics :

Like persons, texts present and expose themselves; the claim they make on me does not begin with dedicating myself to them, but rather precedes my discovery of the claim. One can call this the imperative aspect of literature. (25)


1. Ricoeur, Paul. "Reply to Peter Kemp" in The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur, ed. Lewis Edwin Hahn (Chicago: Open Court, 1995), p. 396.

2. Ricoeur, Paul. A Ricoeur Reader: Reflection and Imagination, ed. Mario J. Valdes (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991), p. 427.

3. Ricoeur, Paul. Time and Narrative, 3v. Trans. Kathleen Blamey and David Pellauer (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1985).

4. Ricoeur, Paul. From Text to Action: Essays in Hermeneutics,II. Trans. Kathleen Blamey and John B. Thompson (Evanston, Il: Northwestern University Press,1991), p. 15.

5. Ibid., p. 12.

6. Ricoeur, Paul. The Conflict of Interpretation: Essays in Hermeneutics. Ed. Don Ihde (Evanston, Il: Northwestern University Press, 1974), p. 17.

7. Madison, G. B. "Ricoeur and The Hermeneutics of the Subject" in The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur. p. 81.

8. Ricoeur. From Text to Action: Essays in Hermeneutics,II. p. 81.

9. Ibid.

10. Ibid., p. 80.

11. Ibid., p. 82.

12. Ibid., p. 86.

13. Ibid.

14. English translation of this article was first published in Social Research, vol. 38 (1971), pp. 529 - 62. This article is later included in From Text to Action , Essays in Hermeneutics, II., pp. 144 - 167.

15. Ricoeur. A Ricoeur Reader: Reflection and Imagination. p. 437.

16. Ibid.

17. Ricoeur, Paul. "The Problem of the Foundation of Moral Philosophy", trans. David Pellauer in Philosophy Today, vol. 22, no. 3 (Fall 1978), p. 176.

18. Ibid., p. 177.

19. Kemp, Peter. "Ethics and Narrativity" in The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur, pp. 388 - 9.

20. Klein, Ted. "The Idea of a Hermeneutical Ethics" in The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur, p. 359.

21. Ricoeur. "Reply to Ted Klein" in The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur, p. 368.

22. Ricoeur. "Reply to Peter Kemp", p. 397.

23. Ricoeur. "The Problem of the Foundation of Moral Philosophy", p. 178.

24. Peperzak, Adriaan. To the Other: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas (West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 1993), p. 20.

25. Newton, Adam Zachary. Narrative Ethics (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1995), p. 22.

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