Ricoeur and his Wonderful Worlds

PAUL_RICOEUR_2__c__louis_MonierThe Rule of Metaphor is a betraying translation for La Métaphore Vive (1975), a fantastic theory of hermeneutics at the opposite side of the question of “rule”. If there is something far away from the meaning of “rule”, or “norm”, that is the theory of Paul Ricoeur concerning linguistics. Even a first sight to the words “rule” and “living” shows something wrong with these two words, something unlikely. Indeed Ricoeur is concerned with the most intuitive sense of meaning; the one  blooming at its very perception, which is alive. There is no sense of rule in Ricoeur’s theory of metaphor but sense of endlessly becoming; newness; creation; life. Until some point, rule is death, or at least there is a very first intuition to join rule with lack of creativity, that is, with compliance, uniformity, conservatism, death. The translator for the English edition argues: “I have offered The Rule of Metaphor because of its metaphorical suggestiveness.” Well, I wonder if the word “rule” suggests creativity to anyone, which actually means that this writing will probably end in a claiming letter to this intuitive translator.

Coming back to Ricoeur’s living metaphor, one of the most interesting points of this theory is how language is pushed beyond its limits. Metaphor, says Ricoeur, is the expression of a new reality unable of being referred to with ordinary language. In contrast to the theory of substitution according to which metaphor beckons the same reality with other words, Ricoeur argues how metaphor goes beyond it creating another realm of experience, something which escapes common consensus. Thus, every act of reading will be a “possible world”, a new reality whose meaning is not conventional but alive, new; therefore there are no established words to refer to this realm of existence but the new creation of meaning which metaphor allows. The subject is of course totally involved in the deciphering of the metaphor, and it is following the personal mode of being in the world that the metaphor, or the text, shows its meaning.

Metaphor increases the cognitive field, knowledge, but also the affective realm of existence. Feelings as well are involved in the new search for meaning because metaphor produces images through words that provoke feelings. Here the aesthetic field is linked as well to metaphor through the image or icon. Ricoeur argues how in the image the verbal and non-verbal expressions meet each other causing a new meaning which refer to a new reality. Metaphor shows this encounter of the word and the image in a synthesis which actually creates the new concept. Both the word and the image belong to different domains, but both together configures the thought and expand it with new meanings made up by new unions.

Every meaning a reader gives to a text blooms as a new garden in the field of the understanding; human creativity is an infinite source of creation and meaning which actually is a potential new world in the sense of apprehension of reality. The gaze of the subject again shows its power when referring to the reality, both internal and external, as meaning is able to change the perception of the world, and thus, the whole being in the world of one self.


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