Daniel Bradley – From the Wounded Self to the Sacredness of Being

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From the Wounded Self to the Sacredness of Being:
The role of psychoanalysis in the philosophy of Paul Ricoeur and Julia Kristeva

Daniel Bradley
EPIS 2013

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Ricoeur’ encounter with the writings of Freud was deep and transformative.  It is true that the major themes that he will take from Freud’s psychoanalysis—the fractures within the self, the problem of illusion, and the pervasiveness of desire—are already present in his early work from the 1950s on the experience of evil and the limits of human freedom.  However, it is not until his close reading of Freud in the 1960s that he comes to see these themes as a constituting a crisis for phenomenology that necessitates a change in method from pure phenomenology toward a technically oriented hermeneutics informed by the social sciences.  In this article, I attempt neither to show how Ricoeur’s philosophical thinking was changed in this encounter, nor how this encounter with psychoanalysis remains influential, if less pronounced, in Ricoeur’s later philosophy.  Rather, my interest is in the way Ricoeur first formulates his turn to hermeneutics as a response to the crisis that psychoanalysis presents to philosophy and the way that his initial attempt to navigate this crisis leads directly to a notion of the Sacred rooted in an understanding of desire as the desire to be.  I then put this analysis into dialogue with the work of Julia Kristeva.  Kristeva presents a powerful foil for Ricoeur, for she follows a similar trajectory in her philosophical encounter with Freud from the crisis constituted by the challenge to the unity of the modern self, through the “post-modern” pre-occupation with illusion and desire, to a philosophy of the sacred that provides an existential response to the crisis of the subject.

My work here is phenomenological rather than analytic in that its conclusions ought to be “seen” in the differences that emerge from the juxtaposed trajectories of Ricoeur and Kristeva rather than from the validity of any one particular line of argumentation.  However, the article is organized around the claim that for both Ricoeur and Kristeva the work of Freud constitutes a crisis for philosophy in its wounding of the ego and that the way they deal with this crisis has a great impact on their understanding of desire and the sacred.  The striking homology of this trajectory among two highly influential thinkers from different generations and such different streams within recent French thought suggests, to me, that we must continue to understand our search for truth, and our understanding of the role of the sacred in philosophy in particular, as deeply rooted in the enduring challenge to the subject posed by psychoanalysis.

This article also proposes that the juxtaposition of Kristeva and Ricoeur’s journey from the crisis of the self to the sacred via a philosophy of desire will bring to light strengths in each of their projects that reveal weaknesses in that of the other.  Kristeva gives a compelling account of desire as an movement toward the other that opens the possibility of thinking the sacredness of nature or Being, and this reveals the insufficiency of Ricoeur’s understanding of the sacred as tied to the desire to be.  Ricoeur’s return to the sacred is rooted in his great insight that our desire for the fullness of existence, the desire to be, is already a response to being before a posting of our own existence.  However, this necessarily minimizes the ways in which desire is not only conatus but also eros, the ways in which desire ruptures the project of my own being in an ecstatic yearning for a Beloved that is both particular and sensuously encountered.  This one-sided emphasis in Ricoeur’s philosophy of desire then leads to an unbalanced understanding of the sacred that is able to think, in powerful and compelling ways, the sacredness of our striving and creativity, but unable to think very well the sacredness of being or of nature.  Kristeva, on the other hand recognizes the yearning for the other that is also constitutive of desire, and by way of a different understanding of the rupture of the modern self occasioned by the philosophical encounter with psychoanalysis, one that takes Plotinus rather than Descartes as the watershed of Modernity, she gives a different path through desire and illusion to a notion of the sacred that recognizes an encounter with the other in its particularity and sensuousness such that the possibility is opened for again talking about the sacredness of being and even the sacredness of nature.  This appeal to Kristeva, however, is not a final panacea, but only the beginning of a dialogue.  For it seems that while Ricoeur is able to adequately address the problem of illusion, at the expense of an account of desire for the other, Kristeva is able to give an account of our yearning for the other, at the expense of an adequate response to the challenge of illusion.

If this more exploratory thesis, that Kristeva and Ricoeur each offer something missing in the philosophy of the other, is true, it seems to me that the implications again go far beyond an understanding of the work of either.  For while in this article, I remain very narrowly focused on a few works from Ricoeur and Kristeva that mark their journey from the challenge of psychoanalysis to the consequences this yields for a philosophy of the sacred, I think that the two are emblematic of an unsatisfactory choice that has come to grip the Husserlian legacy over the last 50 years.  On the one hand, a “hermeneutics of the text” inspired by Ricoeur, Habermas, Apel, and others is deeply attuned to the social sciences and their methods for overcoming illusion through a purification of subjective experience, but this branch of the phenomenological tradition remains unable to transcend the desires of the self for a good life, lived with and for others in just institutions, towards the otherness of the other.[1]  On the other hand, a “phenomenology of alterity” inspired by Levinas and Derrida that looks to ethics as first philosophy remains deeply committed to a response to the other in the rupture of my desire for well-being, but it provides inadequate responses to the problem of illusion.  Of course defending that claim is well beyond the scope of this article, but it suggests to me that not only is the Freud’s “wounding of the self” an enduring contribution to the philosophical tradition, it constitutes a challenge that has not yet adequately been met.  Still, I hope the reader will be content with a juxtaposition of Ricoeur and Kristeva in their journey from an encounter with Freud to a philosophy of the sacred, while keeping in mind the larger question of the inter-relations between desire, illusion, and alterity, and the implications that these have for theories about the nature of hospitality, the gift, and the sacred that mark contemporary debates.

 

Ricoeur and Kristeva agree that the “crisis” precipitated by a philosophical reading of Freud is centered on its challenge to the self as synonymous with consciousness.  In summing up the philosophical significance of Freudian thought in his own work, Ricoeur writes

I would adopt its decided anti-phenomenology and its dynamics and economics as the instruments of a suit which is filed against the illusory cogito which first occupies the place of the founding act of the I think, I am. In short, I make use of psychoanalysis just as Descartes made use of skeptical arguments against the dogmatism of the thing; but this time it is against the cogito itself—or rather at the heart of the cogito—that psychoanalysis splits the ego’s claims to apodicticity and the illusions of consciousness.  In an essay written in 1917 Freud speaks of psychoanalysis as a wound and humiliation to narcissism analogous to the discoveries of Copernicus and Darwin when in their own way they decentered the world and life with respect to the claims of consciousness.[2]

This challenge to the identification of the self with consciousness has at least three major inter-related implications.  First, it means the self is irreducibly plural.  Second, it means desire must be a central theme for philosophical inquiry.  Third, it means that a reflection on illusion must serve as more than a preparatory practice but for philosophy.  These three themes occupy a central place in the thought of Ricoeur and Kristeva.  However, while both begin with the challenge that the irreducible plurality of the self poses to our notion of Personhood that we have inherited from our Western philosophical tradition, the two emphasize different historical roots as the source of that inherited understanding and thus are lead to a different emphasis in the ways that the crisis of the challenge to this self is felt.   As we will see, Kristeva, looks to Plotinian Neo-Platonism as the dominant source for our inherited understanding of self and is thus lead to privilege the question of love in relation to otherness from which her understanding of illusion will follow.

On the other hand, for Ricoeur, it is the Cartesian cogito that is the primary target of the Freudian fracturing of the self, which naturally leads to a focus on illusion as an epistemological concern.  The skeptical worry in Descartes is rooted in the multiplicity of competing claims to truth.  And so the turn to subjectivity only comes to silence the skeptical worry by achieving a turn from plurality to unity.  In Descartes’ turn to truth, he no longer listens to the multiple voices of his teachers, but rather listens to the unity of an inner voice within himself.  But this is only the case if the foundation of pure subjectivity is absolutely simple.  So truth is achieved by the asceticism of withdrawal from an illicit over-extension of the self into the multiplicity and ungroundedness of the external into the certainty and unity of the self understood as the purity of the will.[3]  Once Freudian thought ruptures the pure simplicity of the self as self-transparent to itself in consciousness, the modern defeat of skepticism, rooted as it is in consciousness, from Descartes to Sartre, becomes unmoored.  The devil that Descartes so duly banished back to Hell is unshackled and we are threatened to be overcome by illusion.

It is significant that Freud himself saw the history of demons and devils in western culture as a way of speaking about the unconscious in such a fruitful way that he considered demonology a major precursor to his own work.[4]  But with the banishment of the evil genius in the Meditations and the devil’s increasingly unfashionable status in the Enlightenment, the effectiveness of ‘the devil’ as a tool for talking about illusion will not be recaptured until the development of depth psychology in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Through, Ricoeur this question of illusion takes center stage for philosophy, particularly in its post-phenomenological guise.  Thus, through his reading of Freud, one of Ricoeur’s great contributions to contemporary thinking is his insistent reminder that we must learn, again, to face the problem of illusion—the persistent and ineradicable possibility that our claims to truth have been infected with deceit, distortion, and fantasy.  As Ricoeur writes in his seminal essay “Existence and Hermeneutics,”

we have indeed learned from all the exegetic disciplines and from psychoanalysis in particular, that so-called immediate consciousness is first of all ‘false consciousness.’  Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud have taught us to unmask its tricks.  Henceforth it becomes necessary to join a critique of false consciousness to any rediscovery of the subject of the cogito in the documents of its life.[5]

This renewed focus on illusion reveals the importance of a method or “way” for uncovering the places where a creative imagination is not revealing anything beyond the distortions and fantasies that it is imposing upon the world.  So, Ricoeur argues that we must forgo an immediate ontology of belonging to Being or metaphysics of participation and instead take the “long route which begins by the analysis of language.  In this way we will continue to keep in contact with the disciplines which seek to practice interpretation in a methodical manner, and we will resist the temptation to separate truth, characteristic of understanding, from the method put into operation by disciplines which have sprung from exegesis.”[6]

Thus, by recognizing the importance of integrating truth and method, Ricoeur’s hermeneutics is able to embrace the plurality of the self revealed in psychoanalysis, the fracturing that explodes the pure simplicity of the Cartesian cogito, while still facing the problem of illusion.  However, this is achieved at a high price.  For it leads philosophy to see meaning as independent from its source and thus has a tendency to fail to see in an experience of meaning an encounter with a source of meaning, whether that is understood as another person, living being, or Being itself.  This is revealed in Ricoeur’s insistence that we shift our understanding of experience from a Heideggerian or Platonic hermeneutics of belonging to an understanding of experience as encounter with text.  As he writes,

the distanciation in which this hermeneutics [of belonging] tends to see a sort of ontological fall from grace appears as a positive component of being for the [hermeneutics of the] text; it characteristically belongs to interpretation, not as its contrary but as its condition.  The moment of distanciation is implied by fixation in writing and by all comparable phenomena in the sphere of the transmission of discourse; for fixation is the condition of a much more fundamental phenomenon, that of the autonomy of the text.[7]

Ricoeur goes on to say “the emancipation of the text constitutes the most fundamental condition for the recognition of a critical instance at the heart of interpretation; for distanciation belongs to the mediation itself.”[8]   In the space that this distance opens between meaning and Being, all the methodological techniques of the social sciences may be brought to bear, and the illusions of subjectivity can be purified.

This powerfully recognizes the ways that desire distorts subjective experience and re-opens philosophical discourse to the tools needed for an ascesis of subjectivity that would uncover these illusions.  Further, Ricoeur has not abandoned hopes of an ontological ground for philosophical thinking, but it remains an elusive ontology.  If the emphasis on meaning as a result of creative imagination rooted in desire is what distances Ricoeur’s hermeneutics from a philosophy of meaning as an immediate belonging to Being, it is also what prevents it from a complete dispersal into “language games” that prescind all questions of ontological significance to encounters with meanings.  Ricoeur’s central insight is that meanings are sedimentations of desire, but that desire is desire to be.  So even if an encounter with meaning is not a direct encounter with Being, it is so indirectly as mediated by works that spring from the pathos of the unchosen desire for existence.  As Ricoeur writes, “the cogito can be recovered only by the detour of a decipherment of the documents of its life.  Reflection is the appropriation of our effort to exist and of our desire to be by means of the works which testify to this effort and this desire.”[9]  Further, this takes us beyond a Sartreian respect for each individual’s autonomous will towards a true rooting of subjectivity in Being:

by understanding ourselves, we appropriate to ourselves the meaning of our desire to be or of our effort to exist.  Existence, we can now say, is desire and effort.  We term it effort in order to stress its positive energy and its dynamism; we turn it desire to designate its lack and its poverty: Eros is the son Poros and Penia.  Thus the cogito is no longer the pretentious act it was initially—I mean its pretension of positing itself; it appears as already posited in being.[10]

This de-centering of the self means that Ricoeur is able to make a place for thinking about existence as sacred, for it is a response to a call to Being that I do not issue and to which I can only respond or refuse.  As Ricoeur summarizes, “the sacred calls upon man and in this call manifests itself as that which commands his existence because it posits this existence absolutely, as effort and as desire to be.  Thus, the most opposite hermeneutics point, each in its own way, to the ontological roots of comprehension.  Each in its own way affirms the dependence of the self upon existence.”[11]

This re-articulation of the sacred at the heart of human striving and productivity is a major achievement in the wake of Kant and Heidegger.  However, it fails to account for the concrete ways in which creativity is a response to the sensuous world and its beauty.  What is at stake is the full richness of the nature of desire.  Within this opening onto experience, there is both the desire for the coming of the other as the fulfilment of my own being, the realisation of my meaning, and there is desire for the other that is experienced as a rupture into my being.  These two movements are never fully distinct, but in the self-other relationship the first emphasises the becoming of the self and the community, the second an ecstatic force that propels the lover towards another.  So although this is a continuum not a duality, we can distinguish eros as one pole and conatus as another.  Ricoeur lets the richness of this tension collapse by viewing desire for the other always within the terms of the desire for the realisation of one’s potential in a fulfilled existence.  In doing so, he subsumes eros within conatus.   The strength of Ricoeur’s link between the distance at the heart of meaning as text, which opens up the space for methodological purification of desire, and ontology through the desire to be, is also its weakness.  For desire must always be seen as fundamentally desire for fullness of being, and the import of the rupture into one’s being, which is so important in Plato’s account of love and so powerful in the experience of love itself, is not thought in its full significance.

Ricoeur is not making a direct attack on eros as desire for the other in its otherness, but by tying desire to the desire for a happy, fulfilled, and whole existence there is little room left for the other pole which emphasises the otherness of the other.  Thus, wherever we see a discussion of the other it is always in relation to the development of the potential of the self.  In ‘Existence and Hermeneutics’ Ricoeur claims of the exegete, it “is thus the growth of his own understanding of himself that he pursues through his understanding of the other.  Every hermeneutics is thus, explicitly or implicitly, self-understanding by means of understanding others.”[12]  Meaning is always directed from the other back to the self.  We see this even more clearly a little later, for the encounter with the other is interpreted, not only in the light of my self-understanding but in the light of my desire to be.  Ricoeur continues, “this logic is then no longer a formal logic but a transcendental logic.  It is established at the level of the conditions of possibility: not the conditions of the objectivity of nature, but the conditions of the appropriation of the desire to be.”[13]

In the same way in which an understanding of the other in a transcendental logic is tied to the desire to be, the irruption of the other in poetic language is tied to the development of my own possibilities.  In Figuring the Sacred, we see that poetic language is a break with ordinary language, which far from saying nothing new, opens up an entirely new world.  As Ricoeur explains, “the world of the text is what incites the reader, or the listener, to understand him or herself in the face of the text and to develop, in imagination and sympathy, the self capable of inhabiting this world by deploying his or her ownmost possibilities there.”[14]    Again we see meaning as tied to the encounter with world.  Unfortunately, this notion of “World” lacks the alterity of the sensuous. Thus, Ricoeur’s hermeneutics cannot account for the sacredness of nature.  However, we can now see that this impoverishment is rooted in Ricoeur’s subsumption of eros into conatus, for in this impoverished understanding of desire all yearning is ultimately reduced to the desire to live a good and full life in just institutions with others.

Kristeva shares a great deal with Ricoeur.  In particular she sees the meaning of Freudian psychoanalysis as hinging on its power to explode the unity of the subject.  She opens the summary of her work in the “Epilogue” of Tales of Love writing,

The existence of psychoanalysis reveals the permanency, the inescapable nature of crisis.  The speaking being is a wounded being, his speech wells up out of an aching for love…. Periods and societies that believe they are outside the crisis appear, in the psychoanalyst’s eyes, symptomatic: through what miracle of repression, idealization, or sublimation has the discontent with ‘splitting’ been stabilized, or even harmonized within a code of believable, sound, permanent values?[15]

However, for Kristeva, the being that this splitting “wounds” or decenters, is not the cogito, for her model of the subjectivity that we inherit in the West comes not most fundamentally from Descartes, but from Plotinus as he marks the increasingly dominant response to the problem of otherness anticipated in the myth of Narcissus.  As Kristeva writes, “the exquisite details of this myth [Narcissus] thus indeed converge, it seems to me, on the theme of unification through the multiplicity of unessential reflections, which one more directly encounters in Plotinus’ handling of the myth of Narcissus.”[16]  With Plotinus the possibilities for idealization charted by the Greeks remain viable, even as society moves from the communal bonds of the city state to the exciting yet lonely expanses of the cosmopolitan world.  But his project requires the sacrifice of the multiple and even abyssal nature of the void:

Platonic dialogism is transformed , with Plotinus, into a monologue that must indeed be called speculative: it leads the ideal inside a Self that, only thus, in the concatenation of reflections, establishes itself as an internality.  To the narcissistic shadow, a snare and a downfall, it substitutes autoerotic reflection, which leads ideal Unity inside a Self that is illuminated by it.  Narcissus has been transcended, and beauty becomes embodied in the inner space.[17]

According to Kristeva’s version of the story, this identification of the self with the One allows for a defense within Christianity of the Narcissism necessary for interiority and subjectivity.  But the price for this interiority is high.  For in its pure form, Plotinus’ philosophy of the One, makes relation with alterity impossible and condemns love to auto-eroticism.  In Kristeva’s view the Christian story of Kenosis and Crucifixion offers an alternate idealization that provides an opening to alterity through idealized suffering and universal love, but throughout the Middle Ages and early Modern period, Plotinus’ vision erodes this possibility and becomes dominant in the West.  As Kristeva writes, the “auto eros that I see as sublime hypostasis of narcissistic love was to constitute the decisive step in the assumption of inner space, the introspective space of the western psyche.  God is Narcissus.”[18]  She continues, “the Narcissan Plotinan divinity is love, but it is a love of self and in self.  The one who constitutes himself though it creates himself in and for himself.  Not for the Other.”[19]

Now, taking Plotinus rather than Descartes as our model for the fundamental articulation of the simplicity and unity of the Western self, the dispersal of subjectivity effected by psychoanalysis leads us in a different direction, for what is at issue is less the problem of skepticism than the ability to love.  The rupture of the unity of the self obliterates the idealizations that are the foundation both of subjectivity and of love.  Thus, if for Ricoeur, the question is how to overcome illusion after the defeat of the Cartesian project, for Kristeva, the question is how to love again after the disruption of Plotinian subjectivity.

One possibility is to try to recover the interiority that has been lost in order to reestablish love again on the same subjective grounding upon which it had rested.

The stakes of psychoanalysis—but also its crises—are here.  Are we to build a psychic space, a certain mastery of the One, at the very heart of the psychic founderings of anguished, suicidal, and impotent people?  Or on the contrary are we to follow, impel, favor breakaways, driftings.  Are we concerned with rebuilding their own proper space, a ‘home’ for contemporary Narcissi?… I see psychoanalysis rather as a departure from that enclosure, not its warden.  Does the old psychic space, the machinery of projections and identifications that relied more or less on neuroses for reinforcement, no longer hold together?  Well, it may be because another mode of being, of unbeing, is attempting to take its place.  We should not attempt to give it the outlines of the ‘own proper self’… let it remain floating , empty at times, inauthentic, obviously lying.  Let it pretend, let the seeming take itself seriously. Let sex be as unessential because as important as a mask or a written sign—dazzling outside, nothing inside.[20]

This was written in 1983 and that date might perhaps afford us some patience with the rather inebriated excesses of postmodernism.  More importantly, despite the contrast between Kristeva’s exuberant outpouring and the sobriety of the language of her parents’ generation that is used by Ricoeur, the two remain quite close in understanding creativity, and its source in the vitality of the imagination, as the new ground of meaning in the face of the fracturing of the subject.  After all, for Kristeva, the fracturing of meaning is not the point of philosophical discourse; rather, the point is to foster a love that can manage the risks and opportunities of this fracturing.  She writes, “Freud, the post-Romanticist, was the first to turn love into a cure; he did this, not to allow one to grasp a truth, but to provoke a rebirth—like an amorous relationship that makes us good as new, temporality and eternally.  For transference, like love, is a true process of self-organization, comparable to what contemporary logical and biological theories call ‘open systems.’”[21]  Here, she is very close to Ricoeur.  However, Kristeva’s project maintains the possibility, indeed the necessity, of thinking the way that creativity is rooted in a response to being.  For if this relation remains unthought, then love is either impossible or imprisoned and ignorant.  Love remains impossible, for Kristeva, as in the dominant secular materialism of the West, when the longings of the self for pleasure and satisfaction remain divorced from any transcendent and ideal structures of meaning, and love thus collapses into the desire for conquest and appropriation.[22]  It remains imprisoned and ignorant, for Kristeva, when, as in the Christian epoch, it is forgotten that the idealized structures of meaning that transform lust into transcendence and open a space for love are products of human creativity.  Yet, Kristeva argues that there is a space for thought prior to the choice between self-satisfaction and the artifacts of human creation.  This space is the emptiness or void out of which meaning emerges.  If “a work in progress” of human creativity is the answer to the crisis occasioned by psychoanalysis, this work must be permeated with love.  And it must not be forgotten that love is always rooted in the void.

Imagination is a discourse of transference—of love.  Through and beyond desire that longs for immediate consummation, love is edged with emptiness and supported by taboos.  The fact that we have no love discourse reveals our inability to respond to narcissism.  Indeed, amatory relationship is based on narcissistic satisfaction on the one hand, on idealization on the other.[23]

If her answer is to love, these loves will not be happily-ever-after loves in which my new idealizations will protect timeless truths that will guarantee my identity.  Rather, her version of love is a trust in the inexhaustible richness of the emptiness out of which the self will be constantly reborn in love, but also a trust in our ability to think this emergence.  Thus, while for Ricoeur in his subsequent work, “the sacred” remains the limit of a philosophical discourse that can never really think the encounter that would link meaning to nature or being, Kristeva’s subsequent work turns to think the sacred not as a limit but as a source of meaning.

Early in her collection of correspondences with Catherine Clément, published as Le feminine et le sacré in 1998 and as The Feminine and the Sacred  in 2001, Kristeva asks tentatively, but also suggestively, “what if what we call the ‘sacred’  were a celebration of a mystery, the mystery of the emergence of meaning?”[24]  Further, for her this emergence of meaning that we encounter as sacred is intimately connected to the sensual.  “Simply put, given the waters we are in now, between the Virgin and her ‘stricken,’ the time of absence, serenity, and the loss of the self, I claim that what comes back to us as ‘sacred’ in the experience of a woman is the impossible and nevertheless sustained connection between life and meaning.”  This is still the emptiness or the void that Kristeva has been writing about since the 70s, but there can no longer be any doubt about the sensuality and alterity of the source of meaning in this encounter that precludes any overly intellectualistic interpretations of her earlier writings on painting and music.  She writes, the experience of the sacred

entails the passing through the nothingness of oneself as well as the nothingness of language, to obtain a bouquet of traces and sounds that challenge intellection, in favour of what they [the mystics] call ‘the paradise of love.’  It seems to me that that ambitious expression designates an act of giving form to sensible flesh, a delicious act always to be begun again, but one that requires a certain annihilation of self, of self-consciousness.[25]

This theme permeates the book.  Near the end she writes, “we have only one way remaining to stay alive, which is to think: yes I say ‘think’ and not ‘calculate.’  To visit, the best we can, that cut, that prohibition, that reversal of meaning, where meaning is born on the edge of the geranium or of the water of the Fier, on the edge of nothingness.  To go along both sides, from nothingness to being and back.”[26]  Here the ways that the fullness of desire, the richness of sensual experience, the pregnant excess of the Maternal, are woven into the experience of meaning as encounter with an interplay between presence and absence is accounted for in a manner that Ricoeur’s hermeneutics fails to do.

However, we must not fail to note that although Kristeva allows philosophy, again, to be nourished by a reflection on the sacred as transcending human productivity to include receptivity to that which grants the possibility of meaning, she has still not faced the problem of illusion that motivates Ricoeur’s turn to hermeneutics in the first place.  If we interpret Kristeva’s work from the 80s as kind of Nietzschean affirmation of life lived as an artistic creation, then her disregard for the border between truth and illusion is not problematic, for both are equally expressions of creativity and vitality.  However, in her later writings on the sacred, this is not the case.  For here, receptivity and responsiveness become crucial and a sacred creativity must be able to tell where meaning is a welcoming response and where it is an arbitrary imposition of self-will onto the other.

So it seems to me that it remains for a more complete response to the crisis precipitated by Freud to incorporate the insights of both Ricoeur and Kristeva, to find a way to understand the splitting of subjectivity that allows for both love as an opening onto the emergence of meaning from the darkness of the sensuous void and a method or way for interpreting the illusions of distorting and infantile desire.   The task remains to wed a hermeneutics of illusion to a phenomenology of the sacredness of being.


[1] Of course Ricoeur wrote an entire book entitled Oneself as Another.  It is my contention that this book can account for the other as constitutive of the self, but not as truly relational.  But that is another project.

[2] The Conflict of Interpretations.  Ed. Don Ihde. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University press, 1974. p. 172 [Henceforth CI]

[3] The formulation for this argument is taken from the talk entitled “Descartes, Pelagianism, and the Sceptical Life” given by Felix O’Murchadha at the National University of Ireland, in April 2012.

[4] See Freud “A Seventeenth Century Demonological Neurosis” SE XIX.

[5] “Existence and Hermeneutics,” Conflict of Interpretations, 18.

[6] “Existence and Hermeneutics,” CI, 11.

[7] “Hermeneutics and the Critique of Ideology” in From Text to Action.  P. 298

[8] CI, 298

[9] “Existence and Hermeneutics,” p. 18.

[10]  ibid

[11]  CI, “Existence and Hermeneutics,”  pp. 22-23.

[12]  CI,  p. 17.

[13]  FM,  p. 19.

[14]  Figuring the Sacred: Religion, Narrative and Imagination.  Trans. David Pellauer. Ed. Mark I. Wallace. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995.  p. 232. 

[15] TL 372

[16] TL. 107

[17] TL, 109.

[18] TL, 111.

[19] TL, 113.

[20] TL, 380.

[21] TL, 381.

[22] “Galileo and Sade are the conquering heroes of that epic.”  TL 378.

[23] TL 381

[24] The Feminine and the Sacred, New York: Columbia University Press, 2001.  p 13.  [Henceforth FS].

[25] FS, 35.

[26] FS 153.