Oneself through Another: Ricœur and Patočka on Husserl’s Fifth Cartesian Meditation


The paper offers a parallel exposition of Ricœur and Patočka in the narrow context of their respective reading of Husserl’s Fifth Cartesian Meditation. At the same time, it follows a broader goal, namely to confront a hermeneutics of the self with a phenomenology freed of subjectivism. Ricœur claims that phenomenology (and its method of intuition) presupposes interpretation. Under this assumption, even the paradox of intersubjectivity in the 5th CM can be restated as an interpretation of the self/other difference. Patočka in his interpretations of the 5th CM drew on his own observations regarding embodiment and a possible self-awareness of the bodily subject. He claims that the first form of explicit self-reflection is made possible through the other. It is against the background of this claim that he gives his original reading of the “appresentation” of the other as leading to the appresentation of myself in the other. At the end, the paper localizes the point in which Ricœur’s hermeneutics of the self and Patočka’s non-subjectivist phenomenology part ways: it is the possibility of the self to be oneself. While the emphasis in Ricœur and his hermeneutics of the multiplied forms of alterity is put on being oneself as another, in Patočka it is through another that being oneself (or coming to oneself) is possible.

Keywords: Phenomenology, Hermeneutics, Self, Intersubjectivity, Edmund Husserl, Jan Patočka, Paul Ricœur

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