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2014 Gifford Lecture Series: University of Edinburgh

What is Caesar’s? Adjudicating Faith in Modern Constitutional Democracies to be held on Monday 19 May 2014. [More…]

2014 Gifford Lecture Series: University of Glasgow

Givenness and Revelation begins Tuesday 20 May 2014. [More…]

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A new Gifford Lectures page for St. Andrews. [More…]

Eight Books Based on Gifford Lectures

Eight books derived from the Gifford lectures are available. [More…]


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Paul Ricoeur

1913 - 2005

John Nuveen Professor of Philosophical Theology, University of Chicago



Paul Ricoeur [Jean Paul Gustave Ricoeur] was born on 27 February 1913 in Valence, France, and died on 20 May 2005 in Chatenay Malabry (west of Paris). Although Ricoeur is best known for his contribution to the field of philosophy, he also wrote about religious and theological issues. He was born into a Protestant family in the predominantly Catholic nation of France. By the age of two he was orphaned. His mother died of an illness when he was seven months old and his father (a professor of English) was killed during the First World War. Ricoeur and his older sister were raised by his aunt and paternal grandparents. Ricoeur’s academic training began at the University of Rennes where he received his licence in 1933. In 1934 he began studying philosophy at the Sorbonne, where he was influenced by Gabriel Marcel. In 1935 Ricoeur married Simone Lejas, and they had four sons (Jean-Paul, Marc, Olivier and Étienne) and one daughter (Noëlle).
The Second World War interrupted Ricoeur’s academic training when he was drafted into the French army. In 1940 his unit was captured and he spent five years in prison camps in Germany. After the war Ricoeur spent three years teaching at a high school [lycée] and then in 1948 he was appointed lecturer in the history of philosophy at the University of Strasbourg; he stayed there until 1956. In 1950 Ricoeur received his doctorate by submitting two theses. His ‘minor’ thesis was a translation and commentary on Husserl’s Ideas I and his ‘major’ thesis was published as Le Voluntaire et l’Involuntaire. Ricoeur’s reputation as a scholar grew as interest in phenomenology increased in France during the years after the war. Ricoeur’s reputation outside of Europe also grew and beginning in 1954 he taught regularly in the United States, including time at Haverford, Columbia and Yale.
When he left the University of Strasbourg in 1956 Ricoeur accepted a position at the Sorbonne as the Chair of General Philosophy. In 1965 Ricoeur accepted a post at the newly founded University of Nanterre where he taught until he reached the mandatory retirement age in 1980. Ricoeur’s popularity spread as his writings were translated and read throughout the world. In 1967 Ricoeur was named to succeed Paul Tillich as professor of philosophical theology at the University of Chicago where he taught until 1992. This position included a joint appointment with the Divinity School, the Philosophy Department and the Committee on Social Thought.
Ricoeur received over 30 honorary degrees from universities throughout the world, including Chicago (1967), Northwestern (1977), Columbia (1981), Göttingen (1987) and McGill (1992). Throughout his career Ricoeur received numerous awards including the Dante Prize (Florence, 1988), the Karl Jaspers Prize (Heidelberg, 1989), the Leopold Lucas Prize (Tübingen, 1990), and the French Academy Grand Prize for Philosophy (1991). In 1986 Ricoeur delivered the Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh titled ‘On Selfhood: The Question of Personal Identity’, which were then published as Oneself as Another. In 2004 Ricoeur shared the John W. Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Human Sciences with religious historian Jaroslav Pelikan.
Among his best-known books are Fallible Man (1965), Philosophy of the Will (1965), History and Truth (1965), Freedom and Nature: The Voluntary and Involuntary (1966), Freud and Philosophy (1970), The Rule of Metaphor (1977) Time and Narrative (3 volumes, 1984-1988), Essays on Biblical Interpretation (1980), Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences (1981) and Memory, History, Forgetting (2004). His most recent book, The Course of Recognition, was published in December 2005.
Heather McDivitt
University of Edinburgh
Templeton Press