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Textual Linguistic Theology in Paul Ricœur

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Xavier Lakshmanan

In this work, Xavier Lakshmanan argues for a textual linguistic approach to Christian theology. The book takes its shape in conversation with Paul Ricœur’s philosophical thought, demonstrating how Ricœur’s hermeneutic philosophy can inform the way Christians interpret and appropriate biblical narratives without delimiting the potential of the text or eroding the distinctiveness of its language. The text can be appropriated in ways that address the fundamental questions of life. New meanings are constantly generated from the same text in order to describe and redescribe existence, and form human identity. The self is linked inseparably with narrative; every interpretation of narrative is at the same time a reinterpretation of the self and of its possibilities. In such interpretative processes, the reader interprets the text and the text interprets the reader at the same time through an interactive reading. Accordingly, the aim of interpreting the narratives is to open up the world of the text in front of the text and in front of the reader. Here what the text uncovers is the «textual» structure of existence itself. The reality that unfolds through language discloses the possibilities of existence, and in this way the text creates a future. A revised identity emerges against the horizon of that future to give a coherent and dynamic account of the self against a horizon of hope.
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3. The Language of Life: Metaphor

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My chapter on “The Narrative of Text: Life” explored how the text shows a world to the reader, and how this world is appropriated through interpretation. In this chapter, I shall explore the nature of the existence that becomes available through texts. By exploring Ricoeur’s concept of metaphor, I will show how metaphorical language functions as an epistemological tool. I will explore Ricoeur’s claim that human existence fundamentally and structurally is linguistic and that the language of metaphor is the language of existence.

Metaphoric Mediation

It was in 1967 that Ricoeur published his monumental work Symbolism of Evil, which methodically and provocatively analysed the problem of evil. Even though The Symbolism of Evil addressed the nature of myth and its symbolic status in language, Ricoeur soon saw that treating myths and symbols alone in the field of interpretation is inadequate. The crucial issue which emerged was the problem of the dual meanings that occur in language. The interpretive process faces the challenge of literal and metaphorical meanings of any given text. Ricoeur deals with this issue in his major work The Rule of Metaphor, in which he explores the phenomenon of semantic innovation in metaphorical discourse. ← 63 | 64 →

When he turned to a theory of metaphorical discourse, Ricoeur noticed that linguists, literary critics and philosophers of language represented different trends in metaphor studies. The linguists emphasised the notion of deviance, in a word-oriented metaphorical theory that ultimately belongs to the domain...

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