Ah, UofC, symbolized by gargoyles leering down at us from those greystone arches. I endured both terror at the intellectual arrogance and boredom mining ponderous texts. There was also ecstasy when you finally understood a concept that set your brain on fire. I first heard of "second naiveté" in a class I was auditing at the Divinity School. I try it on from time to time. Ricoeur's second naiveté offers a way of "re-reading" the world. He deals with sacred text. Ricoeur offers a hermeneutics where one understands ones' self "in front of" the text, and learns to taken in new possibilities of being.
In order to get to these postures, Riceour travels through the "philosophy of suspicion." Since hermeneutics is a search for the hidden, beyond manifest content, Riceour reviews strategies of demystification of this "philosophy of suspicion" from its three masters: Marx, Nietzche, and Freud. They consider "surface" reality as false. They address the problem of false consciousness of the self, society, and religion. But this suspicion turns on its head, because "The lie of consciousness, of consciousness as a lie, suspicious as to consciousness claiming absolute knowledge...the genuine Cogito must be gained by the false cogito that masks it." (1970, 161) This move only deconstructs; it does not rebuild. What is the opposite of suspicion? According to Ricoeur, it is faith.
Ricoeur turns to a "hermeneutics of metaphor" to find a way out of suspicion, but a hermeneutics of sacred text, itself a minefield for the protagonists of suspicion. He take up (because he's only considering the bible), the mythopoetic language of psalm, proverb, parable. He offers us two approaches to sacred text, both set as naivetés. In the first naiveté, the text is taken at face value. This naiveté cannot stand the onslaught of suspicion. Ultimately, the reader steps back, takes a "critical distance" from the supernatural affirmations of the story. We often do stay there.. "Beyond the desert of criticism, we wish to be called again." (1967, 349). The hermeneutics of the second naiveté is “a retrieval of the original meaning of the symbol.” (1978, XX)
For Ricoeur metaphor is the nature of language where literal meaning has collapsed. This is the tension between the "is" and "is not" of metaphor. The second naivete is a way to embrace both elements. Now reading the text symbolically, we attend to its meaning "in the full responsibility of autonomous thought." (1967, 350) We engage the texts for ourselves, not mediated by religious authority. This is a hermeneutics of testimony. By this he means a two-fold act of self-consciousness and "historical understanding based on the signs the absolute gives of itself. The signs of the absolute's self-disclosure are at the same time signs in which consciousness recognizes itself." (cf Hall, 2012, p78)
This second naiveté is a “hermeneutics of restoration.” I'm planning to walk into that.
______The Symbolism of Evil. Boston: Beacon Press, 1967.
______Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation, trans. Denis Savage, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1970 (1965).
______The Rule of Metaphor: Multi-Disciplinary Studies in the Creation of Meaning in Language, trans. Robert Czerny with Kathleen McLaughlin and John Costello, S. J., Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1978 (1975).
Hall, David, Paul Ricoeur and the Poetic Imperative: The Creative Tension between Love and Justice, SUNY Press, 2012