Deconstructing a Hermeneutic Presupposition in Ricoeur’s The Symbolism of Evil

Hernán Martínez Millán

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This paper critically analyzes Paul Ricoeurʼs presupposition that Plato’s philosophy was built on Orphism. In order to shed light on this central problematic issue in The Symbolism of Evil, this paper develops the following conceptual framework. I first examine the hermeneutic method that Ricoeur applies in order to approach Orphism and its relation to Plato’s philosophy. I next analyze the hermeneutic maneuver that Ricoeur makes in order to demonstrate that “the famous later myth is an orthodox explication of the archaic schema and . . . is in perfect agreement with it.” Thirdly, I consider why Plato’s philosophy is not an Orphic doctrine of the salvation of the soul by knowledge. Finally, I conclude that Plato’s critical judgments about Orpheus and Orphism and his devastating comments on poets show us not how “the myth of the origin completes the sense of the myth of situation” (Ricoeur), but how Plato critically reinterprets the doctrine of the salvation of the soul through philosophy.

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