W. Clark Wolf, Analogy as a Mode of Intuitive Understanding in Ricoeur

Analogy as a Mode of Intuitive Understanding in Ricoeur 
William Clark Wolf

Traditionally, the ideas of “intuitive” and “discursive” forms of understanding have been seen as near opposites. Whereas an intuitive understanding could have a direct grasp of something, a discursive understanding would always depend on what is given to it, as mediated by concepts. In this essay, I suggest that Paul Ricoeur’s conception of analogy presents a way of overcoming this opposition. For Ricoeur, an analogy works within discursive understanding, but it depends on an eventful insight that leads beyond what is merely given in discourse. The analogy “gives more” for thought. Yet, as I argue, what analogy gives for thought is always explicable in conceptual terms: any intuitive understanding is commensurate with a discursive one. I illustrate Ricoeur’s mediation of discursive and intuitive understanding in particular with his conception of metaphor, which vividly depends on overcoming a discursive contradiction by analogical and intuitive means. Before introducing Ricoeur’s conception, I discuss the Kantian background of the intuitive/discursive distinction. In particular, I suggest how Goethe’s attempt to revitalize a notion of intuitive understanding can be compared to Ricoeur’s conception, though Ricoeur improves upon Goethe by grounding intuition in the specific phenomenon of analogy.

Paul Ricoeur, Analogy, Intuition, Immanuel Kant, J.W. von Goethe.

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