Paul Ricœur and Clifford Geertz: The Harmonic Dialogue between Philosophical Hermeneutics and Cultural Anthropology

Maria Cristina Clorinda Vendra


Human experience has a symbolic structure. By focusing on the symbolism of human action, this essay considers the reciprocal influences and the essential differences between Paul Ricœur’s hermeneutics and Clifford Geertz’s cultural anthropology. Through reference to Ricœur’s Lectures on Ideology and Utopia, the section on “Ideology, Utopia, and Politics” in From Text to Action, and Geertz’s 1973 book The Interpretation of Cultures, this paper aims at reconstructing the dialogue between these thinkers. I begin with a broad framing of the encounter between Ricœur and Geertz, and then turn to the notion of the symbolic mediation of action, considering it as the shared key concept between these authors. These reflections will lead to an examination of the semiotic conception of culture, opening up the discussion of a nonpejorative dimension of ideology.


Symbolic Action; Culture; Ideology; Hermeneutics; Anthropology

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