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The radicalness of evil and the rupture of "Grace alone" are such that its anthropology is pragmatic: humans are responsible for the way they respond to this Grace, they are responsible for what they make of themselves. In this second "moment", more Protestant than Latin, we therefore see that justice is not so much rediscovered together as it is invented, or constructed L1 But Latin Calvinism, rather than looking for a "natural" model, reinterprets the ethical teleology in terms of a irreconcilable pluralism of "goods" and intentions. This point is very tangible in the debate that Ricoeur stages between Michael Walzer for the teleological model and John Rawls for the second model, which as we shall see is more deontological.

A rule is just, proposes John Rawls in his Theory of Justice, if those who falls under it could have subscribed to it, each of them, in calculating their interests behind a make-believe veil of ignorance about their social positions, and if they all arrive at the same conclusions. The preferred rule will then be the one which only allows inequalities if these are in fact more advantageous to the more unfortunate than would be a rule with more equality.

Rawls's argumentation is therefore based on the consensus implicit within every society, and by which a population, a generation or a social class cannot be sacrificed for the interests of another. But fortunate or unfortunate according to which scale, in which types of advantages? The objection that M. Walzer raises, in Spheres of Justice, is that there is an irreducible plurality of the types of advantages and goods employment, inheritance, milieu, family, education, painfulness of work, social circle, health, civic dignity, or religious, freedoms, social security, etc.

The advantage of this analysis is that it differenciates the goods, the social distribution of roles and identities, the contexts within which they are inscribed, whereas exchange would reduce all to single market terms. He thus highlights a fundamental ethical "dissensus".


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In fact, this dissensus can, at the same time, be found upstream from the "rules", within the cultural diversity of the representations of the just; and downstream, in the diversity of contexts where they are applied. In other words, it is because of this original dissensus that we must agree to pass by certain universal rules, even if this critical stage, where ethical intents balance themselves out within moral standards, does not manage to eliminate every dissensus sometimes this effort of universalization actually renders the dissensus sharper than ever.

If the teleological model construed justice as the fulfillment of an intention towards a "good life", the second model, more deontological to use Ricoeur's terminology, refers more to the balance of duties and rights. The tone here is more formal: law doesn't seek the good, it tries to avoid the bad.

This model, very diversely illustrated in Kant's categorical imperative, Habermas's ethics of discussion, or Rawls's principles of justice, substitutes the sense of justice with principles and procedures of debate, in such a way that other points of view above all the weakest are respected in the decision. Here, the institution is less a wanting than a contract, agreement on certain practical rules SA The contract is a form of law which corresponds to a certain modern individualism, and if Calvinism is supposed to have been one of its offshoots, it is above all for its ethical nominalism: the only responsibility is that of the individual.

We cannot grasp Protestant rigorism or puritanism if we forget that an ethic of the contract could not replace an ethic of honor without a terrible discipline, an asceticism, a true self exercise, even if the contract is still a form of promise, of respect for the word given or taken. Thus, before others SA , the subject maintains a certan non-contradiction between his saying and his doing, an ethical identity throughout the variations of his desires and his self-interests SA He can follow a rule by "fair-play", even if that rule is neither judicially nor physically binding.

Ricoeur defines justice as the ethics of the institution in the very broad sense of the word institution : a deontology. What is the "moral" heart of this conception wherein justice is no longer a sort of total intent, but the set of procedures that allow the organization of conflicts between intents, without prejudging these intents, and simply in order that the conflict remain bearable?

It's the idea that anyone has the right to use the justifications that I grant myself: in this sense, even if my justifications, my standards or my intents what Kant calls the "maxims of my will" , remain completely particular, bound to a context, etc. I must be able to grant them to my adversaries. This is why, beyond the pure moral formalism of this non-contradiction of my maxims I'm not only talking about logical non-contradiction, but about "pragmatic" non-contradiction: not doing the opposite of what one says , the content of this principle is very concrete, vital and even tragic.


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  • Submerged, as we are, in the darkness of a warring world, we must find the rules for our conflicts themselves. Beyond these procedures of democratic legality that is to say the set of rules of law which allow the negotiation of conflicts and the establishment of a public and political area , Ricoeur thus proposes: "don't exercise power over others in such a way that you leave them without power over you" SA , The advantage of this proposal, besides displaying the very heart of justice, the principle of reciprocity, is in the fact that it is a more powerful rule than the rules of legality: indeed, it sheds light on larger and poorly represented contexts in democratic procedures, since these apply to neither all types of conflicts, nor to the totality of global conflicts the rich democracies appear to tolerate well enough and even take advantage of non-democratic societies on their borders!


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    Just because coming to power is always, in a way, coming to the universal L1 , those dominating shouldn't believe themselves within the universal, and forget the particularism of their domination. Rather, the universality of the principles of justice is defined by a universal debate. It's not a case of a scientific and demonstrable universal, as certain totalitarian or technocratic ideologies, which sought to eliminate all subjectivity, have claimed. Because to eliminate the subjects is ipso facto to eliminate politics L1 , and subjectivity then reappears in pathological form: the personality cult, demagogy, pure sophistics.

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    But between sophism and scientific demonstration, the language of politics and justice remains rhetorical; wherein the probable is sought, the likely; wherein the plurality of language forms is accepted. The rule remains the critique. By the importance that he lends to this universal critique, in the ethical resistance to political abuses, we see that Ricoeur subscribes, with no less determination, to another important tradition, far less optimist with regard to politics than the traditions of Aristotle and Rousseau.

    This tradition, which can be found in authors as different as Hobbes and Kant, has been particularly marked by the Reform and its distrust of humanist enthusiasm.

    Law and Evil: Philosophy, Politics, Psychoanalysis by Ari Hirvonen

    It is easily observed in criticism of the political utilization of the idea of happiness. For example, for Kant morality doesn't have as its object the way for us to become happy, but the way we can become worthy of happiness. Even then, this worthiness is probably more a regulatory idea than an achievable objective. In L'homme faillible, Ricoeur quotes Kant to supplement Aristotle, according to whom the pursuit of happiness is perhaps no more than the unending compilation of all desires: "Reason And Ricoeur comments: "This is why it was necessary that Kant begin by excluding happiness from the search for the principle of morality For the idea of totality resides in human will.

    But, to put it in theological terms, the idea of totality, of happiness, must reside in human will according to an eschatalogical mode. This is what Ricoeur says in "Freedom According to Hope", speaking of the Supreme Good as the accomplishment of the will: " In fact, it doesn't allow any knowledge, but a requirement which, as we shall see further on, has somthing to do with hope Pure, meaning not corrupt: to practice justice because this brings us happiness, other than being an illusion as Sade illustrated , radically corrupts justice even as it's being exercised.

    In his text on Theory and Practice, Kant takes up again the same argumentation, passing from the ethical to the political sphere. Of the contract that founds the civil constitution he writes that it "has absolutely nothing to do with the end which is in a natural way that of all men the inclination to achieve happiness , nor with the prescription of means by which to achieve it; so that, for this reason also, this end must absolutely not interfere in this law as a determining principle.

    Law is the limitation of the freedom of the individual to the condition of his agreement with the freedom of all, in as much as this is possible according to a universal law" p. Further on, after having explained that men are very divided in their conception of happiness, Kant considers that a "paternal" government, which claims to decree for the subjects-children the way to be happy, would be "the greatest despotism that one can conceive of" p. When he writes "the greatest despotism" it is not a figure of rhetoric: for radical evil, that goes to the root of human will, is precisely this, to turn virtue itself into the means of happiness.

    The best will is in this sense the worst, that wants everything at once: it wants the synthesis of the good act with the good feeling physical or emotional , it wants happiness as a totality. In fact, this will is politically the most perverse and perilous.

    Because this synthesis doesn't appertain to us. Ricoeur comments: "Real evil, the evil of evil, isn't the transgressing of a taboo, the subverting of a law, disobedience, but cheating within the work of totalization While the evil of evil may come into existence on the the way to totalization, it only shows itself in the pathology of hope, as the perversion inherent in the problematic of fulfillment and totalization.

    To put it succinctly, man's true malice only appears in the State and in the Church, as institutions of gathering together, of recapitulation, of totalization" CI The two preceding discourses now in place, how do we put their articulation into play within Ricoeur's overall thought? Basically, by correcting them one with the other we can justify the political hope for happiness, while limiting this hope and refusing to accord it a synthesis which doesn't appertain to it; one might also defend the universality of the principles of justice, while requiring it to recognize that it is rooted and interpreted in diverse contexts.

    But how to unite the Aristotelian syle of the ethics of virtues and the Kantian style of a morality of duty? The mixture would appear to be successful: 1 an "ethic of well thought-out convictions" SA , in the Aristolelian style, recalls to the discussion, sometimes a little cerebral, that the just is, in a very concrete way, anchored and rooted in a history and a geography; 2 an "ethic of the discussion honestly argued", in the Kantian syle, submits the wishes and convictions of the political subjects to the demands of universality, in other words to the infinite obligation of taking the "other point of view" into account.

    But how to graft these models one onto the other, the "teleological" anthropology, dominant in the Latin countries, and the "deontological" anthropology, dominant in the Protestant countries? In fact, this polarity can no longer be reduced to the simplicity of an opposition.

    The Law of Desire

    Already, in Ricoeur's thought, the graft has taken so well that the two discourses have been deeply related and modified. For example, both have a transcendental orientation the desire for the good or for universality and both have a pragmatic form preoccupation with context and with the "performative non-contradiction". Both have a "pluralistic" structure: pluralism of goods "intended", and of points of view "intending". Both have a form of coherence: a more corporal one pertaining to the convictions, and a more formal one pertaining to the non-contradiction of the answers that the subject brings to the discussion.

    Another example of this complex graft is the example of the ethical relation to the political institution and to law. This polarity of discourses appears to pull us in two directions. On one hand it brings law face to face with its own rationality, which is the truly political rationality of organizing justice, establishing social cohesiveness by righting inequalities through the fairness of the project or the contract that law here expresses.

    Ethics establish here, from the inside, judicial and political rationality in its autonomy HV On the other hand, ethics resist from the outside the judicial integration, in the name of an irreducible plurality, and oblige law to keep to the minimum of rules that allow the coexistence of various forms of life within the same society. In doing so, ethics require law to criticize the abuses of power HV , and to limit that irrationality, properly speaking political, which claims to define the common good and to impose a unified model of humanity and of society.

    This complex model seems to me to be already the case with Calvin, where we mustn't con fuse: 1 criticism of governments and law, whose function is to maintain order and to resist the worst, but whose hierarchical or democratic development is always the doing of men, and falls within diverse contexts, cultures and climates; and 2 the ethical institution of the commandment to love one's neighbour, which opens up the possibility of imagining and interpreting an obligation that is too metaphorical AJ 20 , but which covers all the modalities of communal life.

    Basically, we pass over, here, from an ethic or a morality of principles teleological principle, deontological principle to a situational ethic. With Ricoeur see SA the starting point is the search for the goods which express the ethical intent's implantation in desire and the plurality of its forms; a possible univerzalisation is then sought by constructing moral rules of a fairness, a possible reciprocity between two intentions; it's the tragic conflict that appears not only between desires but sometimes between the moral imperatives, each as legitimate as the others, which lead us not to an impossible sythesis between two principles, but to a practical wisdom which imagines and interprets the just in the singularity of situations.

    These conflictual situations are the same that Hegel finds in Greek tragedy, the opposition Cities-Individuals, Men-Women, Old-Young; but it's also the conflict between political principles that are as different and ultimately as incompatible as security, prosperity, equality, freedom, etc. Ricoeur has devoted himself to this conflict between diverse forms of the social bond, and to the construction of compromise between them. And the tragic culminates in the impossible sythesis between Love and Justice Amour et Justice AJ : in its exegetical section pertaining to the Sermon on the Mount, Ricoeur shows the juxtapostion and the conflict between the commandment to love one's enemies, and the golden rule not to do onto others what you would not have them do onto you.

    In fact the two statements thus juxtaposed have absurd consequences: with pure pardon the exchange is destroyed, and with mere reciprocity we go straight to utilitarianism. It's their simultaneity that opens novel significations up in them. First, it is because a text opens and deploys before itself an other possible world that we can act, inspite of the tragic and the discontent, in such a way that this world isn't finite, isn't totalizable TA ; "It's in the imagination that at first the new being takes shape in me.

    I say clearly imagination and not the will. For the power to let onself be embraced by new possibilities precedes the power to decide and to choose" TA With this the most radical ethical question arises: what is this world if it must contain the possibility of another world?

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    In theological language: what is this world if it must not realize, but rather contain within itself the possiblitity of or the proximity to the Kingdom of God? Here, the role of the imagination is essential. It can be just as well shown regarding the theme of justice as the theme of happiness. First we should remark that the practice of the "just" always results from the separation between two rights which may or may not be compatible in the same possible world.

    This separation expresses the relative non-pertinence of each of them relative to the situation. As if there were no language possible for this situation, no expression of the question acceptable for each and everyone. The intervention of the "just" act or judgement is then quasi-poetical: it reconstructs a judicial pertinence, and in doing so leads the way to a new representation of reality. Thus judgement is neither pure appraisal nor mere jurisprudence. It redescribes reality otherwise. It is the interplay between the critical distance since justice is not of this world and the creative adherence since justice can be represented in one way or another.