The Manhattan Review
The Manhattan Review
Established 1980

Archive > Vol. 2 no. 2


Philip Fried

from Poetry and Possibility: An Interview with Paul Ricoeur


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MR: Do you think that’s the actual dynamic of it, that’s the way it happens? The movement is toward language and the referential comes as a bonus?

PR: This would be my deep conviction. This is why I am not at odds with structuralists and all those who say, but poetic language is not referential or sui-referential. I say you are right and more right than you think, because it’s precisely the blessing and the reward of this renunciation that may be a new link, a new bond with—I should even say with nature or with creation.

At the beginning, you said but why do you speak of poetics. I gave only one half of the answer, because Aristotle speaks of poetics for all kinds of making in terms of language, both in fiction and poetry. But also because through this recovery of the capability of language to create and recreate, we discover reality itself in the process of being created.

So we are connected with this dimension of reality which is itself unfinished, which is . . . and then, once more, I should like to use the vocabulary of Aristotle when he speaks of the entelecheia, the potentiality to see things in terms of potentialities and not only in terms of actualities.

There is a place in my book on metaphor when I say that when language is itself in the process of becoming once more potential it is attuned to this dimension of reality which itself is unfinished and in the making.

Language in the making celebrates reality in the making.

MR: So the only reality we know is the reality that we reach in this way?

PR: And the rest of our language in ordinary speech and so on has to do with reality as it is already done, as it is finished, as it is there in the sense of the closedness of what is, with its meaning which is already asserted by the consensus of wise people.