• Ricoeur and the negation of happiness

      Scott-Baumann, Alison; University of Derby (Continuum Bloomsbury, 2013-10)
      Ricoeur lectured and wrote for over twenty years on negation ('Do I understand something better if I know what it is not, and what is not-ness?') and never published his extensive writings on this subject. Ricoeur concluded that there are multiple forms of negation; it can, for example, be the other person (Plato), the not knowable nature of our world (Kant), the included opposite (Hegel), apophatic spirituality (Plotinus on not being able to know God) and existential nothingness (Sartre). Ricoeur, working on Kant, Hegel and Sartre, decided that all these forms of negation are incompatible and also fatally flawed because they fail to resolve false binaries of negative: positive. Alison Scott-Baumann demonstrates how Ricoeur subsequently incorporated negation into his linguistic turn, using dialectics, metaphor, narrative, parable and translation in order to show how negation is in us, not outside us: language both creates and clarifies false binaries. He bestows upon negation a strong and central role in the human condition, and its inevitability is reflected in his writings, if we look carefully. Ricoeur and the Negation of Happiness draws on Ricoeur's published works, previously unavailable archival material and many other sources. Alison Scott-Baumann argues that thinking positively is necessary but not sufficient for aspiring to happiness - what is also required is affirmation of negative impulses: we know we are split by contradictions and still try to overcome them. She also demonstrates the urgency of analysing current socio-cultural debates about wellbeing, education and equality, which rest insecurely upon our loose use of the negative as a category mistake.
    • Ricoeur's translation model as a mutual labour of understanding

      Scott-Baumann, Alison (Sage, 2010)
      Ricoeur has written about translation as an ethical paradigm. Translation from one language to another, and within one’s own language, provides both a metaphor and a real mechanism for explaining oneself to the other.Attempting and failing to achieve symmetry between two languages is a manifestation of the asymmetry inherent in human relationships. If actively pursued, translation can show us how to forgive other people for being different from us and thus serves as a paradigm for tolerance. In full acceptance that this will be impossible, Ricoeur uses the model of translation as a way of understanding European integration, with three aspects: translation, shared narrative and shared forgiveness of Europe’s history. These models provide a strong statement about tolerance and become even more significant through their conversation with the negativity that suffuses them. He draws on his knowledge of psychoanalysis to explain that the translator suffers through remembering and through mourning the loss of perfection; there must be acknowledgement of deficiency. This acceptance of imperfection and of limits to success is a key element in Ricoeur’s philosophy and is explored from the 1950s onwards in his study of negativity; denied by phenomenology and explored by Hegel. Negation is vital for understanding the world (this word means this, not that), but it can preclude us from access to meaning when it becomes negativity (this word has no meaning because it is different). Translation can provide the bridge to span the tension between the pathology of denial and different interpretations, and projection of evil into others, which I believe is at the heart of the perceived incompatibilities between Islam and the West. There is a political urgency to this enterprise, given the ‘othering’ of the Muslim world that has replaced the Cold War dichotomies between Communist as ‘other’ and the capitalist world. References to the Muslim as the current ‘other’ will be part of my discussion. As well as seeking to understand Ricoeur’s model of translation, we will examine whether his model works in a world where many speak no Arabic, Urdu or Farsi, or indeed whether it has any relevance for people who do not.
    • ‘Unveiling Orientalism in reverse’

      Scott-Baumann, Alison; University of Derby (Continuum Bloomsbury, 2011)
      This volume is centred around the theme of veiling in Islam and provides multifarious aspects of the discussion regarding veiling of Muslim women, especially in the West. The issue of veiling has been intensively debated in Western society and has implications for religious liberty, inter-communal relationships and cultural interaction. Islam and the Veil seeks to generate open and objective discussion of this highly important, though controversial, subject, with contributions from distinguished scholars and academics, including female practitioners of Islam. This subject has inflamed passions and generated heated debate in the media in recent years, particularly in the West. This book aims to look at the historical background, theological and social factors underlying the veiling of women in Islam. Such discussion will provide the reader with a well-balanced and unbiased analysis of this important aspect of Islamic practice.