A Hermeneutics of Contemplative Silence: Paul Ricoeur, Edith Stein, and the Heart of Meaning brings together the work of Paul Ricoeur and Edith Stein and locates the role of silence in the creation of meaning. Michele Kueter Petersen argues that human being is language and silence. Contemplative silence manifests a mode of capable human being whereby a shared world of meaning is constituted and created. The analysis culminates with the claim that a hermeneutics of contemplative silence manifests a deeper level of awareness as a poetics of presencing a shared humanity. The term “awareness” refers to five crucial levels of meaning-creating consciousness that are ingredients in the practice of contemplative silence. Contemplative awareness includes self-critique as integral to the experience and the understanding of the virtuous ordering of relational realities. The practice of contemplative silence is a spiritual and ethical activity that aims at transforming reflexive consciousness. Inasmuch as it leads to openness to new motivation and intention for acting in relation to others, contemplative awareness elicits movement through the ongoing exercise of rethinking those relational realities in and for the world. The texts of Ricoeur and Stein reveal a contemplative discourse of praise and beauty for capable human beings whose actions and suffering respond to word and silence.
Michele Kueter Petersen is visiting assistant professor of philosophy and theology at St. Ambrose University.
Prelude: A Poetic Presence
Chapter 1: Fallible Human
Chapter 2: Fallibility Gives Rise to Hermeneutics
Chapter 3: Capable Human and the Role of Silence in the Creation of Meaning
Chapter 4: The Practice of Contemplative Silence as a Historical Phenomenon
Chapter 5: Edith Stein and the Carmelite Tradition: Blazing a Prophetic Path in the Light of Love
Chapter 6: The Practice of Contemplative Silence as a Transformative Spiritual and Ethical Activity
Chapter 7: The Meaning of Capable Human
Chapter 8: A Song of Hermeneutical Existence
Postlude: Towards a Third Naiveté
About the Author
“In an age marked by increasing hostility to 'the other,' Prof. Michele Kueter Petersen offers a timely and engaging thought experiment concerning the importance of 'contemplative silence' in terms of thinking reflectively about being while also thinking creatively about one’s self and one’s relationship to others and to the larger world. Paul Ricoeur and Edith Stein, two brilliant phenomenologists of the twentieth century whose lives were indelibly marked by the suffering of two world wars, help Prof. Petersen guide the reader through an analysis of various contemporary philosophical issues impacted by dialectic and hermeneutics, empathy and difference, institutional conflicts and personal–social transformation.”
Stein’s profound intellectual and spiritual integrity are gifts shaped by her Jewish heritage, her contemplative heart, her dynamic intellect, her newfound Christian faith lived as Carmelite nun known as Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. Finally, this Carmelite martyred at Auschwitz was shaped by her understanding and practice of contemplative silence.